Shalini Pattabiraman

The Making of a Woman

Sita by Odilon Redon

With the sound of the loom lending a rhythm, the silk spreads its wings, becoming a canvas-in-waiting for the chitrakar to add a narrative.

His mother and wife have prepared the glue from seeds to spread over the silk. In his hut, he arranges the treated saree carefully. Using a fine brush, he draws lines and begins to paint inside it. An artist’s grammar is seen unfolding. Pattachitra.

Sita emerges in the forest garden under a tree. The deer takes her hand.

                                                Basant Panchami
                                                a bee hovers
.                                                  skirting issues until sundown

She unwraps a saree from its plastic cover. Throws it open to see the pallu unravel a tale. Her hands trace the deer, the tree under which Sita cradles the deer.

Paint pots rub against each other like her thighs under this saree as she walks towards the maanch. She takes her seat, her ankles peeking from underneath as she folds her legs and holds her frame straight. The slight bulge, discreetly protected behind the saree, goes unnoticed.

She tunes into the tanpura, her mind seeking Sita. There is an emotion. It fills her thoughts before the audience can intrude. Eyes closed, she opens her lips and begins to sing. Her voice, the only sound rings clear in the hall. The tanpura is only an accompaniment.

Sita unspools. Her tears fill the lake. The deer drinks from it, tastes the salt and comes to her. She cradles the deer.


About the writer:
Shalini Pattabiraman dabbles in writing to find the elusive that escapes into the wild. She thinks words claim space on paper like paint flowing out of an upended bottle, but bits left untouched carry their own weight. She teaches English at a Secondary School in Scotland. Her published work features in Pain and Renewal (Vita Brevis Press), Verse of Silence (online journal), The Alipore Post, This Season of Being: Poems and Photographs inspired by travels across Scotland (Issuu). Upcoming work will feature in Ultimate APM Anthology & Narrow Road Journal.

Image: Sita by Odilon Redon (1840-1916). Pastel, with touches of black Conté crayon over various charcoals on cream wove paper altered to a golden tone. 21.1 x 14.8 inches. 1893. Public domain.

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