• Vol. 08
  • Chapter 09

A morning under the sun

Father strums the guitar and sings our family’s favourite anthem. ‘The more we get –together…’

Uncle Shiv supports him ably on the accordion. They sway to the beat of the song and step-tap, step-tap in time with the landing notes. At the end of their little gig, both father and uncle are flushed.

‘You should pause a second longer after the third line,’ uncle advises father.

‘F sharp, C sharp, G major and pause?’ father asks, twanging the strings with the plectrum.

They are practising the song for later in the day, when the guests – my grandparents – will arrive to celebrate fifty years of marriage.

I feel a slight thrill at this change from my usual classes-homework-classes routine. The sun drifts through the golden morning and settles on my skin.

Mother and Aunt Pooja have decided to cook in the open today. The perfume of wood smoke is strong. ‘The pulao is cooking now,’ says mother. ‘Right, I’ll prep for the salad,’ Aunt Pooja says and begins chopping the cherry red tomatoes.

I uncork the tightly lidded half-empty Arabian grape juice bottle and take a large swig. ‘Too much sugar is bad for teeth,’ my mother raises a forefinger in warning. I acquiesce and restore the bottle back to its place. I am more than happy to just to caper around on the green grass under the umbrella of a blue sky, like the breeze that weaves between trees and rustles its leaves.

‘Mama, can I please help you dice the paneer?’ I ask.


A morning under the sun

‘Of course, you can,’ Aunt Pooja says, tousling my hair and offering me a large cube, the colour of cream. I run the sharp edge of the knife and delight as it races smooth, through the paneer’s velvety softness.

‘Be careful,’ mother says, as if she had divined a mishap.

‘Ouch,’ I yell almost immediately. A large gash on my forefinger oozes blood. The pain stings me. Large tears well up in my eyes like unwelcome guests. Father and uncle rush. Aunt Pooja grabs my finger and presses it hard at edge of her salwar-kameez. Mother sticks a Band-Aid on the wound. But the red gushes like an undammed river. Mother turns away. When she returns with some cotton, antiseptic powder and bandage, her eyes are red. At that moment, I know she has been crying too, because of my pain. The blood-flow peters out after ten minutes.

‘No more knives for you, you naughty girl,’ she says, wagging a finger at me. Her voice is thick, like she has had a cold. But I am relieved she is smiling now.