‘It is a prayer to the Sumangali
the eternal bride,’ my mother says.
I sit in the middle of celebration
and mayhem; dressed in the
drabbest of churidhar kameezes,
I, the bride-to-be, look a crow
among the birds of paradise in their silk sarees
I open my hands, my younger
cousins pour a cold, dark liquid,
from a plastic cone; henna rains
on my palms like the Akash Ganga,
coming down to earth…
They dance and sing around me
and play pranks, I laugh aloud.
‘Lower your voice and your
eyes, you are the bride-to-be!’
my mother hisses …
I look down into my palms –
a lotus blooms, creepers grow
and flower, swans preen their
feathers, stars sparkle…
They write: K-I-S-H-O-R-E
in the corner of my right palm –
the name of a man, I met for a
couple of hours…
I travel on the creepers that run
out of my fingers, to a strange
land, across the sea – a land that
is to be my home…
Swans migrate with my thoughts:
Before my henna fades, my husband
would fly off and I would watch
the colour dulling in my palms, wait
for my visa and pray to the eternal
bride for a land of dreams.


The Henna Ceremony: Part of many ceremonies associated with the Hindu Wedding. Saree and churidhar kameez: Indian Costumes. Akash Ganga: The Milky Way. Hindu myth suggests that The Milky Way flowed down to the earth and became the Indian River Ganges , who is one of the consorts of the Hindu God, Shiva.