Nani's Book of Suicides
My grandmother, the witch, is hydrophobic. She can swim across and back the Ganges just where it curves into Benaras and is the widest. When I was younger, and lighter, she would let me ride her back. I would hold on tightly to her neck and try to breathe through the wet veil of her white cotton sari which invariably tangled around me, leaving my grandmother free to streak across the waters like the many river porpoises that frolic in the early morning sun. She can cavort in the river like a dolphin, but not a drop of water has passed her lips in the last twenty-three years
My grandmother, the witch, is tiny, under five feet tall and fragile looking. Over the years, her wavy hair has thinned into a straggly, snowy knot that is perpetually hidden under her sari. Age has softened her knife-edge features and weariness is now a permanent resident around her tightly clamped mouth. Her dark eyes still flash fiercely, and if you look closely, you can see the glowing coal that has rested in her belly for the last twenty-three years.
For the same number of years she has been chasing me, searching me out with her flashing tigress eyes that bore through my skull and pinion my thoughts, hounding me with the overwhelming weight of her traditions and tales o f family honour. Unrelenting in the face of my pleas, my defiance, my hatred for her, she follows me, seeking me out over the continents. She and her band of gnarled wizened harpies.
"Listen to me," her voice whispers in my head cutting through my headphones, shattering the magic of Macalpine's perfect guitar riff. The harpies join her, screeching out stories of horror that plague women of our family. Padmini, Draupadi, Meera…"Listen to us, we tried running away. There is no escape." I can see my grandmother, the witch, grin wickedly, gleefully, from across the seas. Once again, she has found me even though I didn't send her my address or phone number. "Yes, Nani, of course, Nani. I'm coming home, Nani," I whisper back, frantically trying to think of another far away land to hide in.
She can cavort in the river like a dolphin, but not a drop of water has passed her lips in the last twenty-three years...