Sari Romance by Ashok Rajamani

Image credit: Ashok Rajamani

An Indian man named Anil Murthy wed a young, rather wealthy, young woman named Leenu Narayan. However, when this cherry-unpopped maiden married Anil, she did not love him. Actually, she did not like him. In fact, she did not even know of his existence at all. Leenu, at twenty-three, was informed by her father that she was to be a bride within a week after she graduated from the local women’s college. Which meant she was educated. Which meant it was time for her to be settled, time for her to leave to another man’s home.

Mr. Narayan wasted no time in finding a man for his Leenu, who was rather homely, plump and too dark-skinned in a society that embraced whiteness. But she was young; she had that unbroken-hymen feel. When Mr. Narayan contacted his wealthy neighbor for suggested spouses, he was told to reach Anil Murthy, who was in a hurry to marry, being in what was dubbed “Marrying Time,” the month-long period in which future husbands were hunted for brides.

At forty-five, Anil Murthy had been a bachelor far too long, voluntarily missing his “Marrying Time” for years. It was time. He was in his forties, after all. He lived alone with his mom. Anil’s work as a top pharmaceutical auditor forced him to travel often. In a few weeks, he was to supervise chemical plants in Cambodia for over five weeks. And so, this time it was imperative for him to marry before he would leave India.

Anil’s mother, however, was completely set against this union. She felt Leenu was not pretty enough, not smart enough to marry her Anil. She wanted him to wait until the right one came along. Not old maid Sharda, not ugly Leenu. Interestingly enough, the older woman had never even met Leenu, but based her judgment on a photo and the neighborhood commentary on the girl, she could tell this was the wrong pick for a daughter-in-law. So when Anil Murthy came to see Leenu, he was alone since his mother refused to be involved.

Ever the realist, Anil accepted the marriage proposal immediately. He knew he needed a bride. And he was too lazy to find one himself. Plus, she wasn’t old at all, barely in her twenties. Good age for birthing. The youth factor was quite nice. Leenu was no Miss Teen Mumbai, but she was young. During their first meeting, he murmured and mumbled so fiercely that Leenu could not understand his words. She hoped he was saying, “Nice to meet you.” But for all she knew, he might have been saying, “I’m hung like a horse” or, “Can I borrow your earrings?”

The marriage deal was cemented.

The Narayans had little time to plan for the wedding: Anil was scheduled to depart for Southeast Asia the day after the wedding ceremony itself. Since there was no time to book a wedding hall at a temple, the ceremony was held in the upstairs hall of Leenu’s home. It was called a hall, but in reality it was a small space adjoining the two bedrooms on the second floor.

The guest list was extraordinarily limited: just around, collectively, ten members of the Narayans and a few of Anil’s aunts. The whole event was an embarrassment, a shotgun wedding in which the bride was neither pregnant nor in any hurry. Sharda Murthy, of course, refused to watch her only son’s marriage, sending her emissaries–her sisters–to play the surrogate role.

If this was sex, she thought, she understood why Mother Teresa wanted nothing to do with it. And she understood why men were not her cup of chai.”

Walking around the ceremonial fire as a nameless, amateur priest read the mantras, Leenu sobbed all the way through her marriage ceremony. Anil, in his traditional gear of a simple white dhoti sarong and brahmanical thread, seemed dazed. He was topless, as was tradition. Through her tears, Leenu was able to make out his heavy black eye makeup, the kajol traditionally worn by grooms. Tranny-Lite, yes, but it worked on him. And she saw his sexy, hairy, muscular torso. Which made her, at least for the moment, feel good. That was, until, she noticed his unfortunately oversized third nipple. At that point, though, she had stopped caring. With her half-priced red sari, hastily applied makeup and cheap jewelry, she was as wooden as a marionette, going through the motions emotionlessly.

Leenu was a kabuki performer in budget bridal drag.

The whole nightmare took a staggering thirty minutes. Leenu never had an engagement celebration, a bridal shower or anything that would have made this day something wonderful. It was bad enough that she would soon be moving out of her house immediately. It was even worse that she did not even know whose house she would be moving into. Without her new husband.

Per custom, Leenu and her new husband spent their wedding night at her home itself. The next morning, he would depart for his business trip, and she was to move into his mother’s home directly. All she knew about her was that she was very, very wealthy.

