Vaidehi

12 February 1945 - / Kundapur, Udupi district, Karnataka / India

MY MOTHER'S SARI

There, in the wooden box
my mother's sari, enveloped in white muslin,
with mothballs.

Her sense of order is in each one
of its folds,
and the press of her palm.
A universe of ironing lies beneath the pillow.
Tiny packets of camphor, incense and fragrant roots -
her perfume.

My mother's sari's tucked-in eagerness
coupled with the jingling of bangles
is the zest to get down to work.

Lines running across the broad pallu,
the unbroken bridges of an upright life,
keeping all evil at bay -
a cane to reprove naughty children.

Folds tucked into a knot,
a mysterious treasure-house of meanings,
the pretty yellow Madhura sari
with its green border of blooms . . .
. . . that queen was perhaps like my mother.

Endless is my mother's sari -
the more I wrap it around me, the more it grows.
I remember becoming a midget once
trying to measure it,
trying to drape it.

My mother's sari -
the latex of mango and cashew,
a heaven of Ranja, Kepala and Suragi
golden wheat-beads auguring
the New Year Kani,
the old rolling over each year
to yield a new import.

My mother's sari,
with stars all over its body,
shields those in distress
from rain or shine,
it glows uniquely in the darkness

My mother's sari
of voile or handloom,
with a small dream of silk
When the dream came true,
Father was no more.
She wears it now
but the dream is gone.

There! My mother's old, Udupi weavers' sari
looks at me from where it hangs.
I unfold it and envelop myself in it
uttering with a long sigh
the word ‘Amma' -
a word that remains forever fresh,
however worn with use.
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