February 3, 2009

Sister Mine
Anita Saran

There were times when we sisters were one. We hunted for wild blackberries the sunning lizards so loved to gobble; chased butterflies, captured the seed fairies of the dandelion, and gathered succulent mangoes felled by the dust-laden winds of summer.

On Diwali, at the Festival of Lights, we fought over the pink and blue clay pots and pans and tiny platters and spoons; the white porous candy and the puffed rice. Our gigantic house was transformed into a fairytale castle, glittering with hundreds of oil lamps. The skies were full of stars that fell to earth, trailing glory.

Yet we never loved as sisters should. There was a wall between us, built by Mother's cruelty to me and love for her.

A week before she died of a broken heart, she told me she was going to kill herself. Could I suggest some easy way? When I suggested she see a psychiatrist, she said she was already seeing one. I said, "You have your whole life before you. You'll meet the right man eventually."

But my love wasn't enough. She needed a man's love. "You do not understand, Ani" she said. "I'm a one-man woman."

She wanted us to meet more often, but my possessive lover held me back. When she hanged herself, I was ravaged by guilt.

On the morrow of my sister's suicide, I woke up weeping. I did not have the courage to look upon her tortured body. All I saw in the end was a pot of ashes. On our way to the sacred river, I held it on my knees with a kind of numb horror, and Uncle Shyam, noticing my discomfort, took the pot from me. Even her ashes I could not face.

Life is strange. We poured her ashes into the same river that had almost drowned me many years ago. It was very beautiful there. While Uncle Shyam held the pot of ashes over the water, a brilliant blue kingfisher darted into the overhanging trees. As her ashes drifted away upon the river, words filled my head like a prayer:

Do you remember, sister mine,
our rambles among
the dandelions on the hills?
Sunrise over the snow,
turning the mountains gold,
when you and I were
one with the sun?
Do you feel our father's gentleness,
his hand soft upon your brow?

All of us must bear our crosses, but Nature softens every blow. Our loved ones live again in the tears we sow.


Anita Saran lives in Bangalore, India. Her short stories have appeared in various online venues, including Cezanne's Carrot and Sniplits. She is the author of Dolphin Girl and other Stories and Aditya, the Underwater Boy, a science fiction novella that won the National Award in the Nehru Children's Book Trust competition. Her first novel, Circe, will be published in 2009 by Mojocastle Press.

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