Friday, 4 July 2014

Mina in the Spring by Amita Murray

Mina’s father died peacefully in his sleep a few days ago. He was not murdered in his bed. This was an odd-fact.

Odd-fact number two was that Krishan had known he was terminally ill and had chosen to tell no one, or at least not his daughter.

Mina sat by the Serpentine watching a pair of swans cruise by with a cygnet. The cygnet floated backwards, see-sawing against the tide, unsure of just about everything.

It was the day of Krishan’s memorial service.


The sweat from Mina’s run clung coldly to her back. Two wet patches lurked under her breasts. Her body, still from the winter, was waking up slowly into the half-light of pre-rush-hour London-in-the-Spring.

It was March.

The weather now sun now rain now wispy floating pollen in the breeze peeling off tree branches, climbing into yawning noses, was predictable in its fickleness. The sun was too bright. The cold too cold.

Londoners had taken off their clothes already. Bare freckled shoulders sat next to quivering beagle. Ducks waddled up to children the same size as they, side-otherside side-otherside, waddle waddle waddle, like old people with their sticks.

Mina lay back on the grass and stared at the sky.

Being dead had not made her father more palatable.

Unlike squid or chicken or battered shattered eggs that did become infinitely more palatable dead than alive, Krishan remained like an unshattered egg or a royal crowing cock.

Or like a cuckoo clock, tweeting you’re-no-good, you’re-no-good every hour on the hour. You’re-no-good equalling you’re-bad. That was the lesson Mina learnt as a child and spent the rest of her life trying to undo. (It wasn’t working.) She learnt it the same year she learnt that good-girls-don’t-tell-lies. Then what was she supposed to do today, the day of his service? What kind of truth could make her father palatable? (She could lie, of course.)


A mother dragged a little girl by her pink jacket, patched with a Winnie the Pooh making his way through a jar of honey. The mother was walking the forward-leaning trudge of one pushing against a strong in-coming gale.

“You know, you know you’re not supposed to do that, Chelsea. You know!” the mother wailed. “You know it’s wrong! Why, why do you make me so aaaan-gry?”

The child with her blonde pigtails tied a-little-wide-eyed with latent Christmas twine must be a serial puppy-killer. But no. It seemed that Chelsea had committed the sin of picking a spring crocus. She had placed the flower on top of her chocolate ice-cream. Then anticipating the wrath of her mother, she had inserted the ensemble into the pocket of her pink coat. From here the chocolate patch had ominously spread, giving Winnie the poo.

“It’s a false goose chase, it’s a false goose chase!” Chelsea’s cries faded in the distance.

How to utter words of regret. Things unsaid, words eaten unchewed and swallowed whole. Words that couldn’t be spit out no matter how much she tried. Words were knurly, their textures, the cadence of a sentence formed in a mouth much more interesting than its meaning. This Mina discovered when she was thirteen. The same year she realized that girls bled and mothers could just leave.

That parents had sex, but not always with each other.

That (half)Indian girls developed (breasts) earlier than their (whole)English counterparts.

That swimming suits clung to half-Indian girls in unlikely places.

When you lost parents, you gained

Perspective, One. Rather shaky, but Own.

Soon thereafter she learnt that To Kiss a Cousin is Wrong and Illegal.

That people in paintings could spring out and speak to you.

That daydreams were real, whereas real life was a daydream.


Mina’s apartment building with its red-brick façade and bay windows was on a quiet side street in Earls Court. She was below street level in her basement flat. The slate roof with its curly lace bargeboard dripped teardrops on to the patio. Long, slow and heavy, they made their way down the edge of the curl, then plopped on to the concrete. As she sat on the step, Mina could hear the arc of people passing by, the rising sush-sush of feet and the murmurturningintoaudiblewordsintomurmur, overlaid by others. The cast iron railing and the obligatory plants planted by the local authority brought glimpses of half-heard lives.

The patio though was empty of plants. Mina was afflicted by the opposite of green fingers and managed within days of receiving an obscenely healthy plant from friends to slaughter it beyond recognition.

Day 1: Tender plant

Day 2: Withered droopy sad leaf

Day 3: Bare brown stick

When she was twenty-one, Mina graduated in Management because this is what people did. Since this is what people did, she got a Job. What people? Not sure. Obscure nameless others, who dressed in suits every day, and walked the lonely-crowded walk every morning through London streets to work, balancing mobile phone Starbucks handbag newspaper jostling painful high heels cold wind rain.

By twenty-five, she was battling depression. Searching, searching for the art that had kept her going through childhood and the silences against her cold, cold father that stood in for rage. When she left her job to become an artist, her father said that:

Work was work

And art was art

And work therefore was not art.

And art was not work.

If you leave your job, I’ll never speak to you again, he said.

So, she left.


At the memorial service, she stood silently staring at the expectant faces. Looking up at her, expecting her to say.  Kind. Things.

You’re-no-good. You’re no good. She placed her hands on her ears now. Good girls don’t tell lies.
She took a breath. “I never really knew my father. He hid himself behind a wall. A wall made of cold words,” she started. 

About the Author: Amita Murray is a writer, based in London. She has published stories in Brand, Inkspill and other literary platforms, and has more coming up in The Writing Disorder and Wasifiri. She blogs for the Huffington Post, and her novels Confessions of a Reluctant Embalmer and The Pre-Raphaelite Seamstress are available on Amazon. Find her @AmitaMurray and 

Image: (c) A J