Sunday, June 11, 2006

What Happened to Ammini

She lived in a small village that was in the midst of big communal celebration--someone’s wedding perhaps--except she wasn’t actually there (I’ll tell you about that in a bit). There were streamers and palm fronds and mango-leaf garlands strung across the doorways. Conversations and different kinds of music were both set to really loud and it was crowded the way celebrations in India usually are. There were gangs of excited children running around and a giggly, bedecked, beautiful gaggle of young girls processioning from house to house, picking up more members of their crew.


There was Mathangi and Amba and Rajathi and everyone was looking for Ammini--where is Ammini? Where is she? They kept asking, filching jelebis fresh out of the pan and being so adorably giddy that no one had the heart to reprimand them.


Ammini was in an auto in Bangalore and in the process of running away. Before she did she wanted to collect the diamond earrings her mother had ordered for her at Kashyap Jewellers. Perhaps she wanted to keep the earrings as a memento, perhaps she wanted to be able to sell them if things went badly--I don’t know. The auto-driver sits with his lungi folded in half and his bony knees poking out from beneath the fold. They pass through street after street of closed or closing shops and Ammini asks if Kashyap’s will be open. The driver keeps assuring her that yes, yes, yes--it will, it will indeed.


Ammini is sitting on the ledge of a cliff in Kodaikanal called “The Scottish Seat.” She’s waiting for a bus to take her away to some big city. She looks around warily and sees an old friend called Kamakshi. Hello, she says brightly, I thought you were dead?


Kamakshi tells her that she has wanted to die many times, that in fact once she dreamt that all her friends were sitting on the ledge of The Scottish Seat and she unflinchingly pushed them over. I wanted to be able to touch him, she says. My brother, he is right here, right here, she says, patting the blood-red soil under their feet.


Then she looks at Ammini, it’s ok, you can touch him, she says, he would like you to. Ammini gingerly pats the earth in a soothing gesture to placate Kamakshi. Then her fingers graze a hooked finger, the nail bed encrusted with blood, and the pellets of falling rain reveal the rest of the finger, the hard, grasping hand it is attached to.


You should go and live with him in the earth forever now, says Kamakshi, calmly--I’ll explain to your mother what happened to you.


At this point or shortly before it, I yelped aloud--whereupon Big A who’d been cleaning the study (at 3 a.m., don’t ask) came to check on me and called me “Dorkistani” (though i wasn't really crying that much) and made rude suggestions about my dream that made me giggle.

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