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Suzanne Fisher Staples


The Choice and The Wedding

Cholistan, page 2

page 1 of 3

After the wedding, Shabanu's relatives disperse into the desert. Sharma is among the last to leave. She pulls Shabanu aside to remind her to act wisely and to remember that she always has a choice. Shabanu begs her for guidance, but Sharma demurs, emphasizing that only Shabanu can decide what to do. Shabanu feels confused and frightened.

On the way home, Shabanu joins her parents in singing and acting brightly, trying to ease the ache of missing Phulan. The camels begin dancing beneath them to their songs, and Xhush Dil knocks Dadi off of his back with his dancing.

When they return home, they find that most of the sand from the storm has been blown away. Rain begins to fall, and Shabanu feels relieved to be home.

The next morning, she rises as always to tend to the camels, but Dadi stops her. He commands her to stay and help Mama fix breakfast. Shabanu begins to protest, but Mama hushes her. Dadi stalks outside, and Mama reminds her that a betrothed girl must take responsibility for the housework. While Shabanu asserts that she can both keep house and tend the camels, she remembers Sharma's warnings and silences herself. She spends a miserable morning inside.

In the afternoon, she goes out to look for mushrooms and finds Mithoo. She hugs him and wonders sadly if her whole life will consist of stealing away for a few moments of private happiness in the desert. She takes heart and carefully folds the moment away as part of her hidden, inner reserves of happiness.

The days pass. The family digs new cisterns in the ground. Rain comes and fills them up. They seal the cisterns and anticipate drinking from them when the rain has stopped and the toba has gone dry. Shabanu notices her growing breasts with suspicion and hopes beyond hope that somehow she will remain a child and never begin to menstruate. When her period begins, she panics. If she tells Mama, her parents will contact Rahim-sahib to set a date for the wedding. Shabanu secretly tears up a worn out skirt into strips and does not tell Mama that she is bleeding.

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