Mother called again today to ask how I was, and how I was enjoying the new house. It was nice to hear her voice; it’s strange but I have missed her. I haven’t been away for long, but it seems like such a distance. For once I can’t contain myself and words just spill out of my mouth, one after the other in a mad flurry. I tell her about the house, and the décor themes. Behind us, the workmen continue to hammer tiny iron nails, into planks of wood so that my books can finally have a rest. I shout over the din, and I talk.
I tell about the big window in the study. I tell her I’ve dressed it in bright potted plants, and framed it with a flirty green money-plant, just like she had done to her kitchen window all those years ago. I tell her how the whole world opens to this window (at seven in the morning, to be precise) to ringing temple bells and the morning aarti. I tell about the procession of marigolds that engulfs the street at this time; I tell her about the priests on their little scooters, always in a hurry; and the beggars who play cards before the devotees arrive. Knowing there’s a temple close by pleases her, especially after I reassure her of my weekly visits, every Tuesday, I tell her.
Before she can bring up a new ritual for me to adopt, I race along, introducing her to the rest of the cast: the little children waiting for the school bus, picking fights and pulling bits of hair from red-ribboned ponytails; I tell her about the constant trickle of rickshaws and bikes chugging past; I tell about all the hawkers who call out to me throughout the day – the vegetable seller in a perfectly draped nine yard sari; the bottle picker with the scarred face; the fisherwoman with the giant gold nose ring. Mother doesn’t care about any of them, but I keep talking. I can’t control myself, the words just pour out. I blabber on about the squawking crows and the cooing pigeons. I tell her about the maid and her six year old daughter. I tell her about the chai-wala at the corner of the street. I tell her about the neighbours I don’t like. I tell her about this, and I tell her about that. I tell her everything except the truth.