The end of October 1966. The monsoon had ended, the rivers of rain had ceased. The mild winter brought respite from the ponderous humidity of Bombay. It was the day before school closed for Diwali, and I remember it well. It was the day St. Anthony’s hosted its annual parent-teacher meetings. It was the day I told a lie that would embarrass me for years to come.

Indrani and I had spent the morning with other students, helping teachers prepare the assembly hall for the open house. There was a desk for every teacher along the edges of the room, potted areca palms punctuating the spaces in between. At the head of the formation was the principal’s desk, the starched tablecloth matching the somber white of Sister Aloysius’s monastic habit. We hung a banner at the entrance that read WELCOME, PARENTS!, happy red and yellow letters that refused to acknowledge the steadfast absence of fathers year after year.

Soon the mothers began to arrive. The thick of south Bombay women held all sorts. Housewives in muted chiffons and cottons, the kind my father’s friends might have referred to as women with good breeding. Middle-class Anglo-Indian matriarchs in boxy floral frocks. Younger mothers whose indiscreet jewelry and perfumes I had learned to identify as nouveau riche, a term that likely meant something bad because I had heard Uma masi use it side by side with trophy wife, which, I could tell from her tone, was definitely something to look down on. And there she was herself, my aunt, Uma masi, making her way toward us with Indrani’s mother, Saraswati. Uma masi blew a kiss when she saw us, wrapping the end of her chiffon sari around her shoulder. Saraswati had picked the same special-occasions silk sari she wore every year to the parent-teacher meetings. She looked self-conscious in its saturated hues.

Someone laughed behind us. I turned around; it was Namrata Deshmukh and Heera Mistry.

People on couch
To continue reading please sign in.
Join for free