That night, Anil was all Leenu’s. That first night in bed together, three-nippled muscleman Anil fucked Leenu in their bedroom. His grunts were his only conversation. She bit her lip and shut her eyes until the few minutes were over. The bedroom was lit only by the moon outside the window. This Mumbai moon, so bright, so big, so bold, looked like a giant pupil-less eyeball voyeuristically watching a hairy Brahmin pound his virgin bride. After Anil achieved his goal and then fell asleep in a gale of deep, intense snoring, Leenu was able to make out the small bloodstains on her sheet. She looked up at the ceiling, mortified that this painful ordeal was what the entire world thought was so wonderful.

If this was sex, she thought, she understood why Mother Teresa wanted nothing to do with it. And she understood why men were not her cup of chai. Leenu’s sexual desire for other women had never been a problem for her. Many women, she reasoned, grew up to hate men. So how was she any different? It never dawned on her that their hate could brew from reasons other than lack of sexual desire. It never dawned on her that they hated men precisely because of their lack of sexual desire for this group of humanity who, almost always, tended to be assholes. Most of these women would have yearned to lust after women and be saved the grief.

Leenu also never questioned her sexuality because the badge of heterosexuality was neither thrust upon her, nor expected of her. The women in her community were never asked, “Who are you dating?,” let alone, “Are you straight or gay?” They were only asked one thing: “Are you married or not?” And, of course, since all of the marriages were arranged, sexual attraction–or compatibility or, heaven forbid, love–were never prerequisites. In business dealings such as these, the matter of whose face would be sniffing between her thighs was never an issue, as long as she moved into a groom’s home. When the urge hit her, Leenu figured, she could touch and fondle and kiss and squeeze and taste the women who were married to Anil’s friends.

The next morning after her bedroom nightmare with her new husband, a cab took Anil from her home and left for the airport. Cambodia was welcoming him for four months, while the nightmare of her mother-in-law, in turn, welcomed her. Any new bride would expect this situation to be the worst possible nightmare. She was terrified. After all, she still didn’t even know the name of her husband’s mother.

It was the crack of dawn when Anil was picked up by a cab. She gave him a shy smile, hugged him like she were Agnes of God, and said farewell. Just a few hours later, it was her time to leave. For Leenu, her final farewell from the Narayan home was a blur, congested with cordial goodbyes from the few people in the house. All she could remember was the tears of her mother, who had objected to the marriage from the beginning. Her mother, who had always wished that her daughter would have an extravagant wedding with a man that she liked, or even actually knew.

The women in her community were never asked, ‘Who are you dating?,’ let alone, ‘Are you straight or gay?’ They were only asked one thing: ‘Are you married or not?’ And, of course, since all of the marriages were arranged, sexual attraction–or compatibility or, heaven forbid, love–were never prerequisites.”

Leenu’s tears, which had been tidal throughout the ceremony, were relentless in the morning as she walked out the door alone, newly married.

A driver knocked on the door. She knew it was time to go.

He was in his sixties, around five feet, slender and had the normal face uniform of all Indian men: a big, thick, bushy, dark mustache. He was extremely formal. One quick handshake, one “My name is Ranchod” and th-th-th-that’s all folks. He wheeled her two black Samsonite suitcases through the neverending masses of brown skin into the car, which looked like an Indian version of a tiny red Mazda Miata. Ranchod didn’t speak a word to her during the drive, which lasted over forty minutes. Not being a fan of silence, Leenu was delighted to hear the maddening noise on the streets, a robust cacophony of loud crowds and even louder rickshaws. Soon they were driving away from urbanity, into tree-lined streets and homes. They were soon entering her mother-in-law’s ‘hood, the mega-luxury enclave near Mumbai, Pali Hill. Mansions galore. Anil had told her he was wealthy, but not this wealthy. With ridiculously elite boutiques, spacious residences and showy automobiles bordering its streets, Pali Hill was more Beverly Hills than Bollywood was Hollywood.

The car stopped in front of a bungalow just a bit smaller, yet impossibly palatial, ivory and castle-like.

When she rang the doorbell of the home, Leenu was greeted by a pale, rotund Indian woman in a purple sari. “Velcome. Coumma yin,” she mumbled unenthusiastically, before she could even say anything. The woman was making a valiant attempt at speaking English, and an even more valiant attempt at seeming interested in Leenu.

