Spring/Summer 2021 Issue

Sarada – part 2

Priya Rao

Sarada had spent the night in jail.  

She attended a freedom march while on her way to the temple. Although she didn’t admit it, Sarada couldn’t care less about independence, especially when she hadn’t earned her own. She had never thought of her own freedom first, chasing after Nanna while knowing she would never reach him. Sarada loathed the constant sound of feet beating against the dirt road, the men and women marching till their legs gave out. But Sarada’s eyes stayed heavy as she watched them move through the village.  

Sarada had begun living with Nanna. Last night Nanna had taken Sarada’s dupatta to rest his head. When Sarada came back to ask for it, Nanna had missed the ashtray and rubbed the butt of his cigar on Sarada’s shoulder. He still didn’t spare her a glance, leaving Sarada wondering if Nanna knew the color of her eyes.

Sarada attended the march for Nanna. He had said once that his reputation was more important than what Sarada could give, so Sarada decided to give him what he wanted.

“D’you think they’ve got brains?” One guard muttered as another snorted. Their conversation carried on but Sarada ignored them, keeping her head held high. Sarada kept walking in rhythm with the others but her pace slackened when she saw a little girl run up to a man in front of her. Sarada rapt as the girl clung to the man’s kurta. The scene was not wordy but was filled with expressions of the face. Under Sarada’s heated observation, the man leaned over to cup the bare side of the girl’s back. 

“Come, follow Nanna Megha” The man muttered in the girl’s ear, to which the Megha’s mien brightened, with her eyes beginning to crinkle and the edges as her lips quirked upwards. Sarada followed the two throughout the village until she saw the size of the crowd.

Sarada immediately regretted her decision of attending the march instead of going straight to the temple. Swami, the village preacher, had warned that one should attend to God before striving for human attachments, and she had ignored his teachings. This must have been her punishment. The large marches were always broken up, some were jailed for days. 

Just as Sarada was going to leave, a white man began pulling her arm. He pulled her head close, and Sarada could feel his breath on her neck heating up her body. His hands were littered with freckles and felt smooth, but Sarada wondered what his eyes looked like. Sarada walked with the man towards the community prison with the front sight of a gun to her head and muzzle pressed into her skin. But Sarada paid no heed. Instead, she thought of Megha marching with her Nanna, praying she would utter a noise of discontent to put Sarada out of her misery. 

Sarada was thrown to the floor in a cell packed with three other women. The smell of bodies was strong and Sarada pinched her nose. Sarada curled her knees into her chest and rested her head against the cement wall. Sarada closed her eyes and began digging her nails into the dirt floors. Her fingers kept moving, as Sarada thought of what she would do when she got home.

Sarada opened her eyes when she heard the cell door creak, but all she could only focus on was the dull ache from her fingers. Sarada’s eyes widened when she saw smears of blood and dirt surrounding her nails. But rather than focusing on the blood, her eyes stayed glued to Nanna’s name etched into the ground around her, blooming red. Sarada’s head felt light as she reached her hand down to wipe the engravings away but was pulled away by a prison guard before she could touch the name. Sarada tried to run towards the cell, reaching towards the name that attached shackles to her feet to make sure she could never leave, but, like usual, she could never reach Nanna. Sarada knew she would never stop running after Nanna, but now she knew that she could never reach him either. 

The same guard led Sarada through the doors of the prison, gripping her hands tightly. Sarada was overcome with the sudden urge to speak to the eye-less man, but he pushed her outside of the iron gates and began to walk away without looking back. Sarada stood silently, swaying with the drift of the wind, and slowly stepped forward. Sarada continued to walk under the gentle touch of the moon towards Aadhya’s house. Her ankles began to bleed, but the blood never touched the water pooled in front of the door and had instead made a trail around it. Sarada set a pot of water beside the bed, and let the blood flow down her ankle without wiping it away as she laid down herself. 

Rujuta Dixit