Stories

Day 3 – Pickled Sunshine


I’m posting this late because I couldn’t think of an appropriate title after a friend suggested Chutney ki Jawaani. That stuck so badly but was so inappropriate for the story that it took me so much time to think of something else 😛

Again, inspired by the song Genda Phool from the movie Delhi 6.

 Words: 723

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Saiyaan hai vypaari,

Chale hain pardes,

Sooratiyaan niharu,

Jiyara bhaari howe,

Sasural genda phool…

–          Genda Phool – Delhi 6

The little room was as cold as a grave.  When he reached it it was past ten at night, and both his heart and his suitcase felt heavier than usual.  The bare apartment, still in a state of dishevelled bachelorhood, depressed him even more.  He wanted only to sleep and to get rid of the exhaustion clinging to him.

Wearily, he dragged in the suitcase and dumped it near the bed.  He sat on the bed for a few seconds, burying his head in his hands, mind blank and dreary.  The room was quiet, the air stale and musty.  He sighed, then stirred, and rubbed his eyes and face.  Dragging his overnight bag closer, he began rummaging in it for his pajamas.  He found the shirt, but the bottoms were nowhere to be found.  They must have been packed into the main suitcase.  He let out an exasperated sigh and pulled the suitcase to a lying position on the floor.

After a few minutes of tumbled rummaging, he found his pajamas …wrapped around what looked to be a jar of mango chutney.  For a second he stopped his frustrated, tired grumbling to stare at the jar in his hand.  The golden gluey substance looked so unexpected and exotic against the backdrop of semi-dark dreariness.  He could even smell the sharp tangy scent of it through the bottle.

Suddenly, it was all he could do to stop himself thinking of home again.  As though merely holding the bottle had caused, like a silk red duppata slithering to the ground, a tumbling of memories into his consciousness.

HE could still smell the marigolds and cloying rose scents that permeated the air on his wedding, hear the dhols and the chatter of uending guests, and the feel  of the sticky probing heat.  But the colours he recalled most of all, the colours bleeding into the air, blending and becoming smells and tastes and sounds.  Why was everything so colourful back home? The sun would keep bleaching it and it’d keep coming back, the bright orange, red, green, yellow, pink.  Even the food absorbed it, so that everything seemed to taste as vibrant as the air smelt and the colours looked.  The colours seemed to cling even to him, dyeing his pasty emotionless exterior into something traditional and living and golden.

He thought of the family he’d left behind, and especially his saffron bride, the mehndi still red on her delicate hands.  As he sat on the bed, clutching the jar, he thought of the all-too-few nights after the wedding that he spent with her, her soft skin and accepting body, her long hair and dark eyes softened with admiration and love.  And the feeling he had then, of awe, almost, that he should have done anything to deserve so much love and adulation in a woman he had only just met.

In the darkness he could smell the earthy scent of her hair, recall the taste of her bronze skin, the silky feel of her rustling sari.  He thought of the twinkling nosepin above her cheeky smile, her soft voice caressing his ear.  And in the darkness, he ached with love and loneliness for her.

Before the hours on the flight from India to L.A., before the cold neutrality of the airport terminal and processing had stripped him of all the colours he was carrying.  Before the cold weather and sharp air and the detachment of strangers around him had cooled and blurred the memories of the month he’d spent….this jar was made before all that, this jar was made at home. Oh, home.  Where a pair of hands stained red with mehndi had trapped the sunshine of his country and preserved it in a jar, placing it where he would be sure to find it.  Home…Where a pair of dark eyes and a soft smile now waited patiently for his return.

Half in a dream, he unscrewed the lid and dipped in a finger.  He brought it to his mouth.  He tasted it, the sweet tangy taste on his tongue …and, for a while, for just the briefest of beautiful moments…he was transported back to her.

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12 thoughts on “Day 3 – Pickled Sunshine

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