The Abscission of Perennial Petals

The Abscission of Perennial Petals

By Aniket Dewangen, grade 10, India.


The bougainvillea flowers whistled with the wind. Each of them withered away as two stayed by the coarse and flaky mahogany tree.

My childhood

The image of the god was pleasant and heartwarming. He held a brass flute adorned with a flower and a bead. The arched legs crossed against the drapery of the Dhoti1 and his lips touched the edge of the flute. His gaze was drawn downward to the majestic instrument. Its amygdaloid-like face and beaten-blue complexion were elegant and defined by a sharp jaw. A majestic peacock flower hung above the satiny hair at the crown of his head. The ace-shaped, indigo-colored splotch in the middle was covered by a flurry of green strands that flowed in a rhythm. The Lord Krishna stood there elegantly, displaying a natural aura of benevolence. Next to the defined blue edges was the goddess of devotion and tenderness, Radha. The two gods stood serenely in the centre of the ashram.2 The terracotta figures seemed to be emphasized in the minds of the people standing before me. Two Pandits3 walked towards the idols. They were wearing angharkas (a short coat-like scarf around the stomach). They marched around and began to proceed with the pooja.4 I looked back and scanned the long queue. The line’s shape curled almost like a racetrack. We all soon congregated, pushing forward to get a greater view of the two idols in the spotlight. I couldn’t see much. I just saw the shoulders of men who were agitated. My father, who limped through the crowd was in front. He had polio, and an orthotic device was attached to his legs. He began to walk in discomfort without any space left.

“Are you okay?” My father looked at me. He looked in agony, yet he powered through the line, which was like a Dandi march.5 Paa (father) was a kindhearted man, or at least I thought so, for the majority of my life. Soon the line began to compress, and I could sense the aroma of Rabri and Malpua.6 The glistening white substance dazzled with a pinch of cardamom on top. It was my favorite. My mother standing behind me kept her soft hands on my shoulders as we moved slowly through the long queue. The brass-plated bell rang at a fast tempo and the procession began. The chimes cut the air and rang through my ears. Soon I started to sense that we had come to the beginning of the line. My mother took me in her arms, and I could finally have a better view of the luminescent and vibrant colors. Both the terracotta figures were covered in tinsel. The pandits approached the idols and began to swerve a copper plate that contained an incandescent flame in one of the lamps. The intricate and mesmerizing designs on the bell and the plate were astonishing. The Pandits began to pour a white substance over lord Krishna. The idols were soaked in the thin badam milk.8 The low-pitched sound began to omit and amplify in the chamber. The Chappan Bhog9 had begun. The Chappan Bhog was a tradition during the festival of Janmashtami10 where the graceful gods were lavishly fed. The Pandits sang a harmonious tune and began to pour different things over the idols. I never understood why this happened. My mother told me that the gods were never fed, and this festival would fulfill them. The myriad of assorted foods made my mouth water.

“Now beta,11 ask for what you want most and fold your hands looking up at the terracotta idol,” my mother said in a haste. My hands joined together and pressed against the warm surface of my palms. I closed my eyes. The one wish and the one thing that I sought the most was barely even related to me. “Dear god, since you have had a wonderful meal, it wouldn’t be rude to ask you this small request. Please keep my parents happy, they seem to fight a lot. I want them to be happy and complement each other.” My eyes slowly opened and a hue of blue covered my vision. The voices that were once muffled began to ring in my ears. The same flame came close to me by the copper plate. The Pandit approached me. I leaned forward and raised my hands underneath the fire that rippled diagonally in the presence of oxygen. The Pandit then smiled and took a red-colored pigment mixed with water. He dipped his thumb in the color and put the tilak12 on the center of my forehead as I pulled my hair back. The Pandit took a few rice grains and stuck it at the same red line. Soon after, my focus quickly shifted from the pooja to the prasad.13 The prasad was a small token that was a blessing from the gods. Taking it from one hand was disrespectful, so I layered them both underneath. A green powder-like brittle was poured into my hand. It looked like earthy soil in my hand with other assorted colors sprouting. I dumped it all in my mouth, and the sweet powder dissolved.

We exited the ashram and my father smiled at me. I hugged them both, yet they had some repulsion against each other, like two magnetic poles. I noticed it instantly, but I didn’t understand what caused this tension.

Vexed – pandora’s box

I climbed up the staircase; drops of sweat poured down my body and made my hair oily. I removed my socks and speckles of grass rained down on the entrance mat. I realized a deafening noise was coming from the inside. The voice was stentorian, like the roar of a lion. I looked down at the marbled tiles aligned next to each other like a tessellation. I stepped inside, and the voice was even louder. In the kitchen, there were the sounds of a pressure cooker that emitted a blaze of steam and gas. In the other room was the sound of my mother, whose voice quickly changed from loud to timid. She began to pule and cry querulously. I quietly put my heavy bag in the room and decided not to make her aware of my arrival. I sat by the curb of my bed and silently listened to the conversation. They began to spit out insults in Hindi and the very blunt manner made me cover my ears. The walls became thin like paper, almost turning into the translucent matter. I pulled my kambal,14 over my head. I couldn’t bear to hear my mother sob and weep over the phone. Instantly I began to connect the pieces and realized who she was talking to.

