A Tapestry of Tears
"It was here she realized why women the world over indulged themselves with needlework. For it was an indulgence, a soothing of the senses, a gentling of thoughts. They spoke, not in a rush, and not even to each other but their words were like a gentle brook, and took with them their hurts and worries. No man could understand the sisterhood of a sewing circle, she thought, listening to them."
This is a collection of a novelette and twelve short stories. In the title story, which is set in the nineteenth century, grieving mothers use embroidery to create a talisman for pain.
In Division into Two, a family is torn apart by the brutal partition of British-ruled India into India and Pakistan. Told through the voices of an estranged aunt and nephew, it reveals the human tragedy that is often a fallout of social strife.
The other stories also explore relationships and thsmarturl.it/TapestryTears/amazone strength of the human spirit.
A Muslim woman suffers when the mujahedeen drive out the Hindu midwife. A grieving husband resents the presence of his new daughter-in-law. Deafness has nothing to do with communication in a marriage, or does it?
Then there is the man who loves playing mind games at his wife's expense, a family that struggles with the decision to move the aged mother into a home, and a young woman who sacrifices love for family honor.
Excerpt from the Title Story
Here Sarangi paused, for the healer’s eyes were moist and tears coursed down Kuldeep’s face.
“Because Veeranwali did not know about the kurimaar tradition, we were able to convince her that the baby had died of natural causes. That was possible only because of your mother. She forbade the women, both in the family and among the servants, from telling Veeranwali the truth. As you know, her word is law in the haveli.
“But a broken heart does not heed laws. Your cousin Amarender’s wife, Chanda, gave birth to a girl a month before your second daughter was born. Her mother-in-law, your Aunt Amba, had prepared her. ‘Do not shame me by being difficult. It will be your duty to administer the akk milk. Do it without shedding a tear. If you weep, you will again give birth to a girl the next time.’
“So Chanda did what she was told. Amba held the infant in one arm and forced open the mouth. Chanda poured in the fatal liquid and turned her face away. She did not shed a tear, nor did she touch the baby. When the other women came in, she told them brightly that she would have a son the next time. They praised her courage and her sense of duty. Amba glowed with pride. ‘She is a true daughter-in-law of the Sherawal Kalan zamindars. When she has a son, he will have her courage.’”
“Brave and weak, poor child,” murmured the healer.
“When I look at the trophies that line the walls of the haveli, at the stuffed heads of boar and stag, and the tiger with its mouth opened in a futile snarl, I wonder. I am a woman, only a midwife. I don’t know what it means to be a man and a zamindar. I don’t know what it is to ride into the jungle with attendants, to chase an animal, to corner it, and to kill it. It must be an act of courage because the man is praised for his bravery.
“But can you imagine what courage it takes to pour those two drops into the mouth of a babe? And the child you have carried yourself, one who is a part of your own body, whose heartbeat was a resonance of your own? Just as a man is not allowed to show fear on a hunt, women are not expected to waver in snuffing out that tiny life. Does a man remember the look in the eyes of a dying deer? Perhaps he does. A woman does not forget the face of the dead child. The child lives on as a phantom, clutching at her heart, and troubling her sleep. For the zamindar, the birth of a daughter is easily forgotten. He doesn’t see the face because the child is completely wrapped up for the burial. Even you who are tenderhearted, do you remember anything of the daughters you have buried?"