by Sindhu Rajasekaran
It is said that our river Namida was once a woman. When her husband, the river Sompura, touched her for the first time on their wedding day, the turmeric that covered her body fell to the earth and made the colour of our forest mud yellow.
I rub some wet mud on my cheek, then on my legs. ‘What are you doing?’ Lado’s last words coil around me like a snake, hissing: ‘Stories are lies.’
He is right. The paste is not as soft as turmeric. But this is what I do. I search the forest for stories. Imagine their colours and paint them on our walls.
Our tribe has always respected the painters, because our paintings are messages to the god of our mountain. We weave our prayers into our paintings, hoping the stars will turn in our favour.
But Lado doesn’t believe in the gods and says there is no secret magic in the skies. He and I have known each other all our lives; when did we start to think different?
I thought we were one since the day he gave me a chipna in front of the elders. I wore the hairclip everyday and never did I take a gift from another. I tried to see life through his eyes. Although, untrue to his word, he has strayed away from my arms.
I pull out Lado’s chipna and let my long hair hang loose. Our women aren’t supposed to let their tresses hang this way. It’s only done when there is a reason to mourn, or when evil spirits possess.
‘Mahua!’ I hear Pitti Pusika call my name.