Once I heard my mother say that each of us lives in a separate universe, one we have dreamed into being. We love pople when their dream coincides with ours, the way two cutout designs laid one on top of the other might match. But dream worlds are not static like cutouts; sooner or later they change shape, leading to misunderstanding, loneliness and loss of love.
After the fire, when I'd tried to express my gratitude for their kindness to our customers, they'd been awkward, uncomfortable. My father had had to explain to me that giving thanks is not a common practice in India.'Then how do you know if people appreciated what you did?' I'd asked.'Do you really need to know?' my father had asked back.
The story hangs in the night air between them. It is very latem, and if father or daugther stepped to the window, tehyw ould see the Suktara, star of the impending dawn, hanging low in the sky. But they keep sitting at the table, each thinking of the story differently, as teller and listener always must. In the mind of each, different images swirl up and fall away, and each holds on to a different part of the story, thinking it the most important. And if each were to speak what it meant, they would say things so different you would not know it wa sthe same story they were speaking of.
For men, the softer emotions are always intertwined with power and pride. That was why Karna waited for me to plead with him though he could have stopped my suffering with a single world. That was why he turned on me when I refused to ask for his pity. That was why he incited Dussasan to an action that was against the code of honor by which he lived his life. He knew he would regret it in his fierce smile there had already been a glint of pain.But was a woman's heart any purer, in the end?That was the final truth I learned. All this time I'd thought myself better than my father, better than all those men who inflicted harm on a thousand innocents in order to punish the one man who had wronged them. I'd thought myself above the cravings that drove him. But I, too, was tainted with them, vengeance encoded into my blood. When the moment came I couldn't resist it, no more than a dog can resist chewing a bone that, splintering, makes his mouth bleed.Already I was storing these lessons inside me. I would use them over the long years of exile to gain what I wanted, no matter what its price.But Krishna, the slippery one, the one who had offered me a different solace, Krishna with his disappointed eyes what was the lesson he'd tried to teach?