“the woman in a busy bazaar” – Fiction by Tara Isabel Zambrano

Untitled - M.F. Husain, 1970
Untitled – M.F. Husain, 1970

Time stands still for “the woman in a busy bazaar,” a surreal vignette by Tara Isabel Zambrano featured in our Spring 2015 issue.

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THE BAZAAR IN OLD DELHI IS BUSY AND STYLISH with barbers, psychics, jewelers, and cow dung cakes on the tar roads.

As I wind my watch to revive its heartbeat, between rows of turquoise and crimson fabric on the clothesline that belongs to a dyer, a divided sun ruffles the gaze of a woman. She is breathing beedi into the afternoon air. She has honey glazed skin and muscular thighs wrapped in a saree, restless feet and a toddler’s palm joined to hers.

The wind picks up the sound of the temple bells, a chorus and clapping hands. Several vermillion smeared foreheads appear from the saffron-colored house of deities. Time stands still on my wrist leading me to a clock repair shop, where the owner flashes his tobacco stained teeth, coughs and swipes his white sleeve on his forehead, saying, “Come after fifteen minutes.

I turn around and the woman is still there, her child nowhere in sight. She is scratching the red layers of earth. Her toenails sparkle as her feet match the rhythm of a cotton ginner who is also looking at her with the refrain of a married man with kids. A set of beedis are tucked between her heaving breasts. The sheets of fabric sway, picking her scent like indigo infused in the white light of a thousand other smells.

The whir of bells has died and the long row of shops by the road seems as if the bazaar is stretching its arms to touch the roots of a banyan, pointing to a path. The woman avoids the ginner and looks at me, flexing her curves. The air turns giddy with playfulness and I want the time to stay dead. I want to lift her as with a pair of tongs hold a gem in light, until she dissolves into dust, swallowing a part of me that is unstoppable like the hands of a clock.

The watch repairer hollers my name and the woman turns around. A faint ticking resumes as the fabric unravels and obscures her in a sweep of colors until I only see her palms facing the sky as if releasing an hourglass – emptying and filling once again.

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TARA ISABEL ZAMBRANO is an Electrical Engineer by profession. She holds an instrument rating for single engine airplanes. Her work has appeared in Prime Number magazine, Blue Bonnet Review, Jersey Devil Press and is upcoming in Redactions. She moved from India to United States two decades ago and currently lives in McKinney,TX with her husband and two kids.

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