By Neelima Vinod,
Special to The Post
Thathri had seen many wayside travelers—tired men who had lost their way. They smelt of sweat and their bones were tired. She would hide in wait for someone worthy. This is what yakshis were supposed to do—play the role of female predator. Yet, she found no one who remotely resembled a man she once loved or at least thought she loved.
Then Shankara entered the horizon of her eyes. He shone like a thousand suns—his skin reddish like dawn, his eyes with grey flecks, his nose aquiline and his jaw crafted like a sculpture, unlike the shapeless chins of the men who passed her by. When he gazed into her depths, she realized that love meant other things, and she was merely an apprentice in the long term.
So she led him to the enormous house. “One hundred and one rooms,” she told him as she walked, her gait slow and hypnotic. She had learnt to be deliberately playful—she knew what men’s eyes were trained to see.
Shankara arrived at a leaf-ridden courtyard. The doors were made of teak and were heavy. Yet the woman gracefully pushed them open to musty rooms—it took a while to get used to the muted light. He saw a broken urn, a sepia picture of a grand uncle, a few old hand-held fans, a teak swing.
The house was a maze and the further they went in, the more rooms opened to them. Shankara was lost but comforted by the jasmine smell and the lithe limbs of the woman whom he followed he knew not why. His tiredness had fled him.
“You can freshen up,” she told him, offering him a glass of spiced milk.
No sooner did he take a sip, he felt renewed. The boy wanderer who had left the hills had died in banishment. How easy it was to find his way through the contours of a woman’s body with his eyes. It was a different map from what he had read in the library—it was a map that was lodged inside his head and that this stranger pulled out with ease. Meenakshi would have been impressed.
“Shankara, the poet?” she asked, teasingly touching his face.
“But, how did you know?” Shankara said, his voice shaky with excitement.
“I was expecting you,” Thathri said as she removed her chains of gold. “Tell me what you’ll give me if I take you in.”
“Anything,” Shankara said.
“Then come and don’t forget your promise.”
Shankara followed her up a flight of wooden stairs. Her waist-long ebony hair waved from one side of her body to the other. His footsteps perhaps drowned hers; he could only hear his.
About the Author:
Neelima Vinod spent her childhood in the Persian Gulf, with holidays in the warm, dreamy climes of southern India. She completed her M.Phil in English literature and worked as an editor, teacher and writer. She now lives in Bangalore, India.
This story is a excerpt from Indireads. This fictional series offers a wide wide range of romance novellas written by both men and women, for South Asian readers around the world. Read more at www.indireads.com