Dry among Spraying Mountains

An Indo-Fijian Short Story, Third and Final Part

Prashil Kumar – 

Pal’s upper body is bare. The front of his body has thin grey hair scattered from his collar bone to his diaphragm. The sides of his upper body show the complete set of ribs he possesses. Thick blue veins cover the back of his palm moving all the way up through the wrists and ultimately to the elbows. His biceps droop from the bones and flap with strong powerful breezes which touch his body. Similarly, his grey wavy hair also flaps, though not as vigorously with every touch of breeze.

His dull brown trousers which veil his slender hairy legs also flutter, near his cracked heels. One of Pal’s feet with a grey toe nail carving its way into the flesh underneath it rests on a metre-tall wall of brownish red bricks. The brick wall surrounds a water hole deep enough to access the underground aquifer.

A weak sneeze fills the air. Pal turns his head left toward his two-room corrugated iron home situated a few metres away from him.

The Daughter

Outside the front door entrance, under the veranda shade offered by smouldering corrugated iron supported by four thin dried bamboo pillars, sits his daughter on a handmade mat of dried grass. Her waist long straight dark brown hair is rolled up to her head and tied loosely with a worn out black fastener. Her fragile looking neck adorns a chain like cotton thread with a 22-carat spherical gold pendant at the centre, which clings to her chest with the ensign of a golden sun with countless rays at the centre of the sphere.

A cotton dress with prints of little pink rose petals veil her mostly bony body frame, all the way from the shoulder to the ankles. However, the dress struggles to keep clandestine the bump on her tummy. Her toenails have traces of maroon nail polish. They occasionally move an inch to swat away flies attracted to the maroon paint but stay still otherwise.

Her fingers however are constantly on the move. Four of her left-hand fingers are wrapped roughly with crisp white cotton thread which regularly gets pierced by a two-centimetre long needle held by her right thumb and index finger.

The piercing, turning and eventually the knotting of the threads by the needle makes for colourful patterned doily which sells in the bustling Saturday market several miles away.

The mass of Pal making contact with the clear icy cold water sends a muffled splashing echo all the way to his daughter’s ears from deep down the waterhole.

Her fingers stop the rhythmic working of the needle, immediately. Her eyes scan the horizon in front of her. A couple of hens still have their necks down and are pecking continuously. A mongrel stands close by the hens and gazes back at her with its head tilted to the right.

Pal’s daughter mumbles to her, “almost lunchtime; Papa will be hungry.”

She carefully puts her unfinished doily on the handmade mat.

She then rises to prepare lunch for her Papa. The sea of fountains stand tall.

Explaining the Line- ‘An hour ago’

If we notice, the line- “lain in the middle”- is written in every paragraph before that paragraph describes the one other similar time Pal had lain at the same spot, in pain and sorrow.  That particular line “an hour ago” (present time) is connected with the “Pal had lain” (past times). Instead of merely stating the occasions Pal had lain on the planks in the middle of his farm, the story reminds the reader that an hour ago Pal had been where he used to be at painful times of his life e.g. when his father passed/daughter returned home.

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