On Our Daughter’s Wedding Day
by Sudha Balagopal
I don’t miss wearing bright colors―red, orange, purple―or jasmine in my hair. I don’t miss the elaborate maroon bindis on my forehead. I don’t even miss the taali you knotted around my neck at our marriage ceremony―the one the priest commanded me to remove after death claimed you.
I do miss being a part of the religious pujas from which I must keep my distance as if I’m tainted, as if I’m contagious, as if my cursed ill-fortune can spread.
And, I miss you.
I miss you with an ache in my body’s cradle, where our daughter grew for nine months. I miss you because I cannot shower our child with love on this, her special day. I miss you because I’m told I shouldn’t stand on the mandapam where she’ll place her hand in her groom’s, where she’ll take the saptapadi―the seven steps of marriage―where her groom will tie her taali.
I miss you because if you were here, I wouldn’t be expected to watch our daughter’s nuptials from afar, shredding a moist, muslin handkerchief. I miss you because I’m instructed to stay tucked away, like a pariah, while your brother will take your place at the ceremony and his wife mine―as proxies for you and me.
I miss you, so I heave uneven breaths, then toss the handkerchief in the bin. I miss you, so I adjust the pleats of my sari. I miss you, so I straighten my spine, walk up to the mandapam. I miss you so I stand next to our daughter and her groom, offer them our blessings, yours and mine.