pink citronella

“Why do you have so many candles? I thought there were no power cuts abroad.”
She dusted the rim of the beige waxen pillar “No, they aren’t for power cuts. They are for decoration. They smell nice, see?”
She pushed the candle under her mother-in-law’s nose.
“What smell is this?” she asked, wrinkling her nose in mistrust.
“Bergamot”
“Yenna?”
“It’s a kind of scent Amma”
“Hmmm. How much did it cost you?”
“I don’t remember”
“Roughly tell”
She shrugged evasively
“$15”
“$15!! That’s almost Rs.600! I spend that much a month on vegetables.”
She picked up the ylang-ylang and dusted its rim and squared her shoulders waiting for the lecture.
“And so many you have. Why, burning these candles is like burning money. Money that is earned through hard work. Don’t you think what you’re doing is wrong?”
“I don’t burn them. They’re for decoration” she replied, thinking of the jasmine square candle she had once lit. It was reduced to an ugly black wick and pools of hardened wax that collected dust and grime in hard to reach crevices. Unused candles were easier to clean.
Her friends kept dried flower arrangements, porcelain dolls and souvenirs from The Grand Canyon and New York. Her own mother-in-law amassed hordes of photos of deities and God men. What was wrong with her candles? She loved the names, the colours and designs. Amber, patchouli, wind swept beach. To think, the essence of a wind swept beach was right there in those 8 inches. And all those smells she had never know of, never even heard of. Pecan pie. Thanksgiving. Cranberry. French lavender. What did her mother-in-law know? She wouldn’t understand. Cooped up in this small flat cooking and ironing her husband’s underwear. Where was the glamourous life she thought she was escaping to? New Jersey was Triplicane all over again. The agraharam like coterie of families. Navaratri – nine days of off-key singing and silk saris bunched up under down filled jackets. The idiots even bought Parle G biscuits from the Indian grocery store.
“This is really too much. Your father is a retired lecturer. Would you burn his money up like this? Hmm? You marry my son, come abroad and then you think you’re some Maharani? Have you forgotten you’re from Triplicane? What’s next, a gold tumbler for your coffee? And instead of wasting your time dusting all these candles you can do something more useful. Now put down that candle and massage some Tiger Balm into my legs. They hurt from all this cold. Smells nice! Hm. Light an agarbathi then. ”

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