After walking in, she got a chance to further take in the opulence. It was amazing. Marble flooring everywhere. Ancient Tanjore miniature paintings garnished the walls. Expensive pastel-colored furniture mingled with pricey bamboo ornamentation. The ceilings were extravagantly high, and the large imperial windows opened to face a magnificent flower garden.

Appearing extremely young for a woman way past hot flash age, she was a little more than five feet tall, and looked as if her body mass would barely reach ninety pounds.”

“Please have a seat,” the woman said grumpily, pointing Leenu toward the living room, a recessed seating area exhibiting what was, perhaps, the world’s widest widescreen television. She thanked her and quietly took her seat on a large beige sofa.

“She’s here Madame!” the woman proclaimed, turning her body carelessly towards the rest of the home. “The lady of the house will be right with you,” she said to Leenu, her face contorted in brittle splendor.

Ten minutes later, she was startled by a melody of bells ringing in thumping harmony. The sound was wildly pleasing, and after recovering from the shock of its surprising entry into the hallway’s quiet state of meditation, she became mesmerized by the bold sound. It was a jingly and jangly song in motion. Leenu couldn’t detect where it came from until she noticed a whirl of pink. Bright, blinding olive, muddy green-brown fabric. As the image zoomed in closer, she realized that the material was a sari made of silk, and housed a petite Indian woman with surprisingly perky, full breasts. Appearing extremely young for a woman way past hot flash age, she was a little more than five feet tall, and looked as if her body mass would barely reach ninety pounds.

She was bundled in at least ten silk yards of drab fabric. Picture a greenish-black M&M if the chocolate was the size of a dot and the covering shell looked like military fatigues. Then, Leenu finally discovered the mysterious origin of the music: anklets. Ornamented, intricately-detailed silver anklets that were clasped and twirling around tiny brown feet.

She jumped up. She noticed that besides the old woman’s tits and anklets, there was nothing remarkable. The hair was disheveled. The face blotchy and tired. The skin far from soft. She was even sporting a faint–well, not-so faint–mustache.

The older woman had been conflicted when she said goodbye to her son who would now be in Southeast Asia for weeks. While she was thrilled to see her son finally marry, she resented the woman next to her. The bitch who took him away. So she did what any woman in her position would do: she faked happiness. Over the top happiness.

“My gorgeous Leenu! I have been dying to see you!” the woman gushed theatrically, as phony as the gold gracing her fingers. Her dialect was blanketed in the pompousness of Queen’s English. “I see you’ve met lovely Rekha,” she beamed, referring to the woman who had answered the door and, by now, scurried away. Leenu’s eyes widened in a confusing blend of surprise, curiosity, excitement, and, well, just a hint of fear.

Jasmine flowers were pinned at the base of long, wiry, grey, braided hair that swung down Mother Silky’s back. She studied her frumpy face. She did not look like a wealthy woman. Everything was missing, she thought: where was the perfectly painted vermillion tikka between her expensively threaded brows? The intact foundation? The immaculately-lined crimson lipstick? The only thing remarkable was the amount of gold–fake or not. As the woman wiped her forehead with her veiny hands, Leenu noted that three fingers of her left hand, and two of her right, were adorned with gold bands supporting giant, sparkling diamonds, same as the large, shiny studs stabbed into her two ears and two nostrils.

“Hello Mother,” Leenu said, after taking in all of the splendor.

“Shhhh!” she silenced her immediately. “There is nobody here by that name!” Seeing Leenu’s look of befuddlement, she continued, “You will call me Mother Silky. I quit using my real name, “Sharda,” years ago, after my husband died. Now I only go by the name Silky. My saris are made only of silk, my hair feels like silk and my skin is like silk itself!”

Leenu’s mouth hung open. Her skin was somewhat wrinkly, her hair was coarse and wiry. The only thing silky about her was the sari, and that was such an awful, muddy color that it made no difference. Leenu was speechless.

“Leenu, sit down, Mother Silky must say something to you.”

She couldn’t wait to hear what would come out next. Joining her on the couch, Mother Silky began sobbing heartily. It was enough to wet the floor. “This is a divine rainbow miracle. I have been aching to see you and now I am seeing you!”

