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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: India (02/12/09)

TITLE: A Steady Erosion


Lines from my eyes spill onto my cheeks like the Ganges flowing into the great Sea of Bengal. The elements have their say with fragile skin and brittle hearts. The unrelenting movement of time tips an imaginary scale.

“Mata?” my son, Jaskirit, says. “Are you listening to me?” He speaks too loudly from across the gleaming table. The emerald green sheers surrounding us seem to move with the exhale of his breath. In front of him, I have arranged his favorite dishes like a rainbow— chana, alloo sabzi, and pulau, and at the center, like the sun, is a circle of warm flat bread.

“Yes, I am listening,” I answer. “You want permission to marry an American girl you met at university, while you were supposed to be studying to become a pharmacist.”

“I’ve earned the degree, but I don’t want to be a pharmacist. I want to open a fast food restaurant here with you.” Jaskirit has changed, the exterior, anyway—the clothes, the hair. Now he resembles a Bollywood star, trendy and confident. Thankfully his eyes carry the same sincere intensity as they did when he was small and begged for another piece of malpoa. He uses innumerable minutes to explain what a fast food restaurant is and how our family recipes could be converted. How we can mix the traditions of the old with the vitality of the new.

“We don’t want to continue this restaurant operation.” I wave my hand around the establishment in question. “Our wish is to sell—we only waited for you to begin dispensing medications. And what about this girl?”

“Her name is Kelly, and she has a character of gold. We'll live here—she has no family.”

“She is Hindu?”

“No, Christian.”

“Does she eat meat from the cow?”

“She has stopped.”

“So, you want me to accept an American, cow-eating Christian as a daughter-in-law, and you want to turn our fine restaurant into McDonalds?”

“Mata, don’t speak like that. Pita will be here soon. Without your sway, we have no chance.” His eyes grow large and desperate. I wonder how many more lines this young son of mine will etch onto the contours of my face.

“It is impossible. Your duty is to your family.”

“And I want to keep it—Kelly wants to keep it. We will care for you.”

“Will she go to the temple with us?”


"You can't have a marriage confused with opposing faiths."

He takes my hand in his, tracing the deep ridges. “There is no opposition.” His voice has finally become subdued.

Skewered like a piece of chicken, but still alive and breathing. I finger the filmy folds crossing my breast and realize I’m wearing a sari made of synthetic material. So many changes have already come. I don’t have enough armor to stop them. I don’t think enough armor exists.

“Your name, Jaskirit, means, ‘Praises of the Lord,’” I remind him. “Not the Christian Lord, ours— Vishnu.”

“Yes,” he says. He slides the bracelets along my wrist, as he used to. Of all my children he was the one who read my moods, matched my thoughts—the one most like me. The one conceived when I had finally grown to love his father.

The light shifts through the transom above us, and Jaskirit’s pupils shrink even as his face shines. The crackle of onion and garlic sound from the kitchen grill, and we are suspended, both concentrating on the movement of the bracelets. A failure as a mother is what I feel. Oh, to get him back, but heart of my heart, I feel helpless at the resolve emanating from the hand on my arm.

It seems the scales were not imaginary. But of what kind are they? Old versus young? Fine food versus fast food? Hinduism versus Christianity?

My husband has passed through the curtain without my being aware. He leans down and ruffles his son’s uncovered head before he tucks the back of his pajama kurta under him and sits at my side. He lifts my gaze with his own, and my age vanishes. His hand inadvertently skims my waist, the swath the sari doesn’t cover, and I feel slender. Our tea is freshened and new dishes are set before us. The aromas of ginger and cinnamon mingle, floating among our nostrils.

For a moment life is just as it’s always been.

And yet I know the scales have tipped.

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This article has been read 983 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Sonya Leigh02/19/09
This is a great story of love strings and the pain of change--very poignantly told. Great job.
Jan Ackerson 02/19/09
I love this tender and bittersweet story so much, especially because of the details: the sliding of the bracelets, the way she feels slender at the touch at her waist...this is a very writerly piece. Just beautiful.
Seema Bagai 02/19/09
You captured the scene well, with vivid emotions and details. I liked the title, too, with the multiple meanings. Good job.
Eliza Evans 02/21/09
Really lovely writing but be careful. That first sentence is way overdone and I almost stopped reading right there.

Just my opinion. :)

Joanne Sher 02/22/09
Wonderful descriptions, and a vivid portrayal of conflicting cultures without being overdone.
Karlene Jacobsen02/23/09
Oh the pain of watching our children grow and move in directions we did not go.
This was good, although I felt a little undone at the end. Perhaps that is what I am to feel, as per the title.
Glynis Becker02/23/09
I enjoyed all the details and when the piece ended, I wasn't ready to be done! Great job.
Carol Slider 02/23/09
I'm amazed at the beautiful, subtle complexity of this! I loved being able to see through the eyes of this mother, as she watches so much change and realizes that she can't control it. Very well done!
Angela M. Baker-Bridge02/24/09
With each convert we rejoice, but forget how painful it is for the unsaved family to accept. Beautifully written.
Verna Cole Mitchell 02/24/09
You made the emotions of the mother so clear with your descriptive piece. Really well written.
Catrina Bradley 02/24/09
I was grew more and more captured in the story and the characters as I read. This is such a tender scene. Well done.
Leah Nichols 02/24/09
I love your writing!
Seriously, you always capture the emotions so beautifully. I always feel tempted to jump into analyzing mode because it reminds me of great literature. Pieces like this one should not end so quickly - I would really like to read more! LOL here I am raving on and on.... :)
Sharon Kane02/25/09
Beautifully written as always. You should write a sequel; I was left dying to know what the father says and what the outcome is!
Diana Dart 02/25/09
Beautiful - my heart was torn and breaking with this mother's. The opening lines were exquisite, setting the whole tone to the piece.
Tallylah Monroe02/25/09
The atmosphere you create here is remarkable.
Chely Roach02/26/09
You had me from your first word, and I clung to the last. So very lush and vivid. I loved this. Congratulations on your EC!
Eliza Evans 06/24/11
I kind of like that first sentence now. I guess I'm growing up! :) :) Bless you, Lisa.