Resume av berättelsen Sara Sarasvati. An Indo-Swedish story, en kommande kort thriller på engelska av Jan Sjunnesson (English below).
År 2020, New Delhi
Sarasvati Andersson Pillay får besked om att hennes far, svensken Bo Andersson, är död. Hennes mor, rektor Vimala, lever ensam med henne och sin far i en fin stadsdel i New Delhi. Vimalas mor var en fri och stark muslim från fd indiska Pakistan och hennes far hinduisk affärsman från södra Indien. Vimala blev oplanerat gravid och födde dottern ensam 2000 i New Delhi. Sarasvati har sett sin far 2-3 gånger men aldrig varit i Sverige. Vid ambassadbesök efter dödsbeskedet i New Delhi får hon veta att fadern blivit mördad i ett politiskt attentat.
Hon far ensam till Stockholm och Uppsala domkyrka för begravning dit även drottning Viktoria anländer. Bo Anderssons död har väckt stor uppmärksamhet i Sverige och hovet vill hedra en riksdagsledamots död, liksom Viktoria gjorde 2002 när Fadime Sanhindal sköts av sin far. Vid begravningen träffar Sara (som hon kallar sig i Sverige) sin fars advokat, Lars Berg, sin okända halvbror Anders och en gammal KTH professor, Erik Karlsson. Hon blir övertalad att flytta till Stockholm för att studera till bergsingenjör vid KTH vilket hon gör, 20 år gammal med bra betyg från sin mammas skola i New Delhi, fast hon egentligen vill bli humanist. Svenskarna Erik Karlsson och Bo Andersson var i Indien redan 2013 för att rekrytera indiska ingenjörsstudenter utan framgång men 2020 flyttar alltså en blivande ingenjör från Indien till Sverige, Sara Sarasvati Andersson Pillay.
Hon flyttar till Kista i en studentlägenhet tillsammans med en indonesisk bergsingenjörsstudent, Mawar. Sin bror Anders beter sig konstigt tycker hon, är 35 år, arbetslös utan avslutade gymnasiestudier, läser genusvetenskap på universitetet och bor i ett kollektiv i Högdalen. Han far runt med ett muslimskt fotbollslag i Husby och engagerar sig i anti-rasistiska demonstrationer tillsammans med dem. Sara förstår att far och son inte gick ihop pga deras skilda politiska åsikter.
Mer avslöjas inte här-
Synopsis of Sara Sarasvati by Jan Sjunnesson
The book is set in 2020 in Delhi and Stockholm. A girl of 20 learns that her Swedish father whom she has had little contact with, is assassinated in Sweden. She flies to his funeral there, finds herself in the midst of media attention due to her father’s stance against immigration policy and in his aborting a terrorist attack in 2013. She is persuaded to start study engineering there. She leaves Delhi where she stays with her grandfather and mother.
While in Sweden, she learns more about her father’s life and his murder, her half-brother but leaves her studies after feeling threatened by him.
The book is about how a bright Indo-Swedish girl gets caught up in a political plot of terrorism and counter-terrorism, which bears hard on her. Statue of Liberty is attacked 2017 by nuclear weapons adrift from Pakistan and Iran, now failed states. Norway has become a safe haven for Pakistan militants who use Oslo to attack New Delhi in 2018, which makes India more interested in keeping close watch over Sweden. A centre- right and left government is replaced by a centre-nationalist government after the assassination, headed by a Swedish- Kurdish woman as leader of the nationalist Sweden Democratic Party.
There is no other story like this with such details of life in Delhi and Stockholm in the near future, combined with a story of how religious intolerance and fear in a world in 2020 creeps into lives in all countries. The pace is quite fast in ten chapters of 150 pages.
Chapter 1 (draft april 2013)
When Sara Andersson walks down the stairs she is irritated. Being disturbed in school work with Chacha is always annoying. Especially with math. A messenger has come to the door and the maid has let him into the drawing room, which is cooler. Sara smiles and greets him but the man looks strange and just nods. She bids him to sit down which he does after some protests.
