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Photo: Vivek Doshi
Anuji is standing behind me. I’m busy with my suitcase; a strap buckle is broken, and the name tag has fallen off. I haven’t seen my passport in ages, and the ticket for my connecting flight is nowhere to be found.
“Anja, I’m leaving now.”
It takes a moment until I understand, until I remember. I turn around and look at her. She is standing there, still, looking straight forward. A little nod of the head. A little smile.
She is calm because she is full of emotion. She is perfectly focused because she is overwhelmed. She will not open her arms for a generous hug, or kiss me on the cheeks, or give me a high five. She will not raise her voice or try to come up with something witty before I leave. She oozes presence like a warm light. She is breathing with her entire being.
I step closer, and we breathe in unison for a moment. Our shoulders are rising and falling. She closes her eyes. I close my eyes. Though surrounded by the Delhi Airport, we are together at the Palace of Wind.
ALREADY, FROM FAR AWAY, I can see a familiar figure: Mangala has several layers of coppery fabric wrapped around her dark green dress. I have seen her in this outfit many times over the years.
Before she turns her head, I know that she is wearing flowers around her bun. Today she is wearing even more flowers than usual, because I am returning.
My car pulls into the front yard of the bungalow from the gravel road. Mangala is standing still under the canopy, with her arms straight down at her sides. She is wearing colorful bracelets on both wrists. She watches me unload my luggage from the car.
I leave my bags and suitcases on the yard and walk to her. She smiles and brings her palms together in front of her chest. Her bracelets jingle. She nods and blushes a little.
I place my palms against each other under my chin and bow to her. She utters a soft sound. I step closer and stretch out my hand, and she shakes it with her rough hand. Then she touches my arm lightly and nods. When she walks away for my luggage, I can see the white and orange flowers in her hair. I know that a wreath of white and orange flowers is waiting for me on my desk. She wants to place it on my head before she does anything else.
IN THE EVENING, when I am writing on the terrace, a bird lands on my laptop. Its long tail feathers are quivering over the lines that I just wrote. I know the bird will stay there for only a few seconds. I try not to move. I can feel my core being. I feel blessed.
I was writing about a moment in my life, the moment when my lover knelt down to kiss my feet in the hallway when I first visited him. He said that my feet had walked a long way back to him. Later, when I was pouring water onto his hair, I told him how much I wished that the rose petals in the water would ease his sorrows and haunting thoughts. And they did.
By Anja Snellman
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