by Sobia Ali
Grandma noticed the wind instantly. God save us, she cried. It is the same wind that blew on my mother’s aunt’s wedding. She gathered her puffed up clothes around her, and ran inside. The wind was gyrating at a swift speed, trying to get in at the house. Trees swayed in a frenzy. Bushes in bloom flared up excitedly. The wind got everywhere, in our hair and all. It howled queerly in our ears. Then we saw Salima, the maid shutting doors and windows, and scared lest we should get shut out of the house and caught up in the wind, we too ran inside. Grandma was with the bride. Our mothers stood around hiding their laughter with scarves. The old woman is crazy, they gossiped. Somebody needs to put some sense into her. Men were all out on the ground preparing for the wedding procession. The guests had started to arrive. The house was shuddering and juddering with the wind coming vigorously through chinks, holes, cracks, down the smokestack, and under the doors. But it really is a strange wind, we muttered. One woman had fainted, so many people packed in the small close place. It was all good confusion. Colour and light looked dimmer after the lawn streamed with the sunlight. They were beating hard on the door. A shuffled cry escaped out the bride’s room, and then grandma was filling the gap with rags, her finger knots slipping in and out the threshold like lizards’ tongue and then vanishing altogether. Please hurry, we had to dress her, two saloon girls stood taking hair out of their eyes. Everyone’s hair seemed to have got in a tangle with everyone else’s. There was a lack of concern. The wind caused a sort of mad hilarity. Suddenly men were out knocking on the gate. The wedding tent has flown away, they said. Have the bride ready, they said. The bride’s mother ran away with the groom’s father, quipped a bird-like creature. No one laughed. Nothing as pathetic as a misfired joke. If only grandma would open the door. This reminds us the gate had been left open when the family men came and the wind was coming now freely in gusts, rushes, blasts and everything that a wind could come in. No one listens to me, wailed the one hundred year old man with the white fleecy beard down to his knees. Someone had placed a chair under him. This is a peculiar wind indeed, causing ancient things to come out of the earth, the birdy creature cracked again and this time there were loud guffaws. The moral is things do balance out, given time. Curtains blew themselves out of the hinges. It was no longer morning. A delicious aroma was hovering over us. The old man stopped cursing and sat up, sniffing, and all quivering. The wedding banquet! People rushed out and out. The wind blew them hither and thither, and everywhere. And then dishes started appearing out of nowhere, floating up on the air. Piled up with nihari gosht, shahi tukda, kadai paneer, pulov, haleem, biryani, korma, kabab, gulab jamun, jarda, halva. The food, the food, the yummy, scrummy real food. For an hour or two, there was only champing, smacking, slurping, stuffing, guzzling, gobbling. The old man’s nose turned red and runny. We had adapted ourselves somewhat to navigate through the wind. The wind! It was changing shades of blue, and keeping patient like— well never mind. Too late for similes, anyway. They are coming to take the bride, the old man said reasonably. Get that old hag to open the door. Open the door. How could the appetizing, mouth-watering whiffs of sumptuous Mughlai dishes not bring grandma to open the door an inch, we wondered. What to do now? They wrung their hands. Yes, yes, yes. Crash the door. The saloon girls were bursting with all the food they had put inside. The old man dozed. Such a waste, look here this pure, good teak, —and in perfect condition too, the carpenter pointed this or that to the women, sighing. He hammered down the door. And all the while the wind waited, going round and round and round. The groom’s turban had flown off and he was chasing it across the field. Only if the wretched wind would stop. The guests were departing. Women could find their burqas nowhere and in no time the landscape was dotted with colourful dupattas flying like flags. Men ran after them, yelling. No sooner did the carpenter make a big hole in the door, and everyone wanted to have a peep, grandma stuffed a blanket in it. Such a pity, the carpenter shook his head mournfully. The door was breaking. The crowd craned forth its neck. The earth shook and the wind forced the door open. It fell hard, almost splitting our ears. The wind surged ahead, toppling chairs that had been stacked against the door. There was a great commotion. At last grandma emerged, beating her chest. The wind has got her, she sobbed, collapsing on the old man’s lap. Then she became calm like ….. umm grief? Death? And said resignedly, the wind has got her, it is the same that blew on my mother’s aunt’s wedding. And then the bride glided out of the room, treading on air. She went through the gate into the vast grounds. She wore ribbons in her hair, and buckled shoes. Let’s play peek-a-boo, she called cheerfully to the groom. He was the fast disappearing dot on a sunset horizon.
About the Author:
Sobia Ali has an MA in English Literature. Her work has appeared in Atticus Review, The Indian Quarterly, The Bosphorus Review of Books, Gone Lawn, The Punch Magazine, Queen Mob’s Teahouse, trampset, Lunate, Kitaab, The Cabinet of Heed, ActiveMuse, Ombak Magazine, Literary Yard, The Short Humour Site, and is forthcoming in Another Chicago Magazine, Sahitya Akademi’s Indian Literature, Close To The Bone, Squawl Back, and elsewhere. She is currently at work on her novel.