“Moth–I mean, Mother Silky, don’t cry. You haven’t seen me, true, but I’m here now,” she murmured, hugging her tightly and wondering what a rainbow miracle was, exactly. She knew her mother-in-law hated her. But this was overkill. The older woman continued to weep, wiping her eyes with a lacy handkerchief she had pulled effortlessly from the deep cleft between her surprisingly large breasts and squeezed inside her too-tight blouse. Mother Silky did this with the speed and precision of an old school magician pulling a rabbit out of a hat.

“Leenu, everyday I couldn’t see you, I cried for you. But, even more, I cried for my life itself! Every day, I wondered, ‘What has become of Silky? Why must so many bad things happen to her? First her husband dies! And she has never seen her nephew! What other sorrows will God throw her way?'”

She then discussed how, sadly, her pain and sorrow caused so much grief she had to lie in bed for one week straight.

“I’m sorry that you had to go through that,” Leenu responded, not knowing what else to say. She was breathing heavily. She wanted this woman. You see, Mother Silky has once been a beauty. Back in her sex symbol days, she usually adorned herself in brightly-colored saris, groomed her hair, wore slashes of ruby lipstick. But one year before she met Leenu, Manish, her husband of over four decades, had a sudden heart attack and died. Her grief smothered her. True, she hadn’t been as extreme as orthodox Hindu widows who would shave their heads. Silky never fully recovered though, and stopped caring about her appearance altogether. She let her hair grow wiry and coarse; she stopped using the black dye and the coconut oils and the scents. She even let the three or four or five or nine wispy hairs under her nose and chin grow. But one could tell that her beauty never left. She was unkempt. That’s all. She was still Sophia Loren with brown skin. She still called herself Mother Silky. Bottom line: she was still sexy squared.

It only took two weeks after Anil left for Leenu to fall madly in love with the old woman. She brought her back to earth.

“Mother Silky is strong. God has given her strength,” she said with the grimace of a grade-A drama queen. The thumb and forefinger of her left hand played with the diamonds on her nostrils, screwing and unscrewing the studs erratically like a busted nail driver. She stood up suddenly, and within a second, started yawning loudly, in a fierce attempt to be subtly not-so subtle. Her sleepy roaring reminded her of the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer lion.

“Mother Silky,” Leenu croaked, “shouldn’t you be in bed? I’m so sorry to keep you from your nap.” As if her real self finally returned, her lips tightened. “If you don’t mind, I really should shut my eyes for a bit. Rekha will show you to your room.”

“Rekha!,” she boomed, “show Leenu her room, and take her luggage while you’re at it!” Poor Rekha, who had been hiding in the kitchen since running out of the room, morosely walked over to her. She knew she should have offered to take the two large suitcases to the bedroom. But she wanted to see Rekha get angry. She was a sari-fied Florence from The Jeffersons. Plus, it was not as if she was actually carrying anything. The luggage had wheels. After reaching her room, Leenu sat on the large king-sized bed and closed the door. Rekha sprinted away, her teeth clenched and eyes narrowed. The room, lush and fragrant, was painted powder blue and housed wrought iron cabinets. This was Mother Silky’s guest lodging? She was blown away.

When Leenu was done freshening up in her quarter of the house’s twin sink restroom, she toured the spaces surrounding her room. Next door, she discovered, was a large room filled with countless books. This was her library. She immediately knew Mother Silky never used it: it looked completely, desperately untouched. The large room might as well have been an alternate safe for the Hope Diamond, since its protective concrete sliding door looked as though it had never, ever been slid open. She could almost see tumbleweeds, ghost town style. Leenu knew Mother Silky hadn’t read even one of those books, but that made her appreciate her penchant for overindulgence even more. Who was she trying to impress? Nobody was ever using that room.

After perusing the shelves–they were filled with self-help volumes and inappropriate books like What To Expect When You’re Expecting–Leenu went back to her quarters and reclined on the bed for a while. She shut her eyes. Before she knew it, he heard Mother Silky yelling downstairs. It was exactly four p.m.

“Leenu, come down for SILKY TIME!” As she descended in obeyance, Mother Silky added, “Ready for snacks? We shall have pakoras!” she said in a strangely conspiratorial whisper.

Leenu was surprised. Pakoras, deep-fried fritters, were not the easiest things to make. She couldn’t understand how this Mother Silky, this yawning-like-a-lion Mother Silky, could ever handle such a project. She spoke up. “But who’s cooking them? Rekha is still sleeping in the maid’s room, right?”