In the silence only the boys playing cricket in the park is heard. Sara stares into the dark eyes of the dark man from the embassy of Sweden in Delhi. He opens an envelope, hands slightly shaking and starts to read in poor English.
-Dear Madame Endersson. We regret the sad news that this letter brings to you. Your father Mister Boo Endersson of Opsala, Suweeden, has quickly passed away. His funeral will be held soon. Please contact us immediately for further details. Our sincere condolences to you and your mother. Consular officer R.V. Singh.
The kind old tutor Chacha-ji enters the room just when Sara lets out a load cry. Chacha runs to her and kneels by her side. The messenger looks bewildered. He looks at the two and excuses himself, leaving the note on the sofa table where two cups of chai has been brought by Najju, the maid.
-Sara, what is it? Tell me, Chacha asks.
She leans forward and reads the note to him. The time from when the man first read it to her and now seems endless. She understood it immediately and now it is a fact. Chacha leans back and Sara gives him the paper. The silence is broken by dishes being washed in the small kitchen but Sara and Chacha can almost hear these washing as thunder. A message of death and sorrow.
-You must contact the embassy, he says. He puts his arm around her back and strokes her gently.
She nods with wet eyes. Her light green dupatta is useful when soaking her tears. The room seems full of wet salty water from her eyes and she is still in shock when she cries out that she did not know, did not know, did not know what had happened. Chacha sits with her silently for five minutes and hears her questions about the death of her father. She tries to make an effort to stand up but cannot.
The evening has come suddenly she feels and shivers in the warm house. How can such tragic news be brought by a simple errand boy she thinks but realises that the form of the horrible content cannot be blamed. Embassies have many citizens’ affairs to consider and why should she have the ambassador visiting her for bring the sad news of her father in Sweden, someone she has only seen twice ?
Chacha stays with her until her mother Vimala comes home. The house is suddenly full of people. Sara has no idea from where they came. Relatives, neighbours, acquaintances, classmates and children. Their colony at central Jor Bagh has a way of keeping together at times like this, usually at burglaries and holiday festivities. And deaths.
-Sara, you must not do anything. Just rest. The details will be known tomorrow, everybody tells her. They look sad and yet try to give her smiles.
Her mother Vimala is upset and cries more than Sara ever though she could. Single mother taking care of her and her own father. Vimala has told granddad Thatha of the sad news but the old man did not seem to understand. He was dozing in his room when Sara yelled and his wits were slipping already. By the time the house was full, Thatha Prakash had come out to greet everyone, looking happy to see all of them. He had still not gotten the news when Sara told him separately in her room. He had to be pushed into her room where never been alone with her since she was eight. The room is cluttered with her books and clothes and the two of them stand just inside the closed door. An AC is letting some cool air making them less hot but still weary and confused.
-Thatha, my father, my Tantai Bo in Sweden, has died.
She says it slowly again in Hindi, then in Tamil.
-Iranta Bo. En tantrai irantu.
Her grandfather stands still close to her and nodded. He cannot speak Hindi well but use the professional English he was used to from office.
-My regrets. My dear and sad regrets to you, my Sara chellam.
He breaks into tears and holds her. She tells him that she has no idea how and when he died, but at age 60 he must not be exempted from death. He looks at her. Grief strikes his face and he says.
-Sari sari. That is true, chellam. That is true. Kala will come to us, at our time. But why now?
He shakes his head and leaves the room. Sara closes the wooden door. Her bed which she would like to rest on at any other time but now seems so useless. Why all this middle-class Indian comfort with mirror covered pillow covers in beautiful Rajasthani patterns? Why having all and not her father alive, even if far away? She stands inside, thinking deeply about him and feeling breathless until someone knocks on the door.
-Sara, come out. Thatha and I are having some paratha and subji. We have plenty for all too.
Her mother thinks that food is especially useful at making people less nervous. On occasions like this, she is at her best, making small plates with flatbreads and cooked vegetables.
