ABOUT THE STORY In Sonal Aggarwal’s story, a sense of the long sweep of history, the play of will and fate in human lives, and the peculiar vulnerability and resilience of women in India are all realised in the encounter one morning in Delhi between two old women who, having known each other since childhood, are able to look both at and through one another. Their talk is of simple, quotidian things, but it is impossible not to hear underneath it the notes of regret, resentment, suspicion, trust, respect and curiosity that suggest that each detail is being sifted through a lifetime’s worth of experience. Aggarwal’s understated, matter-of-fact manner, naturalistic dialogue and refusal to over-explain her characters (third-person narration’s way of showing respect for its subjects) all work to pique our curiosity. What are we going to learn from Yamuna and Pushpa? Perhaps not something—for all that a story is an artifact of language—that can be put in words.
YAMUNA SAT ON THE METAL COT, clipping her nails. Her hair was wet. The sun warmed her scalp. Her grandsons fenced with wooden swords on the grassless lawn. The granddaughter acted as referee, and blew on a whistle now and then. Amma was doing the dishes in the kitchen, which looked on to the veranda. Ram could be heard dusting.
Someone clanked the main gate latch.