A Tale of Threes

A Tale of Threes

Sia Gupta | Art by Lorie Wu

It was a still shady night in the forest dotted with soft swaying trees when the Tiger awoke from his night’s sleep, yawned, and pricked his ears to the soft tip-taps that came from beyond the cave. He strode in between the crackle of branches until he reached the small opening by the lake, where he met the forest animals gathered at the edge of the brush- the ram, the bird, the owl- speckling tempered gold eyes in the dark. Along the water’s edge was a girl, twirling her dress as she flicked the water with the tips of her feet, taunting, as she felt their curious eyes upon her. And so began the tale of threes.


Then, it was January again and the fog and brisk cold settled among the streets of San Francisco where a young girl lived in her apartment. The moment it was morning she would put on her shoes, leave a note, and slip out the bolt door briskly before she would finally rub her eyes awake. 

Straight, left, right, and right down the pavement was the Deli where she grabbed the frosted handle and, as most days, chose sparkling water and a KitKat to bring to the counter. At 16 she used to greet the frail old man with a polite hello! but seeing as he never remembered her name, let alone looked up from his crossword booklet, by a year later she just smiled, slid her money onto the counter, thank you!, and left. The morning wind pushed the hair out of her face comfortably as she walked down the slope to the beachfront where each day at 5 am a group of cheery aunties held their dance groups. 

Hold for 12 seconds. By afternoon she had gotten on the bus to the dance studio fidgeting with old keychains on her duffle bag. Aaanndd switch. She liked observing the people on the streets beginning their days in different ways. At the intersection, she went up the grand red velvet stairs to the studio. Focus! Now 12 second variations. Aaannd go. The studio was nothing short of a palace with rosy pink walls and twirly trim; the girls would always crowd by the expansive 14-foot window during breaks, from where they could see the new mural being painted a street down. Let’s begin!

                     —————————————— Nani [grandmother] —————————————

1954, India

The Ram

OUCH. She gritted her teeth as her mom pulled back her hair and rubbed amla oil on her ends. Her mom, sitting on the chair above, told her that it would give you long, soft hair when you grow up, just dehko, really, and so she sat angrily and listened to the radio sing and echo in the kitchen. From the open window she heard the layered conversations of her neighbors, the fruit vendor, and the little grade 5 boys playing cards. 

And then it was presentation day! Mom dressed her up in a fabulous little handmade pink skirt and they took the bus to the school, spotted with many little girls and boys spiffed up in various bows and costumes and rosy-red cheeks. Her mom reached down and dropped a little bill and a few coins into her pocket, for snacks she said. And so the little girl left her mom’s hand and ran over to the crowd of students as all the parents went and crowded the hall. 

Behind the stage roll call was being taken by a grade 7 girl, who poised her walk with a little flick of her hair and tap of her heel as the little students looked up at her in awe. 

And as roll call was being taken, the little girl tiptoed her way into the crowd and joined her friends on the floor. Then came a shrill voice.

“Where did you get your skirt, Aabha?” 

She blinked. Turned. Her face felt hot.

“Did your mom make it?” She felt stifled laughs ring in her ear. A girl beside her pulled her hair in a jolt. It was true. 

“It’s not that bad, but you could have at least tried, you know? It’s our presentation day.” She laughed. 

Her mom had sewn her dress three nights before, and done her hair nicely just that morning. The girls at school had bought new silk skirts last week, and their hair had been primped by their older sisters in grade 11, who had their own rollers. But why was it so bad? Her mom and the countless hours she spent sewing, removing, trying, testing, and adorning it with little jewels that reflected like stars. 

She gritted her teeth. It was in a quick flurry that she ran over to the snack bin and grabbed a chocolate, laying whatever coins she had on the table, and, running back to the perpetrator, she threw it with all the force she had. 

She threw it at that silk skirt- the beautiful, lavish, silk skirt. The girls watched in horror. Some cried. Even the boys around them halted their games to watch the spectacle. And on that new, expensive silk skirt, melted a stain of muddy brown chocolate. 

The little girl stood there, taking in the silent gasps from the students of how she would ever think to do that! It was horrible! Foul! It was a new skirt, and it was expensive, that’s what it was. 

And yet, when the little boys and girls finally shuffled onto stage positioning themselves on their tape markers, with that ruined silk skirt and her band of teary-eyed followers, the little strutted onto the stage– twirling her little bejeweled skirt– and, facing the audience, beamed a grin of pure, everlasting joy. 

                                  —————————————— Mom ——————————————

1982, California

The Tiger

Listen, lady, do you know how a sales agreement works?” Uppishly adding, “It’s my percentage for sparing you all the hard work. Maybe your husband can explain it to you.” 

She gritted her teeth and stared up at his snobbish, arrogant, condescending little-



“When I hired you, we decided on four percent. It’s on the original document– do you want me to show you?”

“No need. Listen, what you don’t seem to understand,” he waved his finger in her face. “Is that things change– I want 7 percent. I’m putting your house on the market. I don’t seem to recall anybody else in this neighborhood who gonna take this crappy-”

She fired him. For two months since she had left the hospital the only thing she could think of was moving back to India. With her two-year-old son and newborn baby girl, she had to move now or never. For two months since she had left the hospital she had been trying to sell everything as fast as possible and go meet her husband in Mumbai who had been trying to find a house. Her children would grow up there. They would go to school there, and make friends there, and- was this the right decision?


In a week with her family reunited in Mumbai, she found her solace amidst the chaotic rhythm of the city. The honking of horns, the chatter of vendors, and the scent of spices intermingling in the air became the backdrop of their new life together- her, her little son, and her young daughter- hand in hand. Yet, amidst the bustling symphony, they were bound together as mother and daughter. It was five years later when they moved to San Francisco. 

One evening, as they sat together in their apartment, her daughter’s eyes sparked with a particular fire.

“Mom,” she said, her voice filled with conviction, and chewing on a KitKat, “I’ve got an idea for the dance recital.”

Intrigued, the mother leaned forward, her curiosity piqued. “Tell me more.”

“I want to choreograph a piece that tells our story,” the daughter exclaimed, her words tinged with excitement. “About Nani and you.” A smile spread across the mother’s face.”Okay.”

They delved into rehearsals with a fervor that matched the world outside their window. Every movement became a testament to their heritage, every step a celebration of their resilience. As the recital approached, anticipation crackled in the air like electricity before a storm. The stage awaited, a stole upon which they would paint their narrative. And on the big day, with lights dimmed and music pulsating through the air, the daughter took to the stage. 

Her movements flowed like poetry, each gesture imbued with the strength of her grandmother and the determination of her mother. In the audience, the mother watched with bated breath, her cheeks beaming as her daughter leaped and twirled with ferocity like her mother before her. As the final notes faded away, thunderous applause erupted throughout the auditorium. Tears pricked the mother’s eyes as she rose to her feet, joining in the standing ovation that reverberated through the room.

And as they left the stage hand in hand, mother and daughter shared a silent understanding. Their journey was far from over, but together, they would continue to dance through life’s challenges, their spirits intertwined like the intricate steps of their shared heritage.