We did it! … Announcing our first anthology … Monalisa No Longer Smiles… Click here to read.
Suchen Christine Lim, an iconic writer from Singapore in conversation about her latest book, Dearest Intimate. Click here to read.
Blazing trails, as well as retracing the footsteps of great explorers, Christopher Winnan, a travel writer, delves into the past, and gazes into the future while conversing with Keith Lyons. Click hereto read.
I have a confession to make; I opened the suitcase you asked me not to. Well, it was a good two weeks after you were buried. While sorting a million things in your room with aunt and mom, I found it, a small, grey one stacked under the pile of boxes in the corner.
For as long as I remember, it had been there in the east corner of your wooden floored room and was out of bounds for adults and children alike. When I pulled it out, there were a few moments of silence in the room. I held the forbidden grey box and the three of us looked helplessly at each other, caught in between the right and wrong as Rumi would say.
When the burden of silence grew unendurable, we opened the suitcase. You may feel betrayed for the three women you trusted the most had the audacity to intrude your private space.
That night, while in bed, my body turned heavy as I sunk deep into the darkness and chaos of guilt. I gasped for air and the mountain wind heavy with moisture, did little to help. I ran helter-skelter through the chasm of my memory. Your ringing laughter guided my way and your stories echoed like strange noises that reverberate while you walk into a deep cave. The familiar name you had often uttered resounded as I traversed the dark channels. When did I first hear it? I don’t remember.
I do remember some instances of you mentioning the name. It was a random conversation of good-looking men in our vicinity and you did say, a certain someone’s son. On one evening while we were discussing the achievements of men and women in our neighbourhood, you mentioned that name again — a man in your neighbourhood, a certain someone’s son. You told us he was your playmate.
One summer evening, when the winds of the hills touched our skins gently as they basked in the last traces of light from the setting sun, you mentioned that name again. You said that my friend, seated next to me, dressed in a white shirt and beige trousers, reminded you of that man. “Majestic demeanour,” you looked into my friend’s eyes and said, “Yet spirit as gentle as the wind outside.” You smiled as you held his hands. Then, as you uttered the familiar name for the last time in my presence, your eyes turned moist — “You remind me of a certain someone’s son.”
Still wriggling in bed, as images and voices from the past haunted me, I thought of your prized possession, the suitcase. Aunt and mom watched that evening as I flipped opened the case. My hands failed to steady themselves. The three of us gasped as your precious box lay bare, revealing what it had steadfastly concealed all these years — a bunch of safety pins, bundles of ribbon, a crocheted purse with a tie-up opening, some old coins that carry no value, a few pebbles, a bizarrely shaped quartz stone with what looked like columns and faces on it and another crocheted purse with tie-up strings concealed underneath all this.
The quartz that has paled from its years in hiding fit perfectly in my palms. Amid the chaos of sharp edges on it was a central pillar, standing tall. There were odd figurines on either side. I left it on the table facing the window.
Finally, aunt laid her hands on the last item– a crocheted purse in a medley of colours. The pouch had the hues of the rainbow, held together intricately with a string in white. Aunt gave it to me to untie the white knot atop the small bag. We all knew that if there was one person who would be forgiven for trespassing, that would be me.
As I put my hands into the pouch, a palm-sized photograph in black and white print emerged. I held it between my fingers. A man dressed formally in a suit and tie with curls spilling over his forehead looked straight into my eyes. He was seated on a stool. The years between us melted as I gazed at his big, bold eyes, which were probably coffee brown, just like yours.
In an instant, I was transported into the room where the photograph was being taken. I asked him about the young girl I did not know– the girl who saw certain magic in him and carried it concealed deep within her even when her octogenarian memory failed her at times. He spoke of your smile and your innocence.
He told me stories about the blue Kurinji that blooms once every twelve years in the mountains and the anticipatory excitement that lingered in the air when the buds appeared, and then gradually how the stretches of the mountains turned an enchanting blue as the flower bloomed — a vision that no combination of words can do justice to. To him, the memory of appeasing blue was visceral and he elaborated how it pacified him during the dark moments when his strength had nothing to grasp. The Kurinji may blossom and spread its vigour just once in a decade, but he saw its unfurled radiance all the time; behind his closed eyelids, and that was his elixir, a perpetual force his life depended on. He believed that the bewitching plant was your totem, and your spirit lived in it.
Behind the photograph was a name written in blue fountain pen, the name from my distant memory that you had mentioned on a few occasions and beneath it, ‘son of ………………….’
As I left the room, a strange shadow reflected from the quartz stone on the table. A boy and a girl (with flowing hair) held each other’s hands from around the pillar. They could not see each other but both of them felt the other, all the time.
Monisha Raman’s essays and short stories have been published by various magazines in Asia and internationally. Her first collection of short stories is being represented by Zuna Literary Agency, India. Her work can be found at https://linktr.ee/Monisharaman.
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