Third Place: “The Lights Turned Green”

Posted on: September 6, 2015
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By Shilpita Mathews
[Fiction, Based on a True Story]
The lights turned red. Sukanya, one of many vendors, arranged the garlands on her basket and ran.
Nita sighed and started reading a magazine. She was going to meet her soon-to-be husband. She had never spoken to him before. Her marriage was merely another one of father’s business deals. Nita had begged father to change his mind. But now, her future was being washed down in tears.
Sukanya’s future was decided when she was born; destined to sell garlands around this traffic signal. And soon she will marry Ramu, whose father ran the racket around the signal. He promised that if she complied, her brother would be allowed to sell magazines. Sukanya detested Ramu – an illiterate rogue. She always hoped to marry someone who could teach her to read.
Nita always wanted to be a teacher. But her parents forced her to do a MBA. “It makes no difference now. Soon I’ll just be a housewife,”she thought.
Someone knocked at the window. A girl waving garlands. Nita noticed her hands’ hena. Hena –symbolizing a soon-to-be bride. She rolled down the glass.
“God bless your bridegroom,” Sukanya saw Nita’s hena. Exchanging money with garland, something passed between them. Nita saw Sukanya gazing at her magazine.
“You don’t know how to read, do you?”
Sukanya shook her head.
“I can teach you”, Nita said. Impulsively she leant out, writing her phone number, hidden in the hena on Sukanya’s hands.
Sukanya walked back, her eyes fixed on the number. A new beginning.
Nita grasped the wheel of her car. It was time to change the direction of her life.
The only difference between the girls was the exquisite hena pattern on one’s hands and the rushed job on the other’s. Now the hands had met, it was time to begin. The lights turned green.


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