Ritual

by Nandini Sahu
(New Delhi, India)

My granny crossed the ritual of death
today, a long awaited, comatose death,
not a spitting, shitting, urinating on the bed,
coughing, aching, unwilling death, but
a graceful, peaceful, angelic, silent, indifferent
ritual,
indifferent to all the four corners of that
ancestral house where her three daughters and
foster son learnt the ritual of living.
Indifferent to her dissatisfied middle daughter
who made a hell of her life.
Who emptied her of her jewels, policies,
breaths,
thoughts and
her other daughters.
Who never let her sleep till she slept forever.

Indifferent to widowhood, my granny
had fought with life
had taught us life
putting on starched white saris,full sleeved blouses,
sandals, unusual for widows,
and now at eighty-five
said naught to live.

My granny crossed the ritual of death
today to reach her cherished husband
dead forty years ago.
Our imperial, royal, oil-painted, photographed
grandpa, who would put on suits, ties, specs in
an age of Khaddars
who lived as a proud smile on granny’s
widowed lips all her life,
who had never had a ‘no’ to anything on earth,
who was the mightiest of all, the king of kings,
granny would whisper.

Granny slept her last sleep
in that corner of her house
where grandpa had died once upon
a time. As if it were a space for royal deaths,
these rituals.
Our granny’s ritual emptied us of
every other ritual, of thinking of our
childhood fancies, hidden ‘pakodas’ in her sari,
of the fish and vegetable markets, road side
lemon-soda, of sugarcanes and toys
in her almost bursting hand bag,
and of air, water, earth, fire.
Till now granny had been walking,
smiling in tearful eyes, cooking for
her daughter breathlessly, though
all these years since grandpa’s
historic death
her feet have been bleeding.

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