Apples.

#300DaysofFlashWriting: Day 19 story on ‘Fruit’

I’ve been on a bit of a hiatus of late, but here’s another piece for the #300DaysofFlashWriting challenge, where participants write for ten minutes only on a prompt posted online by my friend Shekina on her blog and social channels. This was written from the Day 19 prompt, ‘Fruit’.

Offering

Chhaya had associated fruit with the temple for as long as she could remember.

Her mother would buy three pieces of fruit before every visit. A banana, usually, the least blemished one in the shop. A tangy, crunchy green apple. An orange whose skin stayed firm beneath squeezing fingers. 

In the summer, when their heating bills were lower, Chhaya’s mother would occasionally splash out on a small punnet of grapes. Red ones, always. Chhaya didn’t know what was wrong with the green ones.

At the temple, Chhaya would trail behind her mother as they walked barefoot across the lurid red carpet towards the arrangement of statues at the front of the mandir. Both mother and daughter kept their eyes firmly forward, away from the looks and whispers of the other worshippers who sat cross-legged in untidy rows across the width of the room.

Chhaya would obediently copy her mother’s movements: tucking the heads of flowers that had been snipped from their bodies into the garlands around the statues’ necks, arranging the fruit among the other offerings, bringing both hands together in prayer with eyes closed, prostrating themselves, standing up with a peaceful, intense expression on their faces.

Chhaya didn’t exactly know why they had to do all of these things. Whenever she asked, her mother would say it was because they were Hindus, which wasn’t exactly helpful.

“But why do we offer fruit to the gods when we only eat it ourselves afterwards?” Chhaya had asked once.

It was true. At the end of every visit, each worshipper would go home with a little sandwich bag filled with dried fruit and nuts, and another with chopped fruit. Nowhere near the same amount of fruit that they brought, Chhaya noted.

“It keeps them happy with us,” her mother explained. “They accept the fruit, then we eat it because it’s holy.” She paused. “And to avoid waste.”

Chhaya took this to heart many years later, after she had gone to university and came back with a boyfriend, Alan, and a huge basket of fruit that she had put together from bargains at the market. 

“What’s all this for?” her mother had asked irritably, stealing glances at the bespectacled white man standing in her tiny living room, shifting uncomfortably from foot to foot. 

“An offering,” Chhaya said. “Like to the gods.”

“Hai ram,” her mother responded in dismay, eyes rolling towards the ceiling. “Blasphemy, too. What did I ever do to deserve this? Is it not bad enough that your father left me to bring you up on my own?”

Still, her mother accepted the fruit basket and, two years later, she went to the wedding too.

© 2021 Dipika Mummery

Image by Marco Roosink from Pixabay

See all of my pieces for #300DaysofFlashWriting.

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