Sara steps out of her room into a house full of chatting women and some silent men. Children are running around but not as fast as usual. They know that something sad or evil has taken the spirit out of such cozy gathering but they cannot be still for very long.
She sits by the sofa table, between two female neighbours. Their large bodies press onto her slender thighs and chest. One of them speaks without ever making a pause. She asks for the details that no one knows, about her father’s occupation, age, family and whereabouts. Sara looks at her and gives out as little information as possible, which is about all she knows about him. The other woman leans over and hugs her. Sara’s aunt Velama Thankachi calls but is stuck in Gurgaon on the faulty yellow metro line. Sara’s uncle Prakash Junior is on duty in Mumbai and cannot respond from calls coming from all concerned people using their mobiles to reach him with the sad news.
The chatter goes on until midnight. Sara is exhausted and so is her mother. Najju, the Nepali maid who fell alsleep on a mat in the kitchen, is awake now. She has little knowledge of what is going on as her understanding of Hindi is still little. Dishes are collected quickly and loudly. Vimala and Sara walk upstairs to their respective bedrooms but none of them can really sleep alone after this strange evening.
-Come here, my chellam, Vimala says. Come to me and let’s not be alone. I have left you too much alone I know.
-No no. No. You are the best mother and only mother I have, Sara says while she walks behind her.
Daugther and mother speak until three in the morning. About Bo Andersson, about her, Saraswati Andersson Pillay and how to get to the Swedish embassy in Chanakyapuri in time before school starts for both of them. Sara wonders how her mother can talk of taxi cabs and drivers at a time like this and in the middle of the night but does not comment. Vimala continues until she does not get any reactions from Sara beside her under a bed sheet. Time, Kala, has come to the Pillay family in Delhi.
Morning chai and chapatis. Vimala calls her school in Defence Colony nearby and tells the school secretary that she will be busy with a private matter all day but can be reached on mobile. She chews her chapatis slowly, dips them in yogurt and pickles before the pieces go into her mouth. Sara is taking a morning shower in her bathroom. Vimala is done with her morning preparations before Sara as always.
Even if this is an exceptional day visiting the diplomatic enclave for serious matters, she behaves almost as if she was going to her school office. Getting up early and having a good breakfast after a morning walk has been her routine since 15 years back. This morning she did not take the usual walk in Lodi Gardens. She can hear Taashi, the neighbour Gurcharan Das’ dog, barking outside in the court yard, strotting ahead of his master balancing a stick between his teeth as usual.
-Sara, we must try to get there early. I call for a cab at 8.30, ok ?
Sara responds affirmatively with a grin coming out from her bath. Yes, to force the crowds at the Swedish Embassy in the diplomatic enclave at Chanakyapuri needs time, patience and plenty of water bottles. Vimala lays down two in her large purse, a proper principal’s purse, along with their passports and birth certificates.
-Don’t forget the letter, Sara exclaims, while they run down the stairs to the cab waiting at Jor Bagh Colony Road.
Her mother smiles and pats her purse. The two tired women greet Kumar, the familiar driver cosen for the day, and get into the cab. No AC needed yet with only 18 degrees in cool late February. Half an hour later across south Delhi they reach the embassy. The driver asks if he should wait.
-Yes, but you can go and eat something, says Vimala and give Kumar 400 rupees.
He looks a bit disappointed but trots away to his car and steers away to his usual dhaba. Vimala tells him that they need him for at least four hours so there is enough time for a break with some sleep in the car after an early lunch.
When Sara and Vimala tell the gate officer in charge who they are, someone from the consular section walks out and bid them in and they enter quickly. The male consular officer is not Swedish but not Indian either, Sara thinks. Vimala just looks sad and anxious as they are shown to some sofa chairs in the waiting room.
-You wait here until we will come for you, the consular officer says. It may take some time.