I spent the entire day sitting on the bed. The call had stopped, and she had begun to snivel. I imagined her facial expression and the tone of his voice. “What could have made her cry so much?” I thought in my head as I concentrated on a single point on my cupboard. The scenarios flooded my brain. I began to become more and more anxious about finding out the mere truth. The teary-eyed face emerged from the aperture in the wall. She was perplexed and baffled by my sudden appearance and sat beside me.

“It will all be okay.” The vague statement did not assure me that she was doing fine. Instead, I began to get even more worried. As Maa left my room, I pulled out my drawer and began to nibble on a childhood snack. The packet of sweets besides my belongings would usually be saved after dinner. But at that moment I needed something to relieve the inexpressible pain. I put the hard candy, shaped like a mango in my mouth. The explosion of flavour tingled my mouth with a stiff numbness. The sour hard candy shifted its position from left to right in my mouth, coating it with the orange dye. I leaned on the headboard of the bed and didn’t do anything for the next few minutes.

Paa opened the door. I heard the creak and began to peek from the edge to see his face with a rictus. It emitted a smoldering look that was bold and quite masculine. He put his belongings by the sofa in the hall and called out my name. A sudden sense of anxiety penetrated my skull. I came out, put my hands behind my hips, and sat down on the greyish-white sofa. The conversation started normally and then was weighed down by emotions. I had not anticipated this moment, and I had begun to link the fact that money was a problem at home. Yet this was not even close to my prediction. Instead, I had learned of the disunion of the two pillars in my life. My world collapsed into a black void, and I sat there still in a vegetative manner for the next few minutes. The Pandora’s box had been opened, and I became enraged at this classified information which was unraveled.

The second petal beside the pinker one, began to hold on to the stem with a thread. Almost beginning to detach.

The contrasting white chair

It was PTM (Parent-Teacher Meeting) day. I walked by the person who made me ripe for the harvest. We both stepped inside the room where Mr. Girinath, my math teacher, welcomed us. He wore a checkered T-shirt and had a Vandyke beard with sleek metallic glasses. The three seats were next to each other. I wasn’t nervous about meeting my teachers, but I was bothered by one thing. It lingered in the back of my mind. My sore eyes were filled with gunk. While walking to the meeting, I was tired and pretended to be elated. The teacher began to lecture me about my poor attention span and my slipping grades in class. It didn’t matter to me. At that point, I just looked at the corresponding chair. The virgin white appalled me with its emptiness. I began to stare at it. My skin flaked like the scales of a viper. Soon my focus was disrupted by a concerned look on my mother’s face. She was quite upset with my academic performance. I was then continually lectured about my grades. I didn’t seem to care. I stepped out of the room. My attention was diverted to the other children. Their faces were lit up with ecstatic expressions. I noticed that both their pillars helped in upholding the integrity of their life. That one other pillar that was supposed to be upholding me had vanished. My mother’s sari15 revealed my face, and its fabric emitted a powerful aura. I was beholden to her and grateful because she raised me even when everything seemed to collapse. I hugged her tightly, grasping her back as a tear rolled down my cheeks.

            “I love you Maa,16” I murmured softly.

The mahogany tree stood there alone. The singular petal tarried in like an anchor.

By Aniket Dewangen, grade 10, India. He adds: “My roots have stemmed from the streets of Haryana, and I speak Hindi at home despite being born in the United states. Yet apart from this, I actively enjoy photography and art. I like capturing numerous moments, people and cultures through my Camera, and explore my artistic capabilities with the help of a brush and canvas. A large part of my childhood was seemingly rough and I went through many hardships, but my hobbies and passions made up and brought me relaxation even in distress. This all taught me one thing to stay stronger and push through anything that was to come my way.”

Foot Notes:

1 Dhoti: A white cloth garment with a border, worn in an Indian traditional manner

2 Ashram: A hermitage

3 Pandit: A Hindu scholar

4 pooja: A Hindu ritual of worshipping god

5 Dandi march: Mahatma Gandhi’s famous Salt March—nonviolent civil disobedience in 1930 during the British Colonial Indian rule

6 Rabri and Malpua: Traditional Indian sweet dish made with milk, sugar and condiments

7 Aarthi: A ritual ceremony of waving a lighted lamp during prayers

8 Badam : Almond

9 Chappan Bhog: Offering of 56 food items to Lord Krishna on his birthday (Janmashtami)

10 Janmashtami: Lord Krishna’s birthday festival, usually in August or September

11 Beta: Endearing term for son in the Hindi language

12 Tilak: A mark worn by Hindus on their forehead, especially during festivals

13 prasad: Food that is offered to gods

14 Kambal: A blanket or comforter

15 Sari: A traditional garment worn by women in India; it’s a long, colorful cloth decorated with various designs.

16. Maa: Mother.