Life

Somaiah has found a new short-cut lane to avoid the perennial jam at the masjid before Johnson’s Market. All the way to the end of this quiet bumpy lane lies a Hindu graveyard on the right, and, on the left, a Christian cemetery with an old tall colonnaded portal, followed by a modest entrance to another Christian cemetery. Some distance after the gates a couple of slum-type houses in pastels appear, their doors almost on the street. A sign in stone says they’re in the granite business—tombstones and burial services, of course. When I passed the houses today, a pudgy lady had the door partly open and filled with her bulk, and a curtain set flush with the door was drawn awkwardly by the top of the door into a hood over her head; it concealed the sight of the interior above her. She was dark, unwashed, not combed, and by appearance neither Christian nor Hindu—her family could be offering services both to Hindu dead in front, and Christians behind. The lane hits a wall and turns right, and for a distance after that it is still graveyard on left and graveyard on right. Here in this hidden turn the granite walls are painted over with large communist motifs. Daily, when I pass the portal of the Christian cemetery I see a deep crowd of tombstones and I have a brief anxious thought that they’ll come in my dreams. They haven’t. Today I wondered if that woman at her door has a son, and I wondered from where she’ll bring him a wife.

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