Vimala nods. Sara fiddles with her long dark hair. They prepare for a long waiting time. But after just 20 minutes the officer comes back. His hair is light brown like Swedes have theirs, but his black moustache is definitely Indian looking. He walks them into a separate section at the embassy where they need to force a security door. A tall Swedish man comes to greet them with a small smile. He gestures towards a large room with high ceilings and textile decorations.
-Hello, Madame Pillay and Miss Andersson Pillay. I am Henry Johansson, the acting ambassador for Sweden to India. Please sit down.
The consular officer closes the doors behind them and the three are alone in a large beautiful room with Scandinavian designed tables, textile drapers and carpets. Minimal effort, maximum effect.
-I am deeply moved by the passing away of your father and your partner, the ambassador starts, directing his face towards Sara but also to Vimala.
The two women remain silent. Sara gestures with her hands powerlessly. Her eyes water and Vimala hands her a small white handkerchief. The table feels immense. Thick Nordic pine trees weigh under her elbows as she cries slowly. Vimala is more collected.
-Yes, we are very sad. Very sad indeed. This has never happened before . . .So unexpected.
Her words sound so stupid to hear she notices but cannot stop now. She enters into a long explanation of their relationship, of Bo the Swede she met, and of Sara, their daughter. The ambassador listens for a few minutes before he finds a small pause and says.
-Of course. I understand that your ties was nothing like a marriage. But I am here to explain some circumstances around his death that you need to know and understand.
Sara and Vimala stare with their mouths half opened. The ambassador starts by explaining his own presence as it is not customary for ambassadors to receive visitors related to the deaths of Swedes to their Indian relatives. They look even more puzzled. He pauses, looks them straight into their eyes and takes a deep breath.
-Bo Andersson was a man of great integrity and courage. He was not well liked by all people due to his views and political affiliations. A man like Bo had enemies. Until recently I had no idea how many, but the security service in Sweden has now briefed me about his death and I am more sad now than before to have tell you that he was killed.
-His enemies did not want him alive for ideological and political reasons.
Vimala lets out a loud cry while Sara buries her face in her hands. The ambassador who has given similar stark messages before in similar occasions do not make much of a pause before his next line.
-He was a 60 year old bachelor, a senior government offical in calm Sweden. But he was not just that, as he was a member of our parliament. A controversial position that made people outside parliament angry, mad, and yes violent. His attackers were not just one person but a group of activists. Bo knew of them, as did some other politicians and the secret service.
The ambassador explains that the night Bo was killed he had been to a meeting. Security guards had followed him from his office to his car. Central Stockholm is usually much spared from terrorism. The guards had not been careful enough to see a van sliding up close to Bo’s car, smashing his window and pulling him out before he had put his seat belt on. The van drove off, leaving guards with no clues. The next morning Bo was found outside an industrial dump north of Märsta suburb. Neck slain, knifed stomach, groin smashed. This was done the day before yesterday. Last night an Islamist group called Hizb Suedi ut- Islam was blamed for killing Bo Andersson.
Vimala hears the voice, deep and touched. Her hands tap on the table cloth. Sara thinks of her father, now dead. His neck open with blood, veins, vocal cords, his voice silenced. She knew him as a controversial figure in Sweden and had seen him once of twice mentioned on BBC, which had made her proud but now she was mostly confused. She rests her arms in her lap and tries to make questions to the ambassador who looks stressed. He looks at her but does not smile or give any response to her inquiring gaze.
-Why? How could they be so stupid? And cruel. I do not understand politics at all but to die for or kill for politics seems . . .
Sara jolts back in her chair, arms fly around and tears run down her cheeks. Vimala holds her in her arms and the ambassador waits until Sara has cried herself dry and pale.
-What I am here for is to tell you to be careful and to be prepared for much media attention. Bo’s death will be known outside Sweden and there are similar groups on both sides here in India that take any excuse for retaliation. You know what I mean .
Vimala and Sara nod. Pakistan and India had the last year exchanged a short war in Kashmir at the Line Of Control which did not end until US stepped in, this time openly. Delhi had many violent fundamentalist groups that could make Sara’s and Vimala’s cozy lives in Jor Bagh a nightmare if they were drawn into the frontlines between violent Muslims and violent Hindus.
