Four Limes Under A Car

Today, we arrive at the close of Navarathri, the Hindu nine-night festival of feast, prayer and glamor. This, here, is the tenth day, Vijayadasami, the day everyone must pray, sing, dance, move, write, speak, code, cure—really, do everything that brings meaning to our lives. It’s also the day Hindus celebrate all the machines we use.

When my father, the late Daddykins, was alive, we’d go out into the road on this morning. We'd decorate his car windows with sandalwood and vermilion. Daddykins' Maruti Dzire would wear a garland of roses on its windscreen.Inside, by the Ganesha on the dash, Vinayagam, my father’s chauffeur, placed a long strand of jasmine.

Vinayagam was the self-appointed priest on the occasion of Vijayadasami. Standing in front of the car, right by its license plate, he lit a forest of incense sticks poking out of a banana cluster resting on a plate. He burned camphor on a brass holder. Then he closed his eyes and bent his head. He put his hands together and prayed that his car—which belonged to Daddykins, on paper at least—came to no hit and run or any other harm in the coming year. He proceeded to set a lime under each tire.

In the meanwhile, Saravanan, my father’s other helper, held a winter melon in his hand. He lifted the melon high above his head. For a few seconds he looked like Atlas holding up the world because the fruit was as large as Saravanan was small. He bashed it against the road where it splattered, entrails splashing outward, its seed shooting out into neighboring apartment buildings.

Then, while Daddykins looked on, Vinayagam slid into the seat of our car, cranked the engine, moved into first gear and eased the tires, gently, over the fruit.

Four yellow limes burst under gargantuan rubber. For a few minutes, the air, now citrus scented, swirled around us, mingling with that permanent odor of Chennai—a heady compound of incense, curry leaf, jasmine, rose, juice of winter melon, sandalwood, broken coconut and cow dung.

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