Monthly Story, July 2022
Image → Claudio Schwarz
Archetype → Magician
Rasa → Kāruṇyam (कारुण्यं): Compassion, mercy. Presiding deity: Yama. Colour: grey, Adbhutam (अद्भुतं): Wonder, amazement. Presiding deity: Brahma. Colour: yellow
Kusum waited patiently for the bus conductor to punch the calculator for her balance; she had already done the mental math. She was used to calculating ahead of everyone in general. The painful hours waiting for the temple committee to figure out that her idea was, in fact, the most efficient… The years lived for her husband to finally comprehend her complex maneuvers to get ahead in life… These had made Kusum grow accustomed to waiting for others to catch up. After the conductor had moved to the next passenger, Kusum opened up her purse and peeked inside out of sheer nerves. Yes, the six-digit cheque was still there, safe.
Money had a strange dimension to it. It freed and weighed you at the same time.
Kusum felt the weight of this money particularly. She had taken it out of temple head monk Gunasāra’s drawer the day his unconscious body was rushed to the hospital. Being the chief donor’s wife, and the temple treasurer, Kusum had borrowed money from the head monk several times. He charged her a minimal interest and she returned the favour by overlooking many discrepancies in the temple accounts. That day too, Kusum had come to ask him for a loan to fund her daughter’s dream to start a hair salon in the city. But, in the calamity of the shaken-up temple rushing Gunasāra to the hospital, Kusum realised that she didn’t have to ask for the money. It was simply there, in Gunasāra's drawer—already stolen, as far as Kusum was concerned.
Throughout the week that followed, Kusum revisited her decision. Each time, she reminded herself how it was for a good reason. After finding her daughter Nimali on the bathroom floor—shaking and crying in hysterics holding chunks of cut-off hair—Kusum found a whole new part of herself awake. It was a part that awoke in every parent, when finding their child kicked in the gut by life, broken, and crownless. Kusum was ready to do anything to help Nimali live her dream—even if it meant finding amounts of money that she couldn’t acquire in the decades spent accounting.
Everything had a good reason. Life always evened out all checks and balances.
As the bus came to a halt, Kusum saw Nimali waiting for her. She asked Kusum a string of questions from what took her so long at the bank, to where they’re heading now. “I got you a place,” Kusum said, while crossing the street at the junction; She thrust her hand out at the careless motorcyclist who almost missed the red light. “A place? For wha...FOR MY SALON?’ Nimali asked, tripping on the sidewalk. Kusum smiled furtively and stopped in front of the crowded city mall. “Where???”, Nimali asked, wide eyes darting around in disbelief. Kusum pointed at the vacant storefront on the city mall’s ground floor. It faced one of the city’s busiest roads. She laughed out loud finding Nimali’s weight swung abruptly around her midriff, as the girl cried uncontrollably. “Come now..,” said Kusum. She tried to tuck what’s left of Nimali’s obliquely cut hair behind an ear, avoiding the stares of passersby. “How did you…?” Nimali asked, looking towards the large space. “Come, we must meet the building manager and put down the lease balance. Did you bring your ID?” asked Kusum, starting to climb up the mall stairs. “But, how?”, Nimali asked, wiping her face. “What are we accountants good for?,” Kusum asked without meeting her daughter’s eyes. “Saving up…?” Nimali asked, half frowning, half smiling.
The hardest part of weaving the bridge between reality and dreams was explaining it.
Kusum didn’t have to answer. Ecstatic, Nimali had flipped around and put her palms against the glass doors, eyes glistening and mouth open. Kusum smiled, seeing her girl crowned again. She basked in it for a moment until that familiar feeling of waiting for the world to catch up started to creep in from the corners. “Come on, let’s lock this lease in,” Kusum said walking inside with Nimali scrambling to keep up behind.
The story, all names, characters, and incidents portrayed in this production are fictitious. No identification with actual persons (living or deceased), places, buildings, and products is intended or should be inferred.