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from Hiren's Journey by Rebecca Onkar


The wails of mourning reachedHiren’s ears long before the news of her husband’s death did.

Brightly clad women, their faces covered in grief by thelong colorful folds of their sarees, stumbled their way on to the open groundin front of Hiren’s home. Their shoeless feet, bloodied from the long journey,were ignored in their urgency to attend to their mourning.

Hiren, unsure of what to do and overwhelmed by the sight ofthe women beating their breasts and crying out in loud gut-wrenching wails,hugged her baby brother Jai close to her body. Her three small sisters hadwrapped themselves around her legs, and hid their faces in Hiren’s long pleatedskirts. They wept softly in fear. Hiren herself felt somewhat dazed and wasstaring at the foot of the woman closest to her. She noticed that the soles ofthe woman’s feet were blackened from the journey, the heels cracked from longyears of hard work. On her ankles she wore heavy silver circlets and largerings on her toes. The outside of her big toe was misshapen by a deep gash. Theblood, mostly dried now, sluggishly oozed on to her toe ring, staining it brown.

“What has happened?” Hiren’s gaze was torn away from thespectacle by a vo...

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