The ambassador explains that he could not say more for security reasons but there was no reason for panic. Just pay attention, inform their security at the colony and maybe have a guard for some time.
-I wanted inform you two as you are related to a Swedish citizen even though none of you are citizens. The funeral should be soon and if you go, please inform us about the travel details. Here is the number to our security officer, he says and gives Vimala a card.
-If you may excuse me, I am about to leave for Chennai in a bit. I am very very sorry having to tell you this. Even though I never met Bo Andersson, I had and still have the deepest respect for him and his courage. He was an exceptional man and such people make exceptional enemies and become sometimes victims.
Sara and Vimala rise and leave with the ambassador walking ahead of them. The two women are exhausted from hearing of the murder. A woman takes care of them and gets them some coffee in a separate room before they start to think about getting on with the daily life in Delhi. Sara asks Vimala if she thinks it is dangerous to go with their regular driver now. Vimala shakes her head. Of course they can go with Kumar. No problem.
Vimala calls the driver. He will be there in 15 minutes, which by now is noon and in 25 degrees. They stay inside the embassy, talking in low voices, shocked. Not until a man from the gate comes to tell them that a cab driver is waiting for them do they rise from the swanky Swedish designed chairs.
In the ride back they pass many embassies with tight security gates, which they notice with new eyes. Kumar has to drive around the American embassy at Shantipath in a wide circle before he can get out. The car is stopped once by guards at the Arab Culture Centre opposite the US embassy, but Kumar manages to get on quickly. Sara has no patience with any delays but Vimala calms her down.
-Tell me Amma, tell me. What shall we do? I don’t know. I can’t think. Awful. Horrible.
Sara cries in the back of the little car. Kumar checks her in the rear mirror but does not let out a word or make her know that he has seen her tears. Vimala just sits with her arm around Sara until they reach Jor Bagh. Suddenly all has been questioned. Their lives there, Bo’s life in Sweden. Their life in upper middle class Jor Bagh could be caught between rivalling violent groups. Is that what the ambassador meant? Vimala cannot make up her mind as they climb the stairs to their flat on second floor. Sara looks more scared than Vimala but they do not say anything until they are alone. Not even Thatha can be present when Vimala make inquiries for the best security among her neighbours.
He mutters while they sit in Vimala’s bedroom and make calls and calls, Sara surfing the net over and over again, reading reviews of security outfits as Vimala mentions them to her. Velama Thankachi, Vimala’s little sister in Gurgaon, south of Delhi, is the most reliable source of household responsibilities, as she stays at home in a well-guarded high rise building there with many security contacts. Vimala talks with her for a long time about the death and Sara and Sweden. Thankachi will visit tomorrow. The Pillay house of death has had so many visitors that Vimala tried to avoid the young aunt Thankachi Velama to see her niece Sara but of course that is impossible. Death of a father ever so distant must be cured by family. A murder even more.
Grandfather Thatha is surprised as they mention the violent death of his daughter’s foreign and vacant partner, who he never had met. He asks Sara about her feelings but does not get an answer he is satisfied with and walks slowly back into his room. Sara is his favourite grandchild yet also unknown to him. Foreign. Videsi. Veḷinaṭṭu. His blood and some stranger’s blood mixed. Thatha rests and the women continue as if there was an imminent threat to their lives outside.
Two days later Sara gets a call on her mobile while out on town in a auto rickshaw with Krishna. They stop by a café and walk in to get away from all noise. They are not a couple but like each other and especially now in her distress, he helps her a lot. The call is from the Swedish embassy and informs her about the funeral in the coming weeks. An express notice will be sent her residence this afternoon with all details.
-Thank you madam, Sara replies, is there anything one should wear at Swedish funerals ?
The consular person on the other end of the mobile phone line says that dark colours, black is worn but being Indian nobody would be disturbed if she does not know Swedish traditions and customs. Sara sits down with Krishna who has heard the word funeral.
