Lakshmi's Hour by Thrity Umrigar

Thrity Umrigar is an Indian American writer who was born in Mumbai and immigrated to the United States when she was 21. She is a journalist, a regular book critic for the Boston Globe, and the author of the novels Bombay Time, The Space Between Us and The Weight of Heaven. In 2013 she won a Lambda Literary Award in the Lesbian Fiction category for The World We Found. She is currently a professor of English at Case where she teaches creative writing and literature.

One year after my Ma die, I have a dream one night. I dream I meets with God and He asking me what my one wish being. Just to make one wish. So I thinks and then I says, Make it so that for one day out of whole year, everybody get to meet their love ones who dead. People from heaven come to earth and spend whole day with living family. They can have party, picnic, festival, watch the TV together, go for the drive, I don't cares. Whatever living ones want them to do, they do.

So then God says to me, Who decide which day of year you can visit dead love ones? Everybody have different-different day or same day?

Now, I gets ascare that God giving me my wish, so I say, You decide, please. You God.

So God think for minute and then He smile and say, August 15. That the day every person on earth get to spend with their dead love one.

And as soon as He say date, I know why He pick it—August 15, India Independence Day. Ma was always telling me, God make whole world and all the peoples, but he love India tops. Before, I use to argue, Ma, if God love India best of all, why he make it so poor? And Ma explain that just like a mother love her sickly child the best, God love India because it weak and need most protection. Before, I not sure if Ma making up story or not. But now I know Ma telling hundred percent truth.

So then I thinking, this is January, only. I trying to count how many days left until August 15 and I hurrying, hurrying in my dream, count fast. All the time I ascare that August 15 so far away but still I making plans for how to make Ma welcome when she come to visit. I think what foods to cook for her, what sweets to buy, whether to buy Coca-Cola or Fanta for her. Then, I remindering that Ma won't come alonely; she bring her dead brother, maybe, because he having no family, and her dead parents, surely. Maybe some other friends who I don't know come with her? Our hut too small for such big party. Maybe Menon sahib letting us have party in his house? But then I remindering that Menon sahib having to have the party for his dead relations, also, and then I really worry. Maybe whole world not big enough for all the dead love ones to come back? Where we going to put them all?

Now I understanding that I not really wanting to see all the dead love ones. I only wants to see my Ma. So I turn to God with new request. But He is gone. I screaming and screaming for Him to come back so I can say him that I change my mind. I is crying now, looking for Him every where. And then God really angry with me cause he shake and shaking me, and I open my eyes, but instead of God, it my Dada looking at me. "Lakshmi, Lakshmi, wake up," he say. "Why you crying in your sleep, my child?"

When I sees the kind in my Dada's gray eyes, I feeling so happy, I gets straight up from floor, and put my head on his shoulder. He touch my hair. "You had a bad sapana, eh, child?" he say. "Don't be ascare."

I am feeling so happy to leaf God and be back with my Dada. But then I feeling so sad because I know I not seeing my Ma on August 15. In my dream, Ma seem so nearby and now she so, so far again. My Dada kind, but not having power like God. God having power, but not kind like Dada. But between Dada and God, my Dada win.

My Ma always say, God make world perfect, Lakshmi. He not put extra leaf on tree or one extra hair on your head. He make everything exact-exact. Our job to be happy with what he give. In famine time, he give us not one grain less than we need. In good time, he give us not one grain more than we digest. I use to argue with Ma. Why for I still then hungry, Ma? Why my stomach still growling like a dog? And Ma smile and say, So when you sees a stray dog, you will knows to feed it. And then Ma take scoop of rice from her plate and put it in mine. Eat, she say. I not hungry today.

At that time, I eats everything Ma put in my plate. I not notice how thin she become. The need of my stomach was bigger than the need of my eyes, you see. But today, I understands everything. How she took the food out of her mouth and put it in ours. Today, each time I eat a mango from our grocery store, I reminder how Ma never ate mango fruit. She only suck the big seed. The soft, sweet fruit part, she give us. The best part of my Ma, we got. What was left for her was the arthritis and the pain and the hungriness. And this made her happy. Because that what it meaning to be a mother.

Today I know: If I could chose between meeting my Ma again or meeting God, I choose her. Each time, I choose her.

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