Ajji did not think there was any point in becoming fond of people, especially children, for they grew up and changed, disappointed their parents, filled them with sorrow, got married and left the house, or died before you really knew them. Chinna said that at Ma's birth the only thing Ajji asked was whether the child was a boy. When the dai said no, Ajji sighed, for now she would have to have another one.
That year the sugar cane yield was so good that everybody who came to see the baby said that she was Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth, incarnate. Putti, Ma's grandmother, wanted to name her after the goddess, but the family priest said that Ma's name should begin with a different letter, one that was more auspicious, more in harmony with Ma's birth stars.
"When Saroja, your Ma, was born," said Chinna, her old eyes squinting as if searching the past, "you could get a whole garden of beans for a rupee. Why, you could get three bushels of sugar cane fresh from the fields for that princely sum of money. These days a bit of cane is a luxury, even here in this place where the fields are full. What is the world coming to?"
I didn't want to know about the prices of things, I wanted Chinna to tell me about my mother's childhood. Did she cry till she had a choking fit, as Ma had told me I used to do? Did she like boiled peanuts better than roasted ones? Did she cry when she fell or strut around showing off her wounds, like my cousin Indu? I believed that if I knew every little thing about Ma, I would be able to understand why she was happier here in this old building with high, thin windows that let in hardly any light than in the grand Railway colony houses where my Dadda waited for us to return with the new baby.
Copyright Anita Rau Badami. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced without written permission from the publisher, Algonquin.
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