Decorum required that you tell no one your name. She hoisted the last length of silk over her shoulder. A Gujarata bride driven south, a lifetime of practice and still something slipped out of place: A strand of her ebony hair, a pin from its French twist, the rose red sari tucked in at the waist.
Her mother-in-law found the girl’s name distasteful, in this southern jungle of rice and vegetables. The music of it between her teeth-- the crunch of carom seeds, hot and bitter. The taste of it on her lips and tongue–a burning of anger never spoken.
When her husband whispered it in the dark, it was tangy mango powder, sun-dried from tart green fruit. Sour until dried. An echo of her longing-- for desert air shifting the sand, for cow dung drying on the roofs for fuel.
The child wailed in code for hours. Wet nappies a mystery. Sore gums a mystery. To both of them. Hunger a demand her breasts answered even before they were asked. In the cries of her daughter she heard only the disappointments of her marriage. Not the soft brushing of lavender stalks hung to dry from the rafters of her mother’s kitchen.
Oil and a little fire sweeten most herbs, so she repeated her name to herself in the damp heat of a demanding kitchen. Trying to make its syllables fly.
Previously published in Conclave: A Journal of Character, issue 5, 2013.