Deep Impressions

‘Did it hurt?’

‘No. Well, a bit.’

‘What will your Ammi say?’

‘She’ll be cool. No big deal. Raised eyebrows, a shake of her head, maybe some extra work for me to do around the house. But she’ll take it well, you’ll see. After all, we don’t live in the dark ages anymore.’

But masking my anxiety with false bravado is not helping. I leave my friend and make my way home feeling a little sick in the stomach. Where is that euphoria – that feeling of supreme confidence and utter control – of power – that I had felt when the cold black ink had first spurted its way into my clear blemishless skin?

Ammi-jaan is in the kitchen peeling potatoes. With an exaggerated carelessness I remove my hijab and fling it over a chair. It slips off and falls silently to the floor. Is that a sign?

‘Hungry?’ Ammi asks affectionately and glances up. And turns to stone. Her eyes burn into the spot on my neck, searing a deep scar into my very soul.

‘It’s just a small tattoo. I wanted one,’ I begin trying desperately to appear nonchalant and failing to keep a trace of defiance from creeping into my voice. ‘All my Hindu friends have one. Even a few of our Muslim guys do. Besides, here it will always be covered...’ To my dismay I hear myself already defending... what? A lapse of judgement? An act of rebellion? A yield to temptation?

She doesn’t utter another word. Doesn’t ask me why. Or even how much. The slap carries the full force of her fury and hurt and despair. It resounds around the room like a thunderclap. The impact of it leaves me reeling and breathless. The ringing in my ears sounds like a death toll as the walls of the kitchen close in on my rapidly burgeoning hope and slash the wings of my flights of fancy.

An angry red welt appears on my cheek, the outlines of her four fingers etched in unmistakably. ‘Here’s another tattoo, to match the first one,’ my mother says and returns to the potatoes.

© 2004-2010 Underground Voices