“Oh Leenu, she doesn’t live here. She goes to her own home after lunch. The chef, Ramu, prepares dinner in early morning and freezes it. I heat it up for dinner, being the hard worker that I am.”

Leenu nodded quizzically, not understanding how Mother Silky could eat her fried pakoras daily and still maintain her sexy figure. With her body, somehow she must have exercised daily, but he couldn’t imagine her voluntarily breaking a sweat. Classic binge and purge? No, she assumed, forcing herself to gag would take too much effort. Just really, really good genetics.”

“So who makes the snacks?”

“I do!” she laughed. “This is my joy!”

Confused, Leenu joined her in the kitchen. Mother Silky quickly told her to sit in the living room while she prepared the food. She heeded the request. After a few minutes though, she walked over to the kitchen, moving delicately and gingerly so as not to bother her. She wouldn’t call it spying, though. It was more like “quiet chaperoning.” What she saw amazed her.

There, dancing in the red brick open-air kitchen facing the veranda, was Mother Silky, laughing and giggling like a crazed and lonely spinster playing with pets. Her body was writhing. Leenu touched herself as she watched. Look at her breasts. Those breasts. Those breasts are perfect.

One tiny fan whirled slowly above her as she inhaled the sticky, moist Mumbai air. Soon, the scents kicked in, one by one. Garlic, turmeric, chili, coriander, ginger–all blended seamlessly to create her altered climate, an atmosphere of irresistible flavor.

When her mission was completed, Leenu ran back to the sofa, lazily gazing at the television as though she had never left. After summoning her to the remarkably nondescript dining room, Mother Silky brought her a platter of freshly-cooked, freshly-fried pakoras to the table. They began eating what she presumably considered, psychotically, to be miniature dumplings of ecstasy. After all, she had been dancing and laughing manically as she constructed them.

There were few words spoken, as her mouth was full relishing her creations. “This is my daily snack. Nothing else. I love it.” Seeing her disapproving face, she continued, “And don’t give me that look! I’m quite fit, thank you very much.”

Leenu nodded quizzically, not understanding how Mother Silky could eat her fried pakoras daily and still maintain her sexy figure. With her body, somehow she must have exercised daily, but he couldn’t imagine her voluntarily breaking a sweat. Classic binge and purge? No, she assumed, forcing herself to gag would take too much effort. Just really, really good genetics. Whatever kept her in that shape, it didn’t matter, not to Leenu. Not at all. Because at that moment, her mouth was frozen, wide open and suddenly dry. And her heart was suddenly beating too fast. Her lusty, romantic reaction to Mother Silky shook her entirely. It had been building up ever since she met the woman with the anklets. And now, like a masala volcano, it had erupted, completely.

This was not some horny wife of her hubby’s golf partner. This was the woman who created Anil in the first place. And so, it only took two weeks after Anil left for Leenu to fall truly, madly, deeply in love with the old woman. His mother. She was attracted to this frumpy female, and would do anything to have her. Good Lord, Leenu smiled to herself, I love this lady. One of the major rules in traditional joint families: the daughter-in-law was to take care of the mother-in-law’s needs. For the first time, Leenu was glad to follow rules. But she went further than performing the standard daughter-in-law aid of helping cook, clean, and wash the clothes: she gave Mother Silky morning back rubs, coconut-oil hair cleansings to follow the woman’s baths, leg massages while she slept and simple foot and hand grooming.

Mother Silky was delighted, never having known the luxuries of pedicures and manicures. However, after a week, she noticed something strange about her daughter-in-law’s pampering. Leenu was liking it. In fact, she was physically getting far too close to her. During the daily massages, as Leenu would run her jeweled fingers through Mother Silky’s gray hair, she would lean in so that her sari-wrapped breasts would brush against her mother-in-law’s face. Leenu would always giggle afterwards, and call it an “accident.” But Mother Silky’s intuition told her something different. Leenu had started wearing brighter blouses, and intricately-carved gold anklets.

In the second week, she discovered how the older woman stayed so sexy. It was early morning, and her eyes were hardly open when there was a knock on the door. Opening it, she saw raggedy Rekha’s face in close-up. “Madame is downstairs waiting for you. She has already started.” She said nothing else. No “good morning,” no “how did you sleep?” Leenu walked down the winding marble staircase, wishing she had a turban and bathrobe so he could mimic Norma Desmond, or at least some old-time movie star just waking up in the Hollywood Hills.

