May 12th, 2012 - Chital Mehta
It’s a hot summer day in Chennai. I feel the sweat soaking my salwar. I have lived in this city for four years but I still don’t get used to the heat. Each summer, the heatwave feels like a rude surprise although it comes with the same intensity. I drink from my water bottle but the water doesn’t make it to my belly. It feels as if the sun soaks the water before it can wet my mouth. My parents have recently spoken with my boyfriend’s parents about a possible marriage. His mother came from a superstitious family and was convinced that I was an outsider born to break the family apart.
I feel broken after my parents tell me that the answer is negative. After work, I walk to a nearby temple although I’m not religious. I go because my boyfriend’s mother is a deeply religious person. I walk inside and take in the smell of camphor and sandalwood mixed with the fragrance of jasmine flowers. It’s a holy place but does nothing to comfort the storm inside my heart.
But I whisper to the statue of Hanuman and all other Gods to whom she prayed every day, to somehow make this work, to somehow pave the path for my marriage to this person who I believe is good for me.
A marriage does happen a few months later after a prolonged wait and countless conversations. I don’t think much about what kind of life I am looking forward to. I don’t think much about what writing will mean to me in a few years. I only know I have to somehow materialize my two-year relationship into marriage.
I still do not believe in idol worship. My mother-in-law has been waking up at 4 am for years now to light a lamp and pray. She will wash each silver lamp meticulously and decorate them with wet vermilion. She will fill the lamps with ghee and light a wick. This takes at least two hours of her day. While I don’t believe that praying to a statue brings any difference, I have developed a newfound respect for her devotion.
It’s been ten years and I know it wasn’t a wrong move. I only listened to what my heart inclined toward, to marry the person I loved. And it wasn’t just about love, I realize now. It was also more about what I wanted from life. A couple of years after the wedding, I decided to write, to take a path that is filled with rejections and failures. I am struggling to fill a blank page each morning, but what comforts me is having a partner who simply lets me be.
Chital was born and raised in India. She completed her MFA in creative writing with fiction emphasis from Lindenwood University. Her short stories have appeared in Landlocked Literary magazine, Sangam magazine, The Noyo Review, and Oyez Review. Her essay about her experience with miscarriage appeared in the parenting anthology series Keeping Under the Wraps. She was recently chosen as a mentee for AWP's Writer to Writer mentorship program Fall 2021. Her story “The Burning” received an honorable mention in the Iron Pen Contest 2022. She encourages people to support Healthy New Moms at https://www.mhamd.org/.