Silk rustled as young girls ran by

Jasmine buds crushed by impatient feet

yet serving their purpose

a fragrance fresh to match the green

of the hundreds of stacked banana leaves

washed and waiting.



Rows and rows of school benches

converted into dining tables

Mustached males in hitched up ‘mundus’

wiping the leaves, filling tall steel glasses

with steamy hot, karingali water.



All the gold hidden in the Godrej nooks

now hung out in blatant display in the glinting sun

matching the gilt-edged white sea of set sarees

Yet all that glittered was not gold then

Kanchipuram reds, Benarasi greens and Pochampalli blues

proclaimed a day off for the kitchen queens.



Songs of the spring, of flowers, of happy times

of good, of the forgotten land,

blared from loudspeakers

evoking nostalgia for unseen things.



The hall with a fascinating array of footwear

on the steps outside

frayed edges, threads of sarees caught, high platforms

polka dotted baby shoes, pink Cinderella heels

now I know why they fascinated

though I never wanted to own any.



Thousands of petals formed a floral dream

but it saddened me always

having seen them bloom under Dad’s care.

knowing that the broom was just behind the door.



The feast began and ended

Predictable in content, fulfilling the comfort cravings

of men probably because it reminded them

of a time when they were only sons

And of the women because it was one of the rare times

they could eat something not cooked by them.



I remember the speed with which parippu was followed by

sambar, then payasams of two varieties, brown and white

then the yellow pulisserry and the cool sambharam.



Then they sat out in the lawns

in the shades of the mango trees, the office

re -entering the conversations

while the kids formed gangs based on gender

and schools.



I sat on the low wall behind the community hall

Watching the cows, the dogs and a naked kid

rummaging through the torn banana leaves

feeling sick.

©Reena Prasad 28th Aug 2012


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