One of the major rules in traditional joint families: the daughter-in-law was to take care of the mother-in-law’s needs. For the first time, Leenu was glad to follow rules.”

Upon reaching the ground floor, she saw a blue-hued, massive workout pad in a room adjoining the main hall, which must have been locked away the previous day, as this was the first time she had seen it. Leenu was in shock. Mother Silky of the stunning silk saris was in a bright green leotard. The phrase “Let’s Get Physical” was imprinted in bubble letters on the Spandex fabric stretched across her hefty chest which had been encased in a sports bra. She had on wristbands and a headband, all made of white cotton, the type people wore in the eighties while jogging on roller skates, down a boardwalk, listening to the Xanadu Soundtrack. Her hair was pulled back in a tight bun. A short, muscular, middle-aged sepia-skinned Indian woman in pigtails stood in front of the mat, facing her in a black leotard.

The two women were extending their arms into letters, à la “YMCA” dance steps. Leenu understood these to be their idea of stretches.

“Morning, Mother Silky,” Leenu muttered lazily.

“Good day to you! First I wondered if I should let you sleep, but then I realized we must keep in shape, no? I like to have exactly thirty minutes to get in shape every morning. Also, I think exercise is good for anyone! I am just doing my stretches for morning fitness with my instructor, Janaki.” She pointed to the woman in pigtails. “She is the genius who keeps me in shape.”

The woman named Janaki smiled at Leenu. Mother Silky then looked directly at her, her eyes squinting. “I have bought a workout outfit just for you. I got it as soon as I found out you would be coming here.” She pulled out something from a dresser by the mat. “Try this on!” It was a tiny, low-cut black Spandex leotard. Leenu felt herself blush, and forced herself to say no.

If she were to wear the “workout outfit” she wouldn’t be able to get her hands off Mother Silky. She was just no match for the power of Lycra Sexiness®, like most of us.

“No thanks, I’m fine the way I’m dressed,” Leenu said, feeling herself sweat already.

“But–” Leenu didn’t even let her finish, successfully changing the subject swiftly. She then decided she wouldn’t do any of it. She would rather just watch her object of desire like a lazy audience member.

“In fact, Mother Silky, I’m not exercising today. Since it’s my first time here, I just want to observe, if that’s okay with you. I promise I’ll start exercising with you tomorrow.”

“Fine. Just watch then!” She sounded irritated.

Janaki finally spoke: “Let’s begin. Ommmmmmm. Ommmmmm.

Leenu was getting excited. Although she had never done yoga, she had watched it on TV, and all of the contortions and squats and movements turned her on. But perhaps it wasn’t yoga, she thought. Maybe it was pilates, or best yet, Tae Bo.

Whatever it would turn out to be, she was happy. She liked seeing how flexible Mother Silky could be, considering she barely liked moving to pick up the remote control. However, she didn’t see her vision of yoga, or anything close to pilates. What she saw was something different.

“Give me thirty, Silky!” Janaki yelled.

Leenu was on her toes; she couldn’t wait to see the Mother Silky do thirty of anything. But Janaki wasn’t referring to thirty poses. Or even thirty push-ups. She was ordering Mother Silky to do thirty jumping jacks. Jumping jacks. After she had finished just ten, she was too tired to go on. At this point, Leenu was on the verge of a nervous breakdown like any Almodóvar woman. If she could have a boner, she would have been sporting a nine-incher at the very least.

“Janaki, why must you make me work so hard!”

“We want you to be beautiful, no?” Both women then broke into, oddly enough, authentic laughter. “Now back to work!”

“Ayoooo! Ayooooo!” Mother Silky moaned loudly.

I bet I can make you moan even louder, Leenu thought.

After the thirty were completed, Janaki said, “Time for the next round!”

“Oh, please, not the second round. I am so exhausted.”

“This is what exercise is, Silky. As the Westerners say, ‘No pain, no gain!'”

“Ayooooo!”

“Okay, let’s do this. Come on!”

After all the buildup, Leenu expected a mammoth “second round.” Especially since the first one consisted of simple jumping jacks. Instead, she saw Silky Aunty and Janaki doing something even less vigorous than round one. Walking in place. That’s all, walking in place.

