‘The White Saree’ by Shruti Rao

24 March, 2017 0 comment

Illustration by Leah Day

It’s strange watching this woman,
my grandmother of the hunched back,
chinaware bones and narrowing shoulders,
this renegade who can count
one more generation she has married off
for every fold in her saree.

All her expertise of life, death, marriage,
rituals, food, kids, Vedanta
now counter-balanced
by finding late in her life
its equal and opposing match:
a small digital camera
that she cannot quite figure out
except that sometimes, when she clicks,
through half-chance, half-calculus,
the right buttons in the right order,
the simulation of family.

She holds onto it like she has
my grandfather’s memories
for a quarter of a century,
rushing in to document
the rare storm of family
to bide her over the desolation of that day
always-already around the corner,
when she is too lonely to get out of bed.

This pain of disappearing, alone,
soothed by the ultimate promise of witness
in this cold, silver-grey gadget
that can discern between
the degrees of whiteness of her sarees
but cannot read, in this daily act of draping,
her impenetrable surrender.


Shruti Rao is a literature postgraduate from India, currently pursuing her second Master’s in Gender, Race, Sexuality and Social Justice from the University of British Columbia. An editor and writer, her works have been published, or are forthcoming, in places like The International Literary Quarterly, Jaggery, Buzzfeed India, Firstpost, The Hindu, Helter Skelter, Reading Hour, Earthen Lamp Journal and Coldnoon Travel Poetics.

Illustration by Leah Day. You can also find her on Facebook. 

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