The gardener: A poem

Photo of a white lily
HerPhotographer/Creative Commons

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My uncle’s wife Aranya had beautiful flowers that she cared for as if she had given

birth to them, out on the balcony of her high-rise in Kolkata.

She moved them to our house in San Jose, until my uncle could buy her a house of her own, and

Didu tried to water them, but Aranya shooed her away as if she was a plump, rotting fly.


White pearls of flowers. Herb of grace in English, which was what Aranya called them.

Brahmi in Bengali, which was what Didu called them. Pretty for looking at and nothing

else. That was what Didu said. Didu’s teeth, scarlet-black like beetle shells crusted to a diseased

plant, grinning inside her small mouth.


Didu walked with us down the street taking too-big steps, lunging, like a yoga instructor, and she

exhaled real loud and Aranya looked at her and Didu said, Don’t look at me like that,

and Aranya said, I wasn’t looking at you any way, I was just looking, and Didu said, People like

you don’t look in the right way no matter what, and Aranya said,


Honest to God I was just looking, and Didu laughed but it turned into coughs and it turned into

spits, and she spat into the little garden next to us, and the homeowner

was there on the porch and stood up and saw Didu cackling wetly and still dribbling pink

onto the white lilies, and said, Did that little Indian lady just spit on my flowers? No,


seriously, did that little Indian lady just spit on my flowers? That is not funny, that is so not

funny, so I told her yes, yes, I know, but I didn’t, and she said that next time she’d call

the police, and that struck me as excessive but it struck Aranya as a plausible threat so she 

took off running in mortification and terror and I held Didu up, and hobbled along home.



Contact Ankita Chatterjee at [email protected].