Fire of Desire:
Indian Love Story
by Mukta Singh-Zocchi
the third and final round along the smoldering pit her taffeta wrap
was filled with several articles: clothes, pieces of gold, flowers,
even food – commissions from the gathered people she was to
take to their loved ones in the other world. The letters she had
tucked in her blouse. Her clothes were impregnated with butter they
had poured on her for quick incineration.
saw her neighbors and friends of many years come up, tears in their
eyes, holding nothing in their hands, bearing just a heavy heart.
She mellowed and one by one embraced them in a final farewell. Aslam
too was in the group.
me,” he cried softly and with brimming eyes extended the pot
of butter he had brought for her.
now, Aslam,” she said tenderly.
started to dance. Round and round she spun to the quickening beats
of the drum. Like the famous Nur Bai of Delhi she danced, enchanting
many in the crowd. She stopped and with her back to the pit, raised
her hands to the heavens: “There is just one virtue in this
world and that is love.”
fixed her eyes on Aslam.
am ready now!”
priests advanced and shoved the corpse of her husband into the pit,
bright flames engulfing it in a moment. They moved towards her.
Aslam, mesmerized, proceeded to pour his offering of butter on his
departing lover. She stood still. In a confluence of motions, as
Aslam approached her, she folded her arms around him, the priests
pushing her backwards into the burning pit, she dragging the unfortunate
lover along with her.
sudden hush descended on the crowd as they watched the flaming pit.
the shadows, they heard her screams. Attired in fiery clothes she
was dancing still. She held him and he rolled.
can never die,” she sang and pulled him back in a grand sweep.
The pot he still held burst into flames and he dropped it. His hair
burnt first, then his clothes. He pleaded and she smiled and brought
him close to her. His eyes widened as his flesh caught fire. He
flapped and kicked. Then a flame curved around his nose and lips
and pushed inside his mouth. He let out a ghastly yelp and caved
in. It was over.
gentle wind blew the smoke over the water. Love can never die, lingered
in the ears of the stunned crowd. For a long time they stood still,
watching in silence the smoldering pyre illuminate the ghat.