Her Mother Reached Heaven, but …  She?

A Short Story.

She sat in her room alone, ground by the misfortune.  In the tiny garden, butterflies flirted and flitted, drifting and closing in.  She longed for the presence of someone kind and heedful to talk to.  The sound of an auto in the driveway and someone stepping out gave a break to her thoughts.  She looked through the window, and there was Fredy, and their eyes met.

The aircraft levelled up for landing.  Rosly’s hair stood on its end.  The green carpet below the cloud sheath emerged into shapes.  The coconut palm fronts winking at the new arrivals to the place as the beautiful people of the area. 

The caption began his robotic-style announcement.  Ladies and gentlemen, we have started our descent to Kochin International. … The outside temperature is 35 degrees Celsius.  In preparation for landing, ensure your seat belt gets fastened and the back of your seat is straight.  …”

The anticipation of touching the land of her ancestors rolled into a bundle of emotion in her chest and throat.  Layered with that were pricks of guilt for not making it at the right time. 

“It hunches in my heart like a loss,” her mother had often mentioned.  She and her cousins have portrayed the images of their ancestral lands in vague, patchy recollections from their parents or grandparents.  Men in the colonies had no choices other than obeying their masters who came from a foreign land.  Their people traded them for their benefit.  The land properties and their titles were in the name of the feudalists.  They had to pack away the little materials they possessed, torn clothes on the body in the case of some.  Hunger was burrowing in their stomach. 

Her mother was in the line of the fourth-generation migration.   Her life in the country they had migrated to was never comparable with that of the first generation, yet something in her connected to the country she had never lived in but was known only in the narratives of their stories.   She couldn’t imbibe those stories.  Yet she respected her mother’s stories.  

“My ashes should grace the waters of my ancestor’s land,” until she read that line in her mother’s Will, she had never taken her wish seriously.   It was her mistake to realise how earnest her connection to her belief was. 

To hide her teardrop from the air hostess who made rounds to check the precautions of each passenger, she bent her head down to ensure she had secured her bag at her feet.


From a distance, Rosly read Poornima Seevrajan written in large black letters on a white welcoming placard.   A group of men, fat and lean, were trying to impress their prospective customers with customary smiles pasted on their faces.  

They were ten in their tour pack.  Poornima, whom she calls Poornima Aunty, was a social influencer and the organiser of the tour operation schedule between Cape Town and India.   Though she disapproves of her masquerading in everything, she liaised with her, this being her inaugural trip to India and, notably, its objective to immerse her mother’s ash in the waters and she a frequenter to her home.  

She had a role in making her mother feel guilty for disconnection from her tradition.  At the end of every pilgrimage trip to India, she presented her mother with cheap goodies as charms as vehicles to secure her place in the heavens after death.   Her poor mother believed in everything, and she allowed her savings to dwindle, sanctioning huge donations to deities in India as a penalty.   She had detailed all those in her diary that she got hold of after her death.

Their road trip to the place to stay could have been more pleasant.  Heat frothing on every dot on her body, the sides of the road heaped with waste and the people in a turbulent hurry searching for something they had lost but not knowing what it was.

She was impressed with the house arranged for their stay, a tiny dwelling with neat surroundings,  and the table spread of freshly cooked foods in the Kerala cuisines.  There were a few homes in one large compound.

There, she met Fredy—a research student at the University of Cape Town in metaphysics. 

The social life maintained in the residence was gendered isolation.  As a social person, Rosley was for exchanging ideas in groups.  It is like reading many books simultaneously, sharing live experiences and ideas.  The room arrangement was she and Poornima shared a room.  They were singles; the rest were couples, either married, sisters or friends.

‘Here, things are very different, and we respect it.  There is no free mingling between men and women.  That is disrespecting their culture, and they do not take it kindly. 

“Who?  Men?”


She found Fredy reading a book in the tiny open yard. 

“I’m Fredy,” he introduced himself. 

Soon, they started conversing and exchanging ideas about God, the culture and traditions.  One thing they avoided was the topic of gendered social restrictions. 

His interest was in the world and ancient cultures, partly for his research and personal interest. 

“I am a psychologist,” she let him know her professional field.

“A field of great relevance to the present time,” he complimented. 

“Do you believe in an afterlife?” she asked.


She explained her mission in her journey.  Immerse her mother’s remains in waters in a ritual.”

