Sunday, June 12, 2005

The Chennai Trip

2 a.m

am sitting beside the transparent airconditioned
coffin of my recently departed aunt,
at a nondescript village near Chennai.

We are a few close relatives who
are keeping all night vigil,
for what reasons I don’t
know, except to
salve our collective remorses
of not having spent time with her
when she was alive, lonely and sick.

Am sweating profusely
in the sweltering night,
the oppressive heat,
and feel jealous of my aunt inside
the cool coffin.
I can see the icicles clinging to the
steel sidewalls, below the
clear glass top.
wished I were in the coffin,
instead of her, just
to escape from the glowing
embers of the night.

The incense sticks thick smoke
around the coffin gets me high,
and as I look at her face,
I feel as though she were
reproving all of us, at what we
were doing or were talking about.

Worried that
I am hallucinating, I walk out
and sit in the verandah and
smoke, to keep myself awake,
waiting for tiredness to take
over my guilt feelings.

3 a.m

I stretch my legs walking on the dark
rough stone road, beside the house
and am warned of venomous snakes
abounding in these areas.
Hoped I could see one or two,
just to make my night. Or morning.

Suddenly, I am punched in my face by an intense
fragrance, and I look around dazed, and I
find blooming mehendi flowers.

The fragrance is intoxicating, and
it’s the first time I have felt its
full allure. I just stand there in the dark,
drinking the heady scent,
god knows for how long.

4. a.m

I come out of the mehendi
trance, break a branch of it
and bring and lay it among the withering roses
on the coffin. I am afraid to look at her face.
I join the silent and now dozing
mourners in the verandah again.

A rooster crows nearby and I’m surprised
because I never hear such things
in my city. The crowing is answered
by another awakened rooster, a bit away.
And by yet another, farther away.
Then the main guy starts crowing again,
and the others follow the sequence.
“Must be a cock from Malaysia,”
my bleary eyed Uncle and says, “it must
be breaking dawn down there.”
Funny reason.
But couldn’t beat the logic. The crowing
cycle goes on, for about five times.

5 a.m

Having driven 350 kms
last night to be here, am beginning to
feel bone tired and less guilty.
I get into my car, lean the
seat back and go to sleep.

I’ve done my mourning bit.

Whether my
Aunt repudiates me or not.


Blogger bharath said...

sorry about your aunty. hope you also got some sleep after.

12:55 PM  
Blogger Chay said...

Hmm Siggy...
could imagine it. Had it not been for the fact that I am half way across the globe typing this while you are probably sleeping, I would have said that I know!! I was there with you, remember... :-)

Opressive heat and fragrant flowers...death and tradition...all wonderfully written.

Sorry about your aunt...and sorry about your guilt!!

8:58 PM  
Blogger India Whining said...

Very stark n honest..

8:00 PM  

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