Playing hopscotch were two girls
under the shade of the banyan tree.
Long hair done up in braids
that fell unto their knee
danced as they swung about
kicking stone and dust.
As Mallika rushed home
a basket full of flowers
sat lightly on her head.
“Hurry up you two, no time to waste”
She shouted out to the girls,
“So much to do before the crowd gets here”
She muttered to herself
as she hurried home.
“Shoo! Get up! Go find another place”
at the hens, the dog and the drunken husband.
She and the girls sat down
with flowers before them
to be strung into garlands
before the temple opens.
Their fingers flew in perfect concert
two jasmines at a time
knotted with a string
till moora after moora the garland grew
pearly white jasmine garlands
that smelled like the heavens.
The temple doors are open
Coconut, camphor and betel in trays
lined up in the stalls outside.
The girls with baskets in their hands
cried out to every visitor
“Please Sir, Amma, moora for 5 rupees!”
On the trays are placed the jasmine
as offering in prayer to the Gods
Women and girls pause to pin
to their hair long stringed jasmines.
The smell of camphor, incense
and jasmine hung heavy in the air
even after the temple
closed down for the day.
Another day starts tomorrow
with more jasmines to string.
© Nalini Hebbar/openmind/2009 - all rights reserved
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