WRITTEN BY JULIE GOODALL
Everything had to be perfect for their Diwali reunion…
Ananya walked from room to room, inspecting her home with satisfaction. The lead-up to Diwali had been tiring but enjoyable. She had cleaned the house, from bedroom to front doorstep, refreshing the paintwork where it was needed and changing a few of the pictures.
Now Diwali was nearly over and her Hindu community was preparing its final celebrations. For Ananya, this would be the most special day of the year so far.
Rajesh was coming over from India. He would arrive by midday.
They had been apart for almost a year.
In the days when she’d cleaned and prepared, Ananya had recalled all the memories; how it had been destiny that they would share lives. He was her rock.
They would do anything for each other, and always had.
Later on, they would share mithai with friends, which always satisfied Rajesh’s sweet tooth, and there would be fireworks. But, on his arrival, they would share some hours alone. Time to catch up. Time to say how they missed one another. Time to share laughter, and maybe a few tears.
Ananya looked at the clock. He had texted to say he was on his way out of Heathrow. It really wasn’t long now.
Time to light the diyas. She had placed the small, colourful oil lamps in each room to celebrate light over dark, and good over evil. Everything had to be perfect when Rajesh walked through the door.
She had spread the lamps throughout the house, and created some beautiful rangolis on the floors. Even she had to admit that the floral designs were impressive. She had drawn one in the kitchen with a white pastel, then decorated it in vibrant shades of blue, purple, pink and orange. In the hallway where Rajesh would enter, she had made another with petals and leaves.
Sally, next door, had brought round some late-blooming flowers from her own back garden, in order that Ananya could use a wider variety of petals and colours. It was typical of her thoughtfulness, and Ananya often wondered what life would be like without her. Sally had been invited to join in with the celebrations that night.
Ananya’s mobile beeped in the kitchen…
Be there in ten minutes!
She could imagine the excitement in Rajesh’s voice.
Can’t wait! she replied.
Ananya ran upstairs to the full-length bedroom mirror, to check on her lehenga. She wanted to look her best. Her scarlet skirt flowed lightly around her ankles and her choli sat neatly above her waist. She draped her dupatta over her right shoulder, loving the contrast of teal with the scarlet. The dupatta was edged with a rainbow of sequins, catching the light of the diyas. It would be even more effective, of course, when darkness fell and the lights glistened.
The head-dress she would save for later, at the gathering. The intricately patterned henna on her hands had remained perfect, much to her relief.
Through the open top window, she heard a car draw up outside. Ananya dashed to the top of the stairs, almost tripping on her dupatta. She lifted it, careful not to stumble as she descended, taking a deep breath.
Beyond the frosted glass door pane, she could see Rajesh’s silhouette as he came up the path with his suitcase. He did not wear his traditional attire when travelling, in case it got ruined.
Stepping carefully over the rangoli she’d drawn on the front doorstep, she flew to Rajesh with open arms. He seemed taller each time she saw him, which was impossible. But surely he just got more handsome? He would look splendid in his traditional dress later on.
“Brother! I can’t believe that you’re here. A year is too long!”
Thank goodness for Bhai Dooj, a day dedicated to the bond between brother and sister. It was always her favourite celebration. An excuse to recall all their childhood exploits and appreciate that they had each other’s backs as they made their way through this life. A compelling reason for Rajesh or herself to cross continents. Their parents may have departed this life far too early, but the family bond remained strong.
“Come in,” Ananya said, leading the way, listening with pride to Rajesh’s exclamations at her decorations.
“You have such talent,” he said, removing his jacket. “You must have been mixed up in the hospital.” An ongoing joke; both were born at home.
After refreshment, Rajesh removed from his luggage a beautiful green and ivory Kurta Pyjama suit.
“Is Sally joining us again this year?” he asked, appearing blasé as he hung his outfit on a hanger to drop any creases.
Ananya smiled. She had seen the curtain twitching next door as she and her brother had embraced.
“I think she might pop in for a bit,” Ananya said, feigning innocence. A game of pretence that had to end sometime. Since the last Bhai Dooj, there had been many casual enquiries made to her by each of them. It had made her heart sing.
Ananya knew that a tsunami wouldn’t keep her wonderful neighbour away later that evening. And, this time, Rajesh would be staying for over two weeks…