by Kimaya Kulkarni
She sits down on the cold stone floor and settles back between the legs of her ancestor. Her hair let down, she closes her eyes as the wrinkled fingers find every dry space on her scalp and flourish it with coconut oil. Ancestor mumbles about how ill-kept this hair is, how stunted their growth, how brittle their texture. My hair came down till my waist when I was your age. Ancestor’s hands, which shake doing the simplest of tasks, become surgically precisive when her mind is busy reprimanding her descendent. You should eat methi seeds every day, and boil kadulimb leaves and drink the water. Only that can help this mess.
The gentle assault of the fingers on her head has tipped the descendent over to a blurry träumerei, full of tinkling bangles and joyous laughter, a memory of breathlessness as she successfully jumps over chalk-drawn squares and makes it to the other side—until the fingers are suddenly replaced by a sharp, thin-toothed comb that guts through the oiled hair. She screams in pain and yanks her hair away, looking accusingly at her ancestor. How will the lice get out otherwise? There is no lice since shikekai got replaced with chemicals, there is only ritual, and short-lived hair.
After the hair is washed and dried and smells of alien flowers, the lineage distorted, impossible to be broken, the sapiens move along in time resolving and creating new discrepancies in their way of life, holding on to the make-believe lice and letting go of the hair fruit.
KIMAYA KULKARNI is simultaneously the Editor-in-Chief of Bilori Journal and Spooky Gaze, and functions as co-witch at decoloniszing our bookshelves. Her prose has appeared in Wizards in Space, Honey & Lime, Lily Poetry Review, Cobra Milk Mag and ROM Mag.