-What ? They have a funeral now? He died fours days ago, he says with some emotion not well hidden beneath his accusative voice.
-Don’t ask me, premi. Swedes are not so strange but they have maybe some cold in the ground that makes it hard for them to dig so quickly and bury people.
They drink their coffees, discussing the Indian tradition of immediate cremation and agree that climate may be the cause for waiting so long in Scandinavia.
-The funeral will be in two weeks. That makes him dead there for almost three weeks, Sara says out load.
Krishna silences her with a quick hug. Some couples and singles look bewildered at them but leave their sometimes loud discussion of funerals and corpses unmentioned.
-I definitely want to go, Sara says. I am not afraid to fly and have no entrances exams for a month. Amma must come though. I can’t go to Sweden alone.
Krishna leans back and smiles. She looks at him and says that however much she likes him, he cannot come with her. He smiles again. They realize how close they have been drawn to each other the last days when the terrible news of her father’s assassination was spread even to India.
Sara carried for a few days the small news item, labelled “Controversial Swedish politician killed” in Times of India the day after the embassy visit. She tries to not read it again but reads it again for Krishna:
“Bo Andersson, age 60, died in an attack in central Stockholm, Sweden on February 26, 2020. He was pulled into a passing van from his car and killed outside the city. The motive seems to be related to his controversial views on immigration and Islam, which made him similar to the Dutch politician Geert Wilders, killed 2015 by Islamists in Amsterdam. A Muslim group is blamed but a police investigation is still in process”. REUTERS-AP-PTI
Krishna looks at her and she is pale under her brown skin. Her slightly brownish hair is unkept and her eyes flicker. He holds her arms, one hand around each forearm, pulling them gently towards each other. The café is jostling with gossip, students munching on cakes, wireless devices, but Sara and Krishna are not there. They are in a cold northern land with ground frost, frozen corpses and terrorists. Snowfall and ice. Sara realizes that Bo’s body which had been dumped on the group may have started to freeze in the Swedish winter cold. In Sweden as in India. Yama, the Lord of Death, comes at his predestined time, Kala. Sara is not consciously thinking about Hindu gods but she knows them better than Jesus and God.
-Bless my father. God bless him, she almost chants. He did not do harm but harm was done to him. He could not do anything more than what he believed in. The rest is up to God.
Krishna nods. He says that if you do not do evil but is done evil to, you will be praised forever as an example. A martyr. Sara does not like this kind of talk but let him speak for awhile about the idea of non-action, non-doing. To act without idea of consequences. Pure action with only intention. Karma will be rewarded with merit or punishment Krisna concludes him short café lecture.
-You know what I think of all this, she says, so please stop. I cannot take in more now. My father is dead and you discuss Hinduism. Religion is what caused his death. I am a Christian but do not let that determine my politics or other people’s politics or make me kill anyone. Why can’t just people get along?
Her 19 year old body and soul seem to be back now at the café with Krishna and fellow teenagers chattering around them. She has grown older since the embassy visit and the odd new horrible talk of her father’s murder. Why can’t people just get along is the teenage Sara’s question, while not bothering about guards, the security of her mother at work and grandfather at home, all new routines and challenges. But the elder Sara worries.
They pay and leave the café feeling better than when they got in. An auto rickshaw is empty outside and they enter. Sara drops Krishna by his colony in Green Park and continues to Jor Bagh with her mind rattling around funeral preparation, karmic justice and her father’s faith. She has no idea about his religious beliefs since she met him only a few times. Being in India religion is everywhere and Sara cannot almost imagine people not being religions at all. Even the rickshaw driver has a small plastic Ganesha statue sitting with his elephant trunk in front of his steering wheel. Muslims, Hindus, Christians, Jains and Sikhs are all present actually on this small ride from southwest to southeast Delhi, as they pass many mandirs, one church, one gurdwhara and two mosques on their way. Sara realizes that the only way to miss religious buildings, and with that religion itself, must be to take the metro. A Western mode of transport. Maybe Swedes only use underground trains she ponders as she gets out of the small three wheeled motor rickshaw and into the yard. Time for a short afternoon nap, then a talk with her mother, Vimala the busy principal and single mother, about the coming Swedish funeral.
