Her back is aching, and her eyes are streaming tears. She rubs a dusty hand across her nose, and a few short seconds later, a resounding sneeze shakes her body. Tomorrow is a grahanam – an eclipse – all the dolls to be set before the dark day comes around. She would not eat for the two hours of the next day's grahanam, and the two hours before that. Her feet ache from standing for seven and half hours, but she does not think of skipping the custom of Golu at the Navarathri.
Sometime during the day, her thoughts had ventured to never having started the custom, to having a smaller one, but she believes that if she gives in to the temptations of settling for less than the complete, less than the best, it will be all too easy to do so again. And so she had gotten the wooden cartons out of the loft, the ones that were filled with her mother's collection. She had never done this by herself – but it was an obligation that she had taken upon herself the eyar that her mother had died. Not that year, of course, that year, there had been no celebrations at all… but the next year.
She notices the flaking paint – the white peeled away to reveal a sky blue, one that always reminded her of the sister hospital green and a tiny frown etches itself down her forehead. The house needs a touch up, but right now… Her mind takes off, trying to calculate the financial status for that year, and she finally comes to the concusion that the paint job has to be held off another year, what with the expanding family. She bends, her hand on her slender back, and sets right the idol of Saraswati – Goddess of Knowledge – that wasn't quite facing the right direction and steps back to survey her work.
Five steps of dolls, the floor and the divan besides. The windo sills too she has filled, as they each count as a surface bringing to total of "steps" to 9 – an auspicious number. The little patch of sand that sits on the floor, she knows, will one day be made by children, and had it not been for the theory of 9 surfaces, she would probably have given it a skip this year. It is a childish passtime… and there are no children.
The house is empty, her husband at a different city entirely, and her children – she places a hand lovingly on her abdomen and smiles. It is the first smile that has appeared on her face this day, where there has been only concetrated-lets-get-this-done-look before. Another sneeze shakes her. She really has to get going, she thinks, a warm shower calls to her… Hot drops trickling down her back, kissing the skin and the steady pressure of the water soothing stressed muscles. Black hair getting slickly wet, and straight as they do nowhere else… Meters of clothing fall to the ground outside the bathroom, and she loosens her long hair.
She stands under the shower, feeling satisfied with the work she has done, another now-almost forgotten custom fulfilled, another link in the intricate chain of her culture held together. She misses him, and yet is confident… of herself, of life, and of the webs of water and light surrounding her.