She Shed a Tear by Jeff Tikari
“Oh damn.” Said Mohan Goswami as he looked through the curtains of his upper bedroom window to see a black sedan parked in the front yard of the adjoining house; he had wanted to see the new rentees alight from the car – see what they looked like. They were a Muslim family – a family of four: the father, mother, a daughter and a son. Were the women in purdah? Would he ever see the girls face or will she always be in purdah? He’ll just have to wait and see now.
He whistled tunelessly and skipped down the stairs.
“Hello Dad? The neighbors have arrived.” he sang out.
“Yes, I know,” said his father, Daman Goswami. He sat smoking a pipe and looking at that day’s papers. “I have invited them over for tea and cakes. I would suggest you change into something that might be considered decent and comb your hair.” He went back to reading the papers.
Mohan wondered if he should say something. It was the age old remonstration about the way he dressed, the way he slouched in a chair, his haircut and the way he wore his hair (do all your friends in college look like cockatoos too?) Well at least they don’t look like ‘fuddy- duddies’.
He strolled out onto the front lawn and looked around. Their house was a solid looking structure constructed of grey stone. The grounds at the back stretched a long way and encompassed a forested area and a natural pond that was populated with frogs, tadpoles, fish fries and a variety of water insects – water birds visited regularly and the brown herons adopted the pond as their feeding ground. Mohan had seen the odd water turtle that fed on the grass and weeds at the edge of the tank.
The adjoining house was not as large or stately and though its ambit covered a smaller area, it was well laid out and landscaped and the undulations gave it an aesthetic ambience.
Mohan glanced at his Rado that clasped his wrist with a black spring bracelet…4ock’lock. They should be coming soon. Of medium height and powerfully built, Mohan liked wearing T shirts which showed his muscles off. Frayed jeans and boots made up the rest of his ensemble.
He strolled towards the verandah and saw his mother coiffured and elegant helping a servant lay the tea table: biscuits, cakes, pastries, sardine sandwiches, tea in a pot covered with a tea-cozy, and a large jug of home-made ginger beer. Yum! He thought, he would go for the sardines – handfuls of them.
The wicket gate creaked open and the family from next door filed in: mother (Sara) – starched cotton sari and matching blouse, high heels and cakey make-up. Daughter (Pinky): jeans and skimpy top, hair - ponytail, wide smile; son (Adil): dressed like Mohan with similar hairstyle, but taller; father (Abdul Fakir) white shirt and grey trousers, tall and heavy built.
“Come in, come in.” sang out both Mr. and Mrs. Goswami: “how nice to have such lovely neighbors.” Thank god they don’t look orthodox Mrs. Goswami thought with relief. Thank god they don’t do purdah smiled Mohan in welcome; and the girl is cute, and shy, and cute and shy! She looked up and Mohan melted…she was cute and shy.
They settled around the table.
“Would you like some sardine sandwiches. Mr. Fakir?”
“Abdul, just call me Abdul, Mrs. Goswami.”
“And I’m Surbhi.”
The two boys walked down to the lawn and sat on the garden- bench drinking ginger beer. They covered the glass with their hand as the sweet smell was attracting bees.
Pinky came down the steps and Adil waved her over – she sat between the two boys. Mohan inhaled the soft lavender she was wearing – nice, very nice! It enveloped her and pervaded his mind. She was also soft and delicate and he felt an attraction pulling at him. She spoke with her brother and her voice was light and alluring.