Fredy was going to visit a Buddhist cave near the place they lived.  She, too, was keen on Budha, but she was committed to the group chartered visits.  They were visiting a famous temple in Southern Kerala.


Poornima Aunty had set all the ritual planning even before they had arrived.   She took pride in her organisation and her dedication to Kausulya- her mother.   Rosly unzipped the bag she carried with her and delicately emptied it of the brass pitcher.  The sheen on the surface brought to her mind the softness of her mother’s hug.  A body that brought her to this world and made her existence possible has turned into a measure of ashes.  How fragile is life?  Is emptying its content going to make her life better in heaven?  She doesn’t know.  Has her mother sincerely believed it, or was she carried away by the idea of family status in a copycat society?

It was a full-night function.  Poornima Aunty had planned everything, including her clothes, to wear as per the tradition-- a thin two-piece sari and a blouse with matching stuff.  She guessed she appeared awkwardly in that garb. 

The crowd from across the world had assembled along the long stretches of the river bank and had a single dedicated purpose: the redemption of their ancestors and their smooth entry into the heavens.   Rosely found the crowd not easy and the sweltering heat.  The stink of the river, reinforced by the burn and the smoke emanating from a thousand sources—the oil lamps, the fires bellowing from the ritual hearths, the noise exploding out of the stage shows, the musical extravaganzas running concurrently on the stages and the stares piercing her body from men.  Poornima Aunty and other pairs were merging and melting into the mix of everything; she felt out of place in that whole night extravaganza. 

“The night vigil is the crucial part of the event, and in itself, the sanctifying rituals,” Poornima Aunty expertly explained things to the group and her.  “I have made the booking with the Pandit for you.  Early morning starts the immersion ritual.   You spread the remains in the river and get immersed in the water.  Kausalya has the most blessed death.  Not everyone gets this chance.”

Rosly was weak and sleepy but approached the great ritual with hopes and dedication.  She eagerly performed every step per the guru’s instruction while lines of no cognitive grasp to her drifted in the air in a rhythm. 

 The moment she got immersed in the water, a flood of emotions went overdrive, and she couldn’t resist the tears cascading down her eyes as another river.   Suddenly, she was caught in a rush of pull and push.  A hand roughed her body, and she got tossed around as Poornima Aunty’s wail trailed from her ears.   When she woke up, she was in a hospital bed.

Everybody questioned her: the doctor, the nurses and then the police.  She didn’t have answers to their questions.  They framed questions, trying to construct their case out of her responses.  Everyone was engrossed in a play choreographed as part of their duty system that sounded harsh and unkind to her.

“How do you feel?” None have asked her.

Poornima auty insisted on her release from the hospital.  She wasn’t for pursuing the case or a police inquiry.  She wanted to hush up everything.  And she was irritated that her tour was interrupted.  The incident tarred her business- a tour business.  She was committed to taking the rest of the group to their planned destinations.

She sat in her room alone, ground by the misfortune.  In the tiny garden, butterflies flirted and flitted, drifting and closing in.  She longed for the presence of someone kind and heedful to talk to.  The sound of an auto in the driveway and someone stepping out gave a break to her thoughts.  She looked through the window, and there was Fredy, and their eyes met.

She was caught in his warm and kind hug.  His warmness and heeding eyes made her feel relieved that nothing untoward had happened, and she was back into her joyful self.

“Are you alright?  How do you feel?” His kind, soft voice made her weep.

“Don’t worry, it is not your mistake.  What has happened has happened.  You cannot undo it.”

“Be brave.  Soon, you will get over this.” That was all that she longed to hear.

Fredy was on a three-day programme, she thought.

“I  gathered it on Facebook.  From the description, I guessed it was you.  Everybody is blaming you.  Why have you decided to be alone in a place you weren’t familiar with.”

She begged for his apology for making him cut off his programme.

“You need help.  I could imagine how you would feel.”  

She gazed at him.

“The police will not find anything, who only target you and find fault with you…”

That was all true. 

“I know many cases.  It was a bad dream.  Can you take it that way?”

That wasn’t easy, but that is the way out.

“What do you want?  To stay here for others done with the tour?”

“No.  I want to go back.”

She was on the Emirates flight two days later, making her return trip.

This is a late post for Blog Chatter Blog Hop.


  Rape is a daily occurrence in many parts of the world.  And there are outlets in many places for the victims to reach and get help.  But more than that, a non-judgemental kind approach is what they need from you and me.  Have you come across a rape victim directly in your life?