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Shabanu's voice is that of a young girl who knows and loves the desert. Her sentences are short, direct, elegant, and evocative of her surroundings: her clothes, now worn, were as blue as "the winter sky", the heat is "wicked", silk is yellow, "the color of mustard blooms", Grandfather's voice is "as rough as the windblown sand". With these descriptions, the narrator enriches our picture of the particulars of her life. Her comparisons and descriptions show us the colors, objects, and images available to her.

Shabanu speaks fluently about her present, but she cannot give language to her future. However, reminders of her future abound: Phulan's beautiful clothes remind her not only of Phulan's upcoming wedding but also of her own. Phulan's grief at the thought of leaving the desert foreshadows Shabanu's grief. She looks forward with childlike anticipation to traveling to the fair with Dadi and staying in the desert until the monsoons come and they must leave for Phulan's wedding, but she cannot or does not want to see beyond that point in time.

The presence of an unimaginable but undeniable future in Shabanu's narrative makes her idyllic life in the desert with her doting parents seem to be only a reprieve, as brief and ultimately powerless as the reprieve granted by the rain. The world around the family encroaches threateningly on them. Mama and Dadi's love deflects Auntie's complaints and worries about Shabanu and Phulan, but at the same time, Auntie makes clear that the culture around them rewards parents who have sons, not daughters. Once married, the two girls may have little power over where they live or when they see their mother and father or even, like Auntie, their husbands. Mehrabpur, where the girls will live once married, is a hostile and unwelcoming place. The girls hope that the impending storm of change will bring blessings, as the monsoon or unexpected winter rain does.

The monsoon, which marks the outermost limit of Shabanu's conceptualization of her future, symbolizes change—the changing of the seasons, Phulan's wedding, and, eventually, Shabanu's wedding. The monsoon, like change itself, is unpredictable: some years it brings a great deal of water, and sometimes it brings very little. Phulan and Shabanu depend, like their family, on the whims of the land and weather around them. More than their family, who are adults with established roles and relationships in the world, the two girls depend on the whims of fate and the people around them.