The maid has made sweet ginger chai for her when she wakes up. Her throat always gets sore in the dry and cold Delhi winter with its thick fog and pollution. Ginger is good for everything everyone says but especially good for winter ills. She drinks the milky tea while sitting in her room. Thatha is still sleeping as his afternoon naps are much longer than anyone else’s. At his 75 years, senior government officer Prakash Narasimha Pillay, a.k.a. Thatha, has the right to rest as much as he wants.
Sara is fond of her maternal grandfather and likes to tease him for being so stingy with money. He always responds that if he had not been so careful with money, none of this would have come to them: their three bedroom flat in Jor Bagh posh neighbourhood, the fancy car, house help, and a steady flow of cash from the bank. The latter she was not teasing him about at all. Once she critically commented all the fat accounts the bank and then Vimala had told her that money and its origins was not to be discussed lightly, and preferably not at all in the Pillay household. Wealth had come from fertile Tamil lands and prosperous Punjabi textiles to their Delhi house after 1947. Prakash N. Pillay’s government position had only contributed a little to what had already been there from his Tamil vellalar caste of landed gentry from centuries before him and his late wife’s family trades in Faisalabad textiles in what was Pakistan now.
She is hungry but had to wait for her mother to be back, which never happens before 7 pm on weekdays. The maid is cutting onions and carrots in the kitchen as Sara enters. Najju blushes as if she had done something forbidden- Sara notices but let her be. Nepalis are different, not much different but still, Sara thinks, while she roams around the cupboard, looking for cookies.
After a long time in front of the flat tv screen with news channels from India and international, Sara hears Vimala entering the door.
-Oh, chellam, How have you been? I am so tired, she lets out, while unloading her purse with gadgets, papers, folders and small bags with her favourite snacks, bhel puri and churmuri. She sits down at the dinner table and munching from the opened snacks. Najju comes with water that Vimala drinks heavily from while giving her orders on dal, subji and two side dishes of the only kind Najju now can master of the mostly Punjabi style cuisine at the Pillays.
-I have been eating rubbish all day since not having had lunch or anything to eat all day. Tell me. Are you ok?
Sara sits down and assures her. Then she tells about the call from the embassy and funeral. Vimala listens carefully and asks details, which Sara gives her from an official embassy letter that came while she slept.
-No chellam. I can not go. We have exams by then and my staff is not able to handle the pressure and decisions alone. They are really too spoilt but I can’t leave them. Sorry.
She gets up, looks around and sits back again. Her voice trembles and she is full of emotions, fear, curiosity, duty, dread, loneliness. Her face looks drawn in all directions and the kajal smears her eyes. Sara says that she can not go alone to a strange country, even if her father lived there.
-If you don’t go, I can’t.
-Well, it is up to you. But I think you should.
-Why? I have nothing there. No family. My father is dead. He was the only one there I could at least remember.
-Listen Sara. You are 19, not married or into school yet. You have a passport and we will get money for the trip, no problem. I talked to Thatha this morning. You go, chellam. You must.
Sara is surprised by Vimala’s decision to let her go alone and to push for her travel. How can she bring Sara into a web of unknown relationships in a foreign country?
-Does Thatha want me to go? Sara asks, while helping with setting the dinner table.
-You know what he thinks about your father. But yes, he still thinks a funeral must have the closest family around and you are in fact his only child. A funeral of a father without his children is unimaginable, Thatha said. I am in favour but you decide. If I had better teachers I could go, but as now, not possible. And I don’t know what I would do there anyway.
-That’s how I feel Amma. What is there in Sweden ?
-Your dead father is there and if you do not go you would regret it later, I know. Chellam dear, what to do? It is so horrible, I could never imagine getting you into something like this. Why?
