Uit: Hullabaloo In The Guava Orchard
„It was this year that Sampath Chawla was born to his mother, Kulfi. She was twenty-one years old, newly married to Mr. Chawla, and pregnant. By late September the heat and lack of rain had combined to produce terrible conditions of drought. She grew bigger as it got worse. It got to be so bad that famine-relief camps were set up by the Red Cross to the west of Shahkot. The supply planes flew right over the bazaar and Shahkotians, watchi
ng with their heads tilted back, wondered why they didn’t stop for them as well, for surely they were suffering quite enough to warrant the same attention and care being so assiduously delivered elsewhere. The ration shop was distributing rice and lentils in smaller and smaller portions all the time. There was no fruit to be found anywhere and hardly any vegetables. Prices had risen so high, nobody would buy the scraggy chickens sitting in cages outside the meat shop. Finally the poor butcher had to eat them himself, and after the last one, he was forced to turn vegetarian like the rest of the town.
Kulfi, in these months, was so enormously large, she seemed to be claiming all the earth’s energy for herself, sapping it dry, leaving it withered, shriveled and yellow.
People stopped short in amazement as she walked down the street. How big she was! They forgot their dealings in the almost empty marketplace. They teetered on their bicycles as they looked around for just another sight of that stomach extending improbably before her like a huge growth upon a slender tree. Her eyes were so dark, so sooty and vehement, though, these people who turned their heads to stare turned quickly away again, ill at ease for some reason and unsettled. Not noticing them, she passed by as if they weren’t there at all. On her face, about her mouth and in the set of her chin was an expression intent and determined but yet far away and distant, as if all her thoughts were concentrated upon a point invisible to everybody but herself. She walked through Shahkot like this, as distracted as this, as strange as this.
‘What do you expect?’ asked Ammaji, her mother-in-law, making excuses when curious neighbors asked about Kulfi’s state of mind. ‘What do you expect from a woman with a baby in her belly like a little fish?’
Kiran Desai (New Dehli, 3 september 1971)