Amarantha Ravva

	I have another nynamma, my father’s mother, a woman who died
before I was born. Nynamma refers to the mother of your father
and also to your mother’s grandmother on the paternal side. This
doubling conflates two people in my mind that differ, but it is
hard to keep them apart, to maintain their distinction. My
nynamma, not my mother’s, I never met, she, like the other,
exists in a picture, now on my father’s kitchen wall. Looking at it
you can see how it is colored over a constant sepia tone that they
have added rose to her cheeks. Behind them is a glow, an aura.

The stories I hear from your sons and daughters
light your life, conceived mostly in the dark room
of what you have given as a legacy to my father’s
history. When you gave birth to Jhanse utha you
were reborn yourself as the mad woman, the third
child pushing you further apart, you never stopped
screaming, and your husband took you to the
hospital, where you lived for seven years. To
know that that is in all of us is what you have
written into your progeny, into each one of us.

I am walking through the long hall of my home.
My son is at school, my daughter has grown seven
years without me. When I leave this hall will be
filled with pesticides and seeds, bags of fertilizer
for the farmers my husband’s customers with
white cloth around their hair and their loins, their
hands and arms wiry from the working of the
earth. He is with his mistress, pitche-amma, crazy
mother, and the hall with its blue walls that will be
covered with dust and years of dirt ends at the
well, where I will haul up today’s water like
yesterday and tomorrow.

Knowing you died not by taking your own life
but by an accident, the misfortunate choice of where
you decided to put your foot, bare, exposed, on the
nail. The shot marks many of us have like my
mother on her arm is the mark of the polio
vaccination, or the tetanus or smallpox. If you had
had it you would have been safe, but the tetanus
grew in your foot, or is it your jaw, or your nerves,
lp,the spine. You died, not sane, but broken.

Do I know my son, my daughter? What do I know
but the hands of these doctors? The filth on these
walls, the horror my family can’t speak. My cot on
the roof stares at the stars, the monkeys have come
to crouch on the walls. He is with her or he is here.
It is so hot, the mosquitoes hum outside the nets
wall, the house shakes when the last truck passes

We, the kids on the roof. My cousin Radhika tells me about her
homework for the day, in her hand is a diagram, a biological
illustration part by part of a dragonfly two hatch-marked eyes laid
flat on the page. Why would they make her memorize this? She
didn’t have that question. Her younger brother wants to go see
Podilamma. He jumps up and down frantically announcing where
she is. Radhika’s eyes are large, so like many in my family, like
nynamma, who’s round deep set eyes monopolized her face.
Radhika’s eyes are shaped more like squat almonds, I think, as
she looks towards where her brother points and says yes. She is a
little older and guides us. From the back of the shrine we walked
too, you can see two figures. One beautiful and behind her
another figure, the first Podilamma, made by a man who couldn’t
afford better than the rough hewn rock idol with the silver eyes
gazing at her devotees. The light in the altar reflects in such a
way that makes her eyes glow. Podilamma- the mother of Podili,
you frighten and charm your children, you are the doubled figure,
the two sided force. My cousins become reverent if only for a
few seconds before they jitter out of the small temple.

The winter my sister called I thought of your hair.
In my notebooks, Radhika, I drew your ribbons in
orange surrounded by black hair, knowing you
were upset by suitors who refused you, knowing
you ate rat poison and died.

My mother and father have left for business. The
day grows frightful am I ugly, unlovable? Why
have they not wanted me. No one will. I’m in the
blue hall with these pesticides, with this rat
poison. I just have to choose. I will choose. This
one is my bride, my love.

Knowing it does not matter. I would love you still,
would marry you. If that was enough. Only if you
knew, I would commit incest for your life. The
poison made you convulse, constricted your
abdomen, sped your heart. I know you fought.
You had no idea.

Sa Ri Ga Ma Pa Pa
Ma Pa Da Pa Da Ni Da Pa
Ma Pa Da Pa Ma Ga Ri Sa
Sa Sa Ni Da Ni
Da Pa Da Pa Ma Pa Pa
Ma Pa Da Pa Da Ni Da Pa
Ma Pa Da Pa Ma Ga Ri Sa