Fiction Park

Jal Kapur

  • A day before her wedding, Rama looked at herself in Ma’s mirror
- Geetanjali Lama

Oct 28, 2018-

So, it was a day before Rama’s wedding and she looked at herself in Ma’s mirror adorned with colourful tikas in the backdrop of red, green beads, bangles and her sari bought from the Sauji in IndraChowk. How they had haggled over the price until Sauji had caught his head between his hands and let out an exasperated sigh! “Prabhu, you are worse than any other customers! Ok! Alright! Huncha—last price and ultimate discount; take it for 8, 500 rupees not a penny more not a penny less.” Maiju had pinched her forearm signaling her to keep quiet as they listened to the rant of Sauji. 7,500 rupees? Maiju let out a long sigh, “Only, that much? Shiva, every Teej and Tihar we make it a point to come here to buy our saris leaving all other shops, and this is what you have to offer? Nai, you have to give at a better price.”

“Ama, this is not a fish market in Lagankhel and I offer you only the best and the rarest. This is Indian silk with a hand-woven border only made in Banaras and brought to Kathmandu from the factory itself. This should make our Rama look regal and resplendent. Ahem! I am not joking, this is the Jal Kapur of all saris, the queen of saris like Jal Kapur is the queen of all fish.” Maiju had scoffed and pushed back a laugh, “Yes, I know for how much you sold this very same sari to my neighbours! You are a master nautanki! Pashupatinath bless your grandfather who dropped the price on every item at a twitch of my eyebrows. You know our relationship goes back to four generations, don’t you?”

Now, Rama was enamoured even more, just yesterday in the Dashaintika bhoj, Sainjuji had bit into the large fried,succulent,fish freshly out of Ma’s kitchen and salivated with ecstasy, flushing as the fish dribbled down the sides of his beard. “Bhauju,” he had exclaimed, “Wah! Jal Kapur the fish for kings and aristocracy on my plate is manna from above, my Dasain is truly blessed.” This was the greatest compliment for Ma’s culinary talent and she stood there beaming with pride and poured a flood of gravy into the mountain of rice on his plate.

Sauji scratched his hair, paused then pulled a few straggly hairs on his chin; now that Lord Pashupatinath had entered the deluge of discussion it was cowardly not to bend to this stubborn Ama’s plea. “Ok, ok, last price, I swear on myself just give me 7,000 for the sari.You must understand I have to cover the train ticket cost and how am I supposed to raise a family and send the kids to school…” Sauji stopped his long standard argument halfway he had used these lines often to soften stubborn, hardened, veteran hagglers. But the early morning sale even before he had burnt dried chilly and garlic flakes to ward off the evil eye was a godly sign that things would be honky dory during the day, so, he continued, “Jai Pashupatinath!

I am giving it at wholesale price and keeping the least and minimum profit for myself, Ama hajur: This coming Teej we also have some red Bengali taath sari especially for you and can order some zari sari if it pleases you. Will do…huncha? ”

Maiju’s eyes gleaming and bright like Sagarmatha on a pure sunlit day was hard to miss. She scooped up the sari pushed it into her grocery bag and pulled Rama through the jostling crowd halting just for a few seconds in front of the Annapurna Devi Temple murmuring out the blessings, “May your future home be filled with abundance,” sprinkling Rama and herself with abheer, marigold and jabbing away the regular temple vagabonds.

So Rama reached home with a thudding heart and laid the sari on the baithak table untying it carefully from the soft malmal bag. Lo! There lay the Jal Kapur sari shining and glowing for a long retinue of cousins, aunts and nieces who reverently kneeled down to feel the sheer luxury between the thumb and index finger and sighed as the sheer richness of the creamy silk slithered between their fingers. Some lifted it high toward the window and said that if the light that passed through it changed into a rainbow it was pure silk. Some folded its magnificence around their waist and shimmied around the baithak table and felt like goddesses. Everybody had a delightfully delirious time praising Maiju and Rama’s delectable choice.

Sani switched on the FM station and started twirling around the baithak. Ma, Maiju, Rama and Maili baini hastened to the kitchen planted their heads close together and giggled over the sloppy way that Maili sat on the floor with legs splayed out from east to west her plump, pumpkin thighs exposed, pushing and grating the spices on the stone board. Ma gave a quick knock on her forehead and a loud, “Chee! Chee! sit properly, there’s nothing but cow dung in your brain, cover your knees with the gamcha and do the masala!”

Vegetables, onions, turmeric, coriander seeds flew into a piping, hot pan shimmering in oil splattering the white tiles and streaming into yellow oily tributaries. All the faces rolled down a river of tears as they sliced the onions into paper thin strips.

The backyard roared with fire from the old plum tree. According to grandfather it could now be used for fuel because it was too old to bear fruit and already dead. The old, one eared, hardened, crusty, pot bubbled with a goat’s head, its eyes melted andsputtered into the soup. Grandfather had reserved the entrails of the goat for a spicy snack with his evening dash of Old Monk rum and his gray hair glistened like silver in the sun as he rubbed a well oiled flannel on the sides of the madal that would finally ring out at night.

A big nose crinkled up in tears in the rusty backdrop of a setting song and grandfather hummed a Maruni song, “Urrijaane puthalile ..sainludarakatyoni …phati deuna paapi badal ma thajaan chu maiti ko desh.”

“This is a song about a lonely butterfly woman who misses her maitighar and wants to sail away from captivity,” Maiju informed as she leaned forward and listened to the solitary voice of her father- in- law, Ma’s quick repertoire to that was, “No! Maiya, it is about Sita after she was kidnapped by Ravana and she is pleading for the clouds to help her sail away to her beloved home.” They are sister-in-laws and these arguments can run for days, nights and even eons in a never ending verbal vomit, battling over cutting, dicing, washing,wringing and oiling hair.

The old house is being roused up from its dormant state of dilapidation to a stunning white wash. The stage is set and the curtain raised for Rama the bride to look regal in her JAL KAPUR SARI, the queen of all saris from Indra Chowk. 

Published: 28-10-2018 08:51

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