Mira Devi’s Light

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Genre: Young Adult

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Anu had just turned ten. Her birthday had been celebrated with the usual lack of fanfare. Her mother had woken up fifteen minutes earlier to make the customary Payesh, which she was given the privilege of tasting ahead of her perpetually hungry brothers. Apart from this and an absent minded wish from her bookworm of a father, there was nothing particularly differentiating about the day that marked her entry into the world that was at the time too busy handling its newly found independence and socialist government to celebrate her journey so far.

She left for the park half an hour earlier than usual, alone, without informing her elder sister Alo didi. She thought of this solitary half an hour at the park as her gift to herself. Alo didi had recently turned fourteen and going to the park with her daily had swiftly transformed from a fairly pleasant aspect of her regular routine into a dreaded exercise. She attributed this to Alo didi’s newly acquired interest of paying attention to her physical appearance. She had grown to be a tall, slender beauty with skin as fair as Suchitra Sen; the hugely popular actress based on whose features artists allegedly modeled their Durga Ma idols.

The neighborhood boys had become aware of Alo’s fresh allure like sniffing dogs. Every time she left their home, the streets, otherwise dead, would fill up with an assorted collection of boys who would find some excuse to lurk around the grocery store where she had been sent to buy milk or the route she used to walk to school. The park, initially a safe haven for Anu, had been discovered as a place Alo didi would spend two hours of her time, and the boys had been pouring in, disbanding their usual fervor for football for make shift cricket matches in the sandy park or standing around aimlessly near the swings and attempting brave feats on the already rusting monkey bars.

Alo didi pretended to be blind to this attention, which Anu had initially found amusing until it became nauseating. She suddenly began to take more time to get ready, spending what felt like hours applying powder and Kohl, wearing only figure enhancing frocks. Previously, Anu and Alo would spend hours playing in the park, pranking other children and competing to see who could run faster, climb higher and eat more. Now, Alo didi would refuse to run around, lest her frocks got dusty and preferred to take slow walks around the park making suggestive eye contact with the better looking boys, assuming Anu was too small to notice anything. But notice Anu did and it became a regular source of irritation for her. The slow walks didn’t interest her and the swings were boring without Alo didi by her side, trying to out swing her.

So curious to explore her park alone, sans the weight of adolescence, Anu entered the park to find a few neighborhood children already playing around. She used the swing for a while, jumped a few hoops, tried playing hopscotch and hanging on the monkey bar. The initial excitement gave way to boredom and she sat down in a nearby shade, wiping her sweat away. This is why Alo didi never wanted to come out when the sun was so strong; the heat was too unbearable in its role as an assailant to her beauty.

Anu looked around, her face cupped in her hands, shoulders hunched, wondering how she would spend the remaining half an hour. She gazed around at the girls playing nearby, their mothers standing around talking, rubbing the sweat of their faces with their sarees.

She had recently begun noticing faces, their aesthetics, specifically how they were colored. Categorizing faces according to colors had become something of a pastime. The lady in the red saree was a light shade of yellow and her little daughter was dark brown. The lady she was talking to was brownish and the boy she was attempting to hold onto was white as milk. Her mother was brown, Alo didi was white, her father was a mustard shade of yellow and her brothers were wheatish during winter, browning slightly during the hot Calcutta summer.

It had started when she overheard a conversation between her mother and their neighbor Lata mashi, who had dropped in one afternoon after having completed her household chores. Her mother had made tea and the two had sat on the verandah, updating each other on the details of the houses nearby. She had sat outside trying to practice the difficult spellings of a particularly tough chapter in English. The conversation had been senseless noise until she heard her own name weaved into it.

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4 Responses to “Mira Devi’s Light”

  1. Ruchi Singh October 4, 2014 at 6:01 am #

    I got the feel of the setting, and the teenage psychology has been brought out well.

    I would have loved to have some dialogues between maybe, two sisters or friends to bring out the setting instead of only prose. All in all, I am intrigued about what happens next.

    All th best!

  2. Sabahat Muhammad October 3, 2014 at 9:03 am #

    The story has potential, but the writing is stuffy and formal. It’s particularly annoying to read long, run-on sentences without correct punctuation and misspellings (makeshift is one word, not two; out-swing needs to be hyphenated), so the first thing this piece needs is to be ruthlessly edited. It’s currently 5 paragraphs of dense, unclear language. For example:

    ‘The lady she was talking to was brownish and the boy she was attempting to hold onto was white as milk. Her mother was brown…’

    This sentence makes me think that ‘her mother’ is referring to the lady in the previous sentence, not Anu.

    This introduction to Anu could have been handled with a little more spark. If the target is young adult, then the language needs to be simpler, more modern. It needs dialogue. The last paragraph could easily have been cut out and replaced with the actual conversation that Anu overheard. Even her interactions with Alo Didi lacked any conversation at all, though that could also be peppered with dialogue. Descriptions and details are interesting, but should be interspersed through the story, not presented in a block.

    • M September 8, 2016 at 11:01 am #

      This was an exciting read. In just an opening we learn about the sacrifices that adolescence asks for., the impact this has on family, friends and in particular your relationship with other women – a sister for example.
      We also learn of the perception of beauty, especially in South Asia and how its embedded from an early age. Its also about the boredom we have all experienced at some point in our childhood, and a thirst for adventure.
      It was insightful and thoughtful, I would love to observe these characters unfold.

  3. anurag October 3, 2014 at 3:59 am #

    Lucid.The words flow like a gentle paced river…

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