Thursday, January 24, 2008

Comb Marks

It was an uninteresting ritual and yet a bunch of bastard urchins that looked vaguely reminiscent of one casanova-father, pushed and pulled around the little girl and her tonsurer like flitting moths to a god-knows-what-yielding-bulb. The girl did not protest or cry like the older customers; someone in the distance did the bawling for her, whom he assumed must be a sister or a relation by sex. The thought made him snicker. She sat still, while he scraped his razor onto the weathered stone, this way and that, testing it against his tongue every ten swipes; the tip of his tongue nearly pronged from all the testing. When he thought he was ready to go, he slapped a palm of water onto her little head that wasn’t bigger than his palm itself. And as the drops of water slid down like creeping thieves down her long black hair, he scraped the razor against her scalp, and tossed every fallen bunch into his bag for post-processing. The girl sat, stone, like it were an event of everyday, though she did not recall ever being rid of all that weight on her head. And as he scraped more, effortlessly, the simple tresses fell into his palms, fearless and unharassed as the girl herself. In a minute, he was done and the girl nearly fell asleep, rudely awoken by a little palm that rubbed her bald head like it were a dog. She could hear the barber shoo the kids away with the threaten of a tonsure, followed by an unabashed guffaw from the lookalike urchins.
The guffaw was turning louder. And the little girl still could not understand what was so funny. She was ten and didn’t look very her sex herself, what with the age and now the tonsure. She looked from face to face and saw that she would look just like them, if only their father was hers. The barber slathered a paste of sweet chemical sandalwood that was supposed to cool her but burned her instead, for the first time. The laughter wouldn’t cease and she stood up and walked to her new room, beside the gurgling temple-shit that foamed above the alligator-prone Ganga. An urchin or two followed her, flicking pebbles as she sped down the street. She flicked a couple back at them, giggling like it were in a game.
The next morning, the woman that was wailing by the fire, was sitting beside her, with flaming eyes, as the little girl woke up and rubbed the sleep off her little doe eyes. She smiled at the woman. The woman stared fire. She drew her breath in, in one huge draw, like she were emptying her lungs off her life, and spat on the little girl’s face and rushed away, before the girl could realise what went wrong and where.
And as she washed herself in the little basin beside her mat of straw and slick bedbugs, she noticed her baldness for the first time, in the broken mirror. And there were the bloody comb marks, like racetracks on a fairground. She missed the tug of her mother’s hands, as she scraped the wooden comb through her hair, and her cries of pain.
And as the man whom she had apparently wed, burned on a pyre of wet twigs, by the smelly river that carried sins, the little girl shed her first tear.
She stared out of the lonely window, to seek a tomorrow.


prasanna venkatesh.b said...

Deepa Mehta should have known that a few words are far more effective than meters and meters of film! I am proud of you! I was waiting for a straightforward post from you, as in its been a while since you shed your cryptic veil! :)
(Not to say this post was not cryptic, but by Arun's standards this is as transparent as a magazine article :) )

Arun Sethuraman said...

thanks a ton da pv!that's like the best compliment!
thanks again!

Akshaya said...


Arun Sethuraman said...

@akshaya:thankyouthankyouthankyou! :D