‘Lucid Moments’ by Shashi Deshpande

In the Indian story ‘Lucid Moments’, it is the absence of flowers that is symbolic, and the author uses flowers to emphasise the need to preserve the identity and history of women which often get obliterated. The narrator, Sujata finds herself in a difficult situation as she sees her dying mother babble in a state of mental delirium, seeking to know the name of her own dead mother. As her mother dies, Sujata is left perturbed by her mother’s dying wish. She hopes to fulfil it by hanging a framed photograph of her dead mother. In an attempt to reclaim the lost history of women in general and of her mother in particular, she declares to her niece, “She is your grandmother… Her name was Sumati.” As Sujata hangs her mother’s picture on the wall she says, “There! It’s done. She doesn’t need any flowers or kumkum. It’s enough she’s here.” The suggestion is that, weighed down throughout her married years by her role as a mother and wife, it is only at death, when she was finally without any symbolic embellishments, that Sumati asserted her identity and is liberated.

First published in Intrusions and Other Stories, Penguin India, 1993