“Silky, let’s shoot for five minutes of this.”

When the walking was done, the thirty-minute workout had finished. Janaki washed her face, then grabbed her big brown bag and strolled out of the house.

“What a workout!” Mother Silky cried out. “Leenu, see what I must do to keep this figure?”

Oh the things I would do to your figure.

Mother Silky marched to a table near the workout room’s exit where she had placed an industrial-sized jug of filtered water and towel. After chugging, rather indelicately, straight from the jug and mopping her face and neck, she walked with Leenu to the dining room. As they progressed, Leenu couldn’t help notice that Mother Silky hadn’t really needed the towel after all. She was barely sweating; Leenu was disappointed. Still she thought how she could make her sweat.

And then, one rainy and muggy day, she passed by Mother Silky’s room. The door was open a bit, so she took the opportunity to peer in, hoping to steal a glance of the old woman’s nudity. What she discovered, however, devastated her.

There, on the phone, was Mother Silky talking softly to, presumably, an old friend. And that’s when Leenu heard those awful words: “When is Anil coming back? I can’t stand the bitch!”

The next few days she barely said anything to her mother-in-law. That is, until she realized that she didn’t care if Mother Silky hated her. She was going to continue pursuing her. No matter what. Leenu began doing extravagant midday ablutions after her naps. She didn’t strip to full nudity but kept on her bra and petticoat.

Her bathroom door wide open, she stood at her large sink, where she carefully splashed cool sudsy water on her face, neck, and armpits. All the residual warpaint that had been blotched from morning sweat and nap time smudging was now removed, her face clean, pure, bare. She looked beautiful without her mountains of makeup. She wouldn’t obviously think so, as she devoted the next thirty minutes to applying a new plaster of paint, including a precisely drawn tikka placed neatly in the middle of her forehead. No geisha could match her level of face art. Freshly made up, she walked into the bathroom’s adjoining walk-in closet for her much-anticipated costume change. Funneling through her mountains of silk saris and matching blouses, she found the right combo. She chose to wrap herself in a lattice-patterned ruby-and-gold trimmed nine-yard sari with gold blouse. Lastly, she pinned a few pale yellow carnations to her post-nap, newly fashioned mane, a coconut oil-enhanced ponytail of black silk.

She now looked like a supermodel, someone Bollywood starlets would resent at any casting call. And she knew it, blowing a kiss at the mirror. And so the afternoons would pass. Leenu dressing up like a Bollywood goddess, Mother Silky pretending not to look. When they would converse, Leenu would stare intensely at her, and laugh at Mother Silky’s lame jokes. When she would grab a dish on the table, Leenu would “accidentally” reach for the plate at the same time. Once, when Mother Silky had a particle of rice stuck on her lips, Leenu gingerly pressed two fingers on her mouth, removing the bits delicately, sensuously.

Even if she didn’t quite need a retouch, Leenu would tell her, “Silky, your sari is slipping, let me get it straight,” as she would reach for Mother Silky’s body to center the toga-like pallu which hung down her aged spine.

And then it hit the old woman: Leenu was seducing her. She realized this from years of watching Dynasty. There was only the American version that was shown on Indian television, and that was the version circa the 1980s, the version starring Joan Collins and Linda Evans. She remembered one episode in particular: Joan Collins, playing the character Alexis, was being pursued by a glamorous lesbian down the block. The lesbian used many of the seduction tactics employed by Leenu, except the sari routine. No saris were ever worn; the female suitor would straighten out Alexis’ sexy spaghetti-strapped black evening dresses instead. But perhaps Mother Silky was mistaken.

Leenu’s habit of singing while showering brought joy to Mother Silky. Especially since our now-black-haired lady liked knowing what the “young people” were listening to. In the case of Leenu, the artist of note seemed to be Beyoncé. So Mother Silky would stand outside the bathroom as Leenu would shower, not simply for a glimpse of the younger woman’s body, but for a performance of Leenu’s.”

After all, thought Mother Silky, I am a lonely old woman. Maybe I want her to lust after me. Neither Mother Silky nor Leenu mentioned the daughter-in-law’s not-so-subtle flirtations, real or not. However, Mother Silky started liking them. And she started liking Leenu. A lot. While, at first, it was the one-sided joy and flattery of being pursued as an elderly, lonely widow, it changed into something greater. She soon enjoyed sharing Leenu’s company. She soon enjoyed being pampered by Leenu. She soon enjoyed conversing with Leenu. She soon enjoyed looking at Leenu’s body.

