Fall/Winter 2020 Issue

Sarada – part I

Priya Rao

 

The sky hung low, as the blue melancholy sunk deeper into the ground. Sarada took long strides towards the clay hut. The blisters on her legs had opened as blood began to trickle down her ankles. The drops of red tinted the blue, spreading further than the arm could reach. Sarada stepped over the puddle and past the door. Drenched in sweat, she placed a pot of water on the right side of the bed. Sarada winced as she rolled her neck out, working the crick that eventually subdued into a dull ache. Grabbing the corner of the bedsheet, she began running it down the length of her legs, intending to wipe the blood away but instead spreading it into a thin layer across her ankles. 

Sarada turned her head towards the ceiling, her eyes tracing the cracks as they moved down the walls and into the ground. She continued to stare at the fissures while she pushed herself off the floor. She could smell the carcass before she approached it. The day prior, Sarada had thrown Aadhya’s body in the garden when Nanna was coming and had been so distracted with packing her things, she fell asleep without properly burying it. Sarada’s mouth twisted as she looked down at the body that laid on top of the tomatoes Aadhya had planted herself. Her face could no longer be recognized, with the maggots inside her mouth creating red and black holes over her face, and crawling into her eyes. Her kurti had rolled up, allowing her legs to show. Sarada’s stomach clenched when she saw the streaks of black running down them. Sarada didn’t want to believe this was the woman she had grown up with. But Sarada felt no sympathy for Aadhya; she knew her death was coming and viewed her as a dead woman while she was alive. Instead, Sarada felt revulsed that Aadhya had let herself become like this. 

_____

Looking towards the sky through the broken roof, Sarada wondered how the sun and the moon both sat at the same spot, yet she loathed one and loved the other. She could feel the waves of heat hit her, leaving her hairs standing upright and skin prickling, the same feeling she got after being whipped by the slack side of Nanna’s leather belt.                                 

“Use the water chinnu,” Aadhya said. She had only one eye open, peering up at Sarada. Placing both hands behind her, she began to sit upright but failed. Her arms were shriveled and it was only a matter of time they became the size of prunes. Sarada refused to make eye contact with Aadhya and continued to stare at the shard of glass she used as a mirror to fix her bindi. 

“It is for you Amma,” Sarada stated softly, holding the shard in one hand while gliding her calloused palms across Aadhya’s back to support her weight. 

Sarada could feel a small sting on her arm as Aadhya’s hand retreated back to her side, but she only felt disappointment. Not too long ago Aadhya’s hits would feel like Rakshasa came to bring her to hell. Now, it felt as if a butterfly came to kiss her goodbye. But Aadhya’s eyes bore into Sarada’s once she looked up again, causing her to still. 

“Don’t do two things at once, it’s a dirty habit. Talk or apply your bindi.” Aadhya said before closing her eyes and lying back down. 

“Okay, Amma,” Sarada replied while tucking the shard under the bed. She played with her fingers, another nasty habit she had, pulling on the loose skin and scraping the dirt from underneath her yellow nails. “Nanna wanted me to come home.” 

“Enh.” 

“He said he needed me,” Sarada rushed out. She couldn’t drop the feeling like she betrayed Aadhya. Sarada knew Aadhya was close to death. She was old and couldn’t move from the bed. The conversations between the two were curbed like glasses filled to the brim, waiting to foam but never spilt over the edge. Sarada didn’t need a dead woman in her life, she needed the physical and emotional touch that a dead woman wouldn’t provide. Although she didn’t admit it, Sarada was eager to move back to Nanna’s house. People in town said she looked like her Nanna, but Sarada could barely remember the color of his milky skin, let alone the intensity of his eyes. So when Aadhya died, Sarada began to leave.