This is an excerpt from my short story, “Pink Turban,” which was published in The New Orleans Review. For the full story click here.
One evening in 1972, sitting in her courtyard, stirring a large cauldron of boiling lentils, Guddi, with her practiced eye, studied the sun outside. The sun that maneuvered the affairs of the Siwalik Valley then, hasn’t changed much since; but nor has much else.
The sun Guddi was regarding looked very red and pregnant, as if anytime it might plummet like a dead bird into the dark belly of the hills.
“It is almost time,” she announced loudly. “The procession will be here soon. We must hurry, Goonga, else we’ll miss them. The dough still needs to be made. The lentils?” She plucked a plump yellow grain from the cauldron and squeezed it between her thumb and forefinger. “O dear Rabba! The lentils are still raw.”
“Raw! Raw! Raw!” Goonga the parrot screamed insanely, hanging in an iron cage in another corner of the neatly organized courtyard.
Still wincing from the burn of the lentils, but without altering the frantic pace of her hands, Guddi admonished the bird, “Shut up, Goonga. At least sometimes you can use your brains.”
Guddi usually reveled in the parrot’s incessant chatter. During the day, the only other sounds that trod their isolated, hillside house were those of her own—cooking, cleaning and washing. Sometimes she would pause to look out into the valley, when the noon sun had bleached the sky a blinding white, and not a soul would be in sight. Not even a leaf would move then. And the hills would echo a deafening silence that made Guddi’s heart sink. By the time her father and brothers returned from the fields, it was usually dark. And none of them was much of a conversationalist.