There was a smidge of Radha in my pocket, a smattering of her on the cruddy wooden deck. I drew the string together and put the cotton bag in my pocket.
The kala pani, that’s what the people in my village call the sea. It wasn’t really black water though, despite all the slops of shit and sick thrown into it. In places, it was copper, like the setting sun; in others, as silver as my mother’s hair.
I spent so long in that turvy topsy world that my turban tattered in the salt air, my beard grew into curly tentacles that tickled my chest and my ribs showed through my skin, like the scores that the English sailors made on the deck to mark the days. Months I spent, ducking the questions about my old life, dodging the sailors’ jibes about the ways of the Hindoo.
At East India Dock, I staggered off the ship and looked out across the river, as grey as the oysters piled up in boxes nearby. As I pulled out the little cotton bag from my pocket, a dusting of Radha floated out, scattering onto the glossy cobbles. It was time to let her go.
The way Radha’s ashes flew out of the bag and into the water reminded me of her once more; the way her legs had writhed under me; the way her arms had flailed as my hands gripped her neck.