‘I’ve traded the comfort of a relationship
for the joys of solitude’
Sandhya Sayani spins a tale that leads the protagonist to a journey of self-discovery and new beginnings. Illustration: Uttam Ghosh
The words you left behind are scattered all over me.
They are on my hands, my ears, my knees...
Every time I touch a part of me, a word comes alive,
It dances on my skin, reminds me of your smiling face.
I scrub, I wash, I use strong soap, but like scars, the
words stay with me.
It’s almost five in the morning. Snuggled in my
quilt, I am waiting. And then, as if on cue, at precisely 5:00 am, they start cawing. Thousands of
birds fly away off the tops of the trees that stand
majestically right next to my parent’s house. It’s
been happening for years. There’s a comfort in the
Jet-lagged, I drag myself into my mother’s
sparkling clean kitchen. Two hours from now my
mother’s “Woman Friday” Radhika, the Nepali
cook, will arrive to make tea and breakfast; I cannot
wait that long. I’ve been up since the wee hours of
the morning — still recovering from the long flight
home from San Francisco.
I make myself tea. It’s a struggle to figure out what
pots and pans to use — my mother has rules for
everything — but I manage. I don’t turn on the
light; the streetlight casts a dull yellow glow and
that’s enough for me. I sit by the kitchen table and
drink the tea. As the hot liquid seeps in, I think of
my two-bedroom townhouse in ‘Frisco.
Will I find a tenant soon?
According to Steven, the realtor, my turn-of-the-century
Victorian with its hardwood flooring will have “lots of takers.” I sure hope so. I need the money.
“Geetu? Is that you?” my mom asks. She hobbles into the
kitchen in her nightgown, all groggy -eyed.
“Mummy! Why are you up?” I ask. I worry about her
knees. She had them operated a few months ago; I doubt
she has recovered fully. “Go and sleep,” I whisper my order.
I don’t want my father to get up too. Too late; he hears us
talking. Soon he joins us.
I make some more tea despite my mother’s protests. We
all sit around the table and chat. I am beginning to like it;
it reminds me of my childhood. We were always together,
the three of us, and I liked being the only child. I have
always had my parents all to myself.
Later, after Radhika takes over, we have breakfast and
daddy gets ready for work. He looks spiffy in his suit. “I am
meeting a minister, an MLA,” he explains. As he walks past
me, I smell his after-shave. It takes me back in time to the
days when I used to stand next to him on a chair, watching
him as he lathered up his face. At five, I was totally fascinated by the act.
I stand by the gate and wave at my dad, who sits regally
this sense of single hood where I do not have any
restrictions. Long ago, in my 20s, I had a man. We
dated for five years until one day he left me heart-
broken; I started my 30s as a single woman.
in the back seat as the driver takes the car out of the driveway.
I go back inside my room and lie down.
“Geetu, come out,” my mom calls me. “We’ve got so much
to talk about,” she says. I can hear the joy in her voice at
having me all to herself.
“Five minutes,” I say, curling back into the quilt. Soon I
Shopping for Vegetables
I see him for the first time at the super-market
buying vegetables. I am standing between soaps
and shampoos and have an unrestricted view. He is
wearing track pants and running shoes. And checking out the bitter gourd. I stare. There’s something
wholesome about a man vegetable-shopping, especially if that vegetable happens to be good ol’ homely Karela.
It’s been a month and I am desperate for company. The other day I found myself sitting at home
doing needlepoint; I think I may soon turn into the
clichéd “old maid”. I swallow my womanly pride and
walk up to him.
“Hi!” I smile widely.
“Hello,” he looks up. He’s trying to place me I can tell.
“Don’t you remember? Geetu. Geetanjali Rao,” I say. I can
see that he still hasn’t recognized me. “Your sister Charu’s
friend?” I offer helpfully.
“Oh yeah!” he pats his forehead.
Liar. Still has no clue who I am.
“Of course, Charu” ;
Freedom of Birds
I am out walking at 7 in the morning. I am wearing my
black track-pants and a grey T-shirt with a low-cut neck,
which I tug up self-consciously as I go past a group of male
joggers. Sainik Farms looks beautiful with its tree-lined
roads and old-style bungalows. I breathe in the morning air
and feel a sense of calm and joy — I suspect the stray dogs
that are lazing around share my sentiments as well.
I walk past Jaisimha’s house, past the D’souza cottage
that I love so much. I encounter a group of sari-clad
women, surely on their way to the temple. They quickly
walk past me and I am alone again. I enjoy this solitude,
Excerpted from The Journals of Geetanjali Rao by
Sandhya Sayani and published by Indirom.com.
The author works as a technical manager in an information
technology company. She recently moved back to live in
India with her son and parents, after 13 years in the San
Francisco Bay Area.
Indirom, an e-publishing platform launched this month
— by Boston-based Naheed Hassan and Johannesburg,
South Africa-based Shanti Dominic — aims to connect fresh
and compelling voices of South Asian origin with readers