Baba had stopped talking to me when I was in class six. I wanted to learn Kathak. He wanted me to study law. There are only a few places to visit in a one-room government quarter. I’d discovered thirty inside it to hide my Ghunghroos. Every evening, before Baba returned home, I hid them in a new place. If Baba found the Ghunghroos, he burnt them. If he didn’t find them, he went to the temple the next day; and gave God an extra litre of milk. “I always wanted a son.” I’d hear Baba say. “You shouldn’t have aborted our daughter. Karma is hitting us back.” Ma argued. Like most women, she blamed herself for anything she considered wrong. I used to sell jasmine garlands to buy Ghunghroos. If I had an extra garland left, I wore it while returning home. One hot June, all the flowers died. I stole the Ghunghroo belonging to Rehmat chacha’s daughter. He didn’t ask for money, but told Baba—”Your son is different.” That afternoon, after ten years of Baba and me, talking to each other through Ma, Baba hit me. I ran away from home the same night, but forgot to take the Ghunghroo. Time passed. I became a renowned dancer, but didn’t return home. I was practicing on stage abroad, when Baba passed away in our quarter. By the time I came back, they had burnt him. Baba always said he wanted a son because—”Sons lit the pyres.” Ma had made a garland of white jasmines to hang on Baba’s photograph. She said Baba had asked her to. I didn’t believe her. Ma told me, after I’d left, Baba used to carry my ghunghroos in his pocket, wherever he went. She gave me the brass pot with Baba’s ashes inside. The pot wasn’t heavy, but made noise at every movement. When I opened it to check, I couldn’t believe what I saw among Baba’s ashes—the unburnt pieces of the Ghunghroo which I’d left behind.
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