The Shine Journal

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Candlelight Beginnings


Fehmida Zakeer


Renuka lined the candles, three plain white ones and a plump lilac coloured one. The white candles stood in practical black wrought iron candle stands while the lavender scented candle sat on a pretty silver plate embellished with emerald and maroon inlaid work. Nothing but the best for her scented lavender candle, she thought as she fingered it lovingly.

She went into the kitchen and took out a slice of the freshly baked cake. She looked at it in wonder, was it really her creation - this brown and white concoction oozing soft cream, topped with glittering cherries and  chocolate slivers. She hoped Priya would like it.

Her daughter had come home from college at least two hours back. Thumping vibrations from her room suggested that she was gyrating to the latest cool song of the week voted by her gang of friends. The only words she had spoken to her mother since her return was a “Hi Ma, what’s for dinner?”

After that she had shut herself in her room. Renuka had learnt to take this behaviour in her stride the hard way.

Even during her high school days Priya always sat her mother down the minute she came home from school to tell her who had teased whom and which teacher had been unkind, stupid, really interesting – whatever the case may be.

Then she started college and everything changed.

It was either, “Ma don’t disturb me, I am too tired” or “Ma I have projects to do and a lot to study too. Please leave me alone.”

Renuka had fretted and fumed to her husband. “Why is she not talking to me at all these days?”

Vikram had just smiled. “She’s growing up, let her be.”

But she couldn’t just let go. One day Vikram shouted at her, “Take up a job or a hobby - something, keep yourself occupied. Look at yourself, you’ve become a nag.”

After she calmed down Renuka decided to take his advice. She signed up for a course in baking, something she had always wanted to do but never found the time for. Swirling and beating butter, cream, eggs and flour, she pummelled out her hurt feelings.

Now she carefully placed the candles in the places she had earmarked for them – on the dining table, the corner table in the living room and the last one on the kitchen counter. The fat lavender one she placed carefully on the window seat they had opted for in the space designated by the builder for a tiny balcony. She peered down and watched pin pricks of light moving far below. She transferred her gaze upwards, the silver splattered indigo sky spread its canopy as far as the eye could see - the setting was perfect as always.

As she lighted the candles, she felt a tremor of anticipation run up her spine. The lavender scented candle sprang to life just as the iridescence of the electric lights petered out. City residents had raised a hue and cry over the half hour power cut imposed on them but Renuka actually welcomed this half hour of forced darkness.

She sank into the sofa by the window seat and leaned back with a small smile.

Priya joined her a few minutes later on the opposite sofa. She tucked her feet under her and reached for the plate of cake glinting in the soft glow of the lilac candle.

“Mmm Ma this is delicious. You make my diet plans go haywire.” She laughed and savoured the cake slowly. Then she started. “Ma you will never guess what happened in class today. Anindita was totally mad, she was almost caught by the principal.”

As she recounted her day, Renuka mentally thanked the Minister in charge of Power Supplies. Thanks to him her relationship with her   daughter was on solid ground again. The half hour power cut he had thrust upon the city had brought her daughter out from her self imposed exile. There was something magical about candle lights in the dark, Renuka decided as she listened with rapt attention to her daughter.

Bio: Fehmida Zakeer is based in the southern city of Chennai in India.

Motivation: During a spate of powercuts one season in my hometown, I found that families sat together and talked instead of sitting by themselves or plonking in front of the television.

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