have pulled into a neighborhood. There
are tall, graceful houses, square lawns of glistening neon grass, empty streets
that make me wonder where the people are. Surely there must be people. But I
see only a car here or there unloading a mother and a few children. There is no
one walking, no shops spilling into the street. There is no music, no car
horns. It is all profoundly quiet, profoundly lonely.
he says, “Just hard work and some luck, and all doors
are opened.” He flings open his own door and we are greeted with the most
unexpected of scents, cumin, cardamom, chili frying. We had expected more
exotic odors, perhaps hot dogs and hamburger meat, pizza. Whatever we expected,
it was not the scents of Alice’s kitchen. The disorientation is overwhelming.
What is this place that we have landed in that looks so foreign and smells so
At six o’clock Ophelia Aunty comes
home. She is Ananda Uncle’s beautiful Burgher wife. The one for whom he risked
Sylvia Sunethra’s wrath. The one for whom he moved, as his mother said, to this
“bang-bang, shoot-shoot country.” We are shy in front of her tailored
suit, her efficient heels and lacquered face, while she looks the four of us up
and down, taking in our unavoidable otherness. But there is also a gentleness
radiating from her, a certain tenderness that makes it clear why our uncle has
chosen this woman over all others.
America is exciting but already I miss Alice, Mala Nanda, our
grandmother, the house cats, Shiva, everything familiar that we have lost, with
a sudden sharp tearing in my chest. .Page-97
our thoughts bucket heavy with this
new place and the strangeness of time moving in an unnatural rhythm. It is
almost dawn, a grandfather clock somewhere in that huge house booming four
before I fall asleep, and then I dream of the island as seen through clouds,
the pain in my veins as it is pulled away farther and farther until swallowed
by the frothing ocean.