When she first met her, she thought the younger girl was hideous. Too dark, too plain, too plump. But she was proven wrong. The darkness was actually smoldering duskiness. What she had initially thought was ugliness was actually earthly lushness. As for her plumpness? Gourmet voluptuousness, of course. The more that Leenu’s flirtation continued, and the more that Mother Silky realized she wanted it, the older woman began caring for her appearance once again. She bought pink and ruby saris lined with gold. She began dyeing her hair once again, so that the long wire shone as black as licorice candy once again. And she started going to the local threading salon to remove the hairs on her face. Now that she was lusted after, after all, how could she have a mustache?

Within a millisecond, Leenu moved back to her original position, rubbing the feet with her hands once again. In sex lingo, the erotic sucking of a lover’s toes is called shrimping. Leenu would have been horrified if she heard that term. She was a staunch vegetarian.”

Mother Silky was homely no more. She realized this whole situation was terrible: she was desiring a girl who, basically, had just become her own daughter. But she stopped caring. Life was too short, and nobody would ever know. Or so she hoped. But as Mother Silky showed, this was not exactly the case. Neighbors talked. Especially when they saw an old woman glamorous once more. Especially when they saw an old woman never, ever leave the side of her constantly beaming daughter-in-law. A daughter-in-law who wouldn’t stop holding her hand.

The silent seduction between the two progressed, neither mentioning their obvious lust for each other. Their implied denial of the burgeoning love led to moments that did not need any penetration to unfold sex. Leenu’s habit of singing while showering brought joy to Mother Silky. Especially since our now-black-haired lady liked knowing what the “young people” were listening to. In the case of Leenu, the artist of note seemed to be Beyoncé. So Mother Silky would stand outside the bathroom as Leenu would shower, not simply for a glimpse of the younger woman’s body, but for a performance of Leenu’s.

The closest thing Leenu got to unwrapping Mother Silky’s sari took place in the third week of Anil’s absence. Leenu had gotten used to rubbing Mother Silky’s legs as she slept. But, finally, she yielded to a desire that had been burning within the newly-proud mother-in-law-loving slutlet. She bent her face down by the old woman’s feet, and carefully, gently, she started licking the right one. It was aged, veiny and leathery, but Leenu wanted it more than any curried potatoes in the world.

Feeling braver, she opened her mouth and sucked the toes on that liver-spotted foot, one by one. Her tongue scraped Mother Silky’s toe ring, but she didn’t mind. It was a cleaning that the jewelry needed.

Mother Silky, awakened by the delicious sensation, opened her eyes in shock, but then quickly shut them, determined to keep the ruse intact, all the while getting the pleasure of her feet serviced. After many minutes passed, however, she opened her eyes. Within a millisecond, Leenu moved back to her original position, rubbing the feet with her hands once again. In sex lingo, the erotic sucking of a lover’s toes is called shrimping. Leenu would have been horrified if she heard that term. She was a staunch vegetarian.

During the next two weeks before Anil returned, the shrimping ritual was performed nightly. The romance continued, as neither woman said a word to each other about their silent love affair. The neighbors kept wondering why Mother Silky looked so good. In the end, no sex was ever performed. It didn’t need to be, though. Both women got what they wanted. Well, except for Leenu. She never did get to see what was under the petticoat. Mother Silky didn’t worry about that. She had already secretly seen Leenu’s goods once. After one of Leenu’s “concerts.”

Upon his return, Anil was shocked to see his mother look so fantastic. His return didn’t really affect the romance between the two women either. After all, the two ladies had never spoken about their hidden attraction in the first place, and plus, the only physical interaction between Mother Silky and Leenu took place late at night. Anil would be sleeping by then. And even if it was impossible for the two to meet–if Anil insisted on all-night sex or if Mother Silky was not in the mood–Leenu discovered that her husband’s company wouldn’t be so bad. Anil was surprised at how well his wife sucked his toes. His wife was surprised at how good non-liver-spotted feet could taste. And the new maid, hired a month later, was surprised at how well Mother Silky lip-synched Beyoncé songs.

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