The way home (Nikki)

Kiran Bath | Poetry

Suhaag Raat. Wrists heavy. Kalire, chura. Bells that sound my bridal, my ready.
Bells otherwise chiming from lonely cows. Lonelier on fields. Lowly.
They are claimed. I sound heart heavy. I fill the mirror, heavy. Red glass reflection.
No one says it: I look perfect. What palmists expect. Cartography of futures.
Mehndi of red suns and fingertips. No one admits to a worthy bride. Heels caked
in green paste. Assault as decoration. Wait as it thickens. Watch as it blackens.
Was my heart so different? Wash and I emerge. Paisley in crimson.
Dheeye, tu hun tyar a.

I face my mother. I sense her harden with the fog that has finally come.

(What is custom but the rope pulling tight).

Together we hold the bated breath of future tenses. Pardesan. She prepares me for

In four circles I am remade and rehoused. In matrimony I shed daughter, assume

(What is bond but the romance of ropes).

Wearing constellations. Speckled arches for brows. Bindi a moon. I carry ancestors.
Blindly. I tread the water of penalty. I seek the sinking that comes with inheritance.
Gravity. Let it take me. Toward him — jeevan saathi — elder by thirteen, may he
outlive me.

On arrival my palms were printed on his walls.

On departure my mother gifted her curse words.

(What is love but the rope she offered).

Daughter, if you are unhappy, do not turn back. Take the vial. Return to dark.

What is honour but the rope that comes for us all in the end.

Field notes:

It was a small wedding. The phone rang 30 years later, when her mother died,
she yelled: bapaani! Her bellows across the Indian Ocean: I sinned.
Forgiveness now.