Sudha Balagopal June 2022 Highly Commended

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.

About the Author

Sudha Balagopal is honored to have her fiction in many fine literary journals including Smokelong Quarterly, Split Lip and CRAFT. Her highly commended novella in flash, Things I Can’t Tell Amma, was published by Ad Hoc Fiction in 2021. Her work is forthcoming in both Best Microfiction and Best Small Fictions, 2022.

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