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A Family

2 Jun

She wears a red sari — synthetic fabric, a deep red, ornamented with golden flowers and leaves. Last evening she sat with her back to everything in the train, facing the window but not looking out. A childĀ  lay in her lap; she was probably nursing it. She was silent, quiet. Sombre was the word that came to mind then, watching her with her older daughter sitting next to her leaning sideways against her. They were very quiet — not just unspeaking, but their bodies were silent too. The mother seemed aloof from the girl, and she showed no response when the girl leaned her tired head against the back of her shoulders. I interpreted a kind of sadness between and upon them.

As I watched, the extreme tenderness and complete caring that were alive between mother and her infant began to reveal themselves to me. In every movement of the mother’s, they were alive without drama. Nothing was a problem, not the child’s intermittent crying, or wetting its pants, or the times when it was quiet or asleep.

The father too is quiet, somewhat within himself, gently watchful of his family’s needs, perhaps especially attentive to his elderly mother’s and daughter’s. They don’t talk much at all: I have heard barely any chatter. The young girl, with clear black eyes, pretty in a colourful ghagara and blouse, spends much of the time sleeping on the top berth. The grandmother, brightly dressed in a yellow sari that enhances the darkness of her wrinkled skin, is sitting very still. She is not bored or tired — her face appears to be at ease, her hands clasp around the leg she has folded up on the seat.

Her body has not yet lost its quick suppleness — when she occasionally pushes her silvery white hair back, her hands move with agility and twirl it into a small loose bun at the back of her head. She wiggles her fingers, makes them dance and claps her hands for the little child, who watches intently, laughs, cries and imitates. She covers her head suddenly in her yellow sari and coughs, pretending to be an old lady for her baby grandchild.

The child is now taken away to be fed and rocked by the mother. The old woman is by herself again, slowly massaging her aching knees, a flicker of a grimace crossing her face, and is still alert to the infant’s crying.

31 May 2010