Sunday, December 21, 2008

The fishmonger woman

Kalyani was a fishmonger woman, who sold fish by the merit of her destiny and the obligation of her caste. She moved along the streets like an inevitable organ of the lifeline of the village.

When she first came home, her hair had already grayed and been loosely tied into a drooping ponytail with an elastic band. It was a sunny afternoon and she came round the house to the backyard, and cast a smile at the suspecting frown of my mother.

Her perspiring face gleamed with expectation as my mother mellowed down, and she let her fish basket lower on the kitchen veranda. She sat by the side, and lifted the loose plastic sheet that exposed the slithering catfish.

“Oh, this is small”, my mother frowned again.
Kalyani thrust her fingers carefully, and lifted a few big ones that slid in her hands.
“Get me the pan; I will give you the bigger ones.”
“the price?.” my mother insisted.
“Don’t bother, I will give it you cheap, get me the pan.”

Kalayni emptied the whole basket into the pan and affirmed, “This is only two kilos; I will scale it for you. Where is the knife?”
My mother wanted to say ‘no’ but she ended up saying this,
“Don’t ask me too much money. I will not give you.”

Kalyani smiled with the warm authority of an insider, and started talking about other things. Her fingers skilfully toyed with the wriggling fish and my mother leaned against the door and watched. She spoke, as she cleaned fish, about the virtuous people of the households she frequented. She opened her tiny folder-wallet and pulled out photographs of children of her favourite families.

On that day, she stayed long enough until she cooked fish, had her lunch and afternoon siesta. When she left home, in the evening we knew that it was the beginning of a lifelong relationship with an extraordinary human being, who sold fish and walked into our hearts.

Keep reading....