She has said this over and over but Sara has not thought properly about the question until now. The strange murder of her unknown father in unknown land far away. Getting into something like for her this means going through new feelings and thoughts every minute since the sad news broke a week ago. Sara just sits and stares. Who was he? Who killed him? How could he make people so angry?
They eat silently while the maid serves them. She does not open her mouth unless spoken to so they are taken by surprise when she rests by the end of the table and speak in strong Nepali accented Hindi.
-Madame, I am sorry about your husband.
-Thank you Nejju. He was not my husband . . . never mind. Thank you.
Sara smiles to the maid who quickly returns to the kitchen area and to eat on the floor. Silence and death roam around the three women. The house has changed into a mausoleum with the few pictures of Bo Andersson the distant father all over tables and drawers. Thatha is not able to break their heavy strong female bond of sorrow when he enters and sit at the table.
-What is the matter with you? he says. I am still here.
Vimala tries to talk more him but fails. They continue to eat in silence. Sara is the first to rise and she goes into her room to call Krishna. They talk about her attending the funeral, Vimala’s wish for her to travel even alone and Sara being the sole child and heir to someone she hardly have met.
-Try to be just to him. He deserves your presence there, Krishna says. I know it is hard and that I can’t join you but you should go. No question. It is duty. Family matters are the same everywhere.
-Sweden seems so distant and cold. Duty to people I do not know and care about. From what I know Swedes are not close at all.
-Sarasvati Andersson Pillay, you are next-of-kin. That is where the buck stops. Pick it up. It is true. There must be duty or else . . . I don’t know what to say.
They exchange more topics on funerals and family, religion and responsibilities, until she puts down the mobile phone and lie on the bed. A decision will be made by the morning she has promised him. Vimala and Thatha talk with low voices outside her door. Sara does not want to discuss her attending the funeral with them anymore. Krishna, her mother and her granddad – all agree, yes she should go, no matter what. Somehow she is drawn to the mystery of attending a funeral of a killed man but the fact repulses her too and scares her. Terror is the fear of unknown enemies and events. The group who killed her father was some Swedish Islamist terrorists. Sara has the night to decide. She goes into her bathroom, brushes her teeth and go to bed without bidding Amma and Thatha good night. They leave her alone, making small noises in the house while getting ready for the night.
Morning walks for Sara are rare but she joins Vimala at 5.30. They take the usual path around the closest tomb in Lodi Gardens, Mohammed Shah’s 15th century final rest. The grass is still green, trees are not yet wilting and a peacock sings distantly. They meet and greet neighbours who stop quickly to give their condolences to them but hurry onwards as the strange family setup seems to bother them. As a single mother, Vimala is still threat to the neighbours’ Indian traditions and Sara an offspring and evidence of lax sexual attitudes. Even if not true, Vimala senses their reservations.
Vimala and Sara come back refreshed after the walk and enter the household, finding Thatha up early.
-But Thatha-ji, you are awake, says Vimala.
-There is a time for everything and now I want to hear about Sara and her father’s funeral. It can not wait any longer.
They gather at the dinner table, star with appams with curd, chai and some hot rasam soup for winter colds and recurring sore throats.
-Well, Thatha and Amma. I have no other option than to go.
Sara says this looking like a ghost, with her hair flowing around her lean face that now looks more thin than ever before.
-Good good, her grandfather says.
-It is the right thing to do whatever else happens or has happened. Good girl, chellam.
They start planning her trip. The funeral is in early March, so leaving on the 1st seems best. Flight is booked online, passport checked, but visa is needed. Sara calls the embassy and is granted a three week visa through an online secured channel. She informs the security officer at the embassy about her visit and he recommends a safe hotel in Uppsala, the university town where the funeral will be held. Sara is eager to plan everything and her fear of terror is forgotten for a moment. So is the purpose of her visit, the death of her father Bo Andersson, the Geert Wilders of Sweden as the news agencies had called him, both controversial and assassinated.