material culture

what is it that flows and yet binds? hair.
Translation: Morbi – Karachi – Mumbai

I apply oil on my skin to make it glisten. I make pickles.

In February, I begged my mother to teach me how to make Ba’s red chilli pickle. 
We only had a week to source everything – one week when you get the freshest of chillies – the rest ; dried, processed, withered.

You see, it’s a special pickle.
Pungent, rich, robust – red chillies, mustard, black pepper.
It’s the perfect accompaniment to a Sunday lunch: bhinda nu shak, arhad ni Dal, hot rotli*, and a generous dollop of this pickle. 

I haven’t been craving it just to remember the endless days of summer, oh no. 

I’ve been craving it because I still remember how Ba’s skin felt to the touch as she passed from this world. Soft, smooth (thanks to that morning’s Parachute Coconut Oil), her arthritis-aged legs trembling, yet serene as we gathered around her.

Trembling yet serene. 

That switch (quiet, tectonic, cataclysmic) between being present and then – not really – always struck me as being too mechanical.

What about her stories, her language, her habits, her courage?
Her battles, her journeys, her hands endlessly moving, endlessly crafting?

Years later, I don’t think my grief at her loss has truly abided – just shifted within me to make room for her.

I apply oil on my skin to make it glisten.
I make pickles.



what is it that flows and yet binds? hair.
Translation: Morbi – Karachi – Mumbai

* spiced okra, split black gram, and hot chapatis