favorite passages from sister of my heart.

i put off reading sister of my heart for years, and i think it was because i knew it would be one of those books that would impact me in more ways than i could understand. in the end i think i read it at exactly the time i needed it, and today i am sharing all of my favorite lines and passages.

…there are times when one should search for answers and times when one should let matters be // 20

i wait for sudha to agree, but instead she draws back a little and looks at me with a slight, ironic smile. as though she knows already what it’ll take me years to figure out: promises may be fulfilled, yes, but not always in the way we imagine // 68

a bird may escape a cage built of hate, of the desire for power. but a cage built of need? of love’s darkness? // 71

‘i’m not sure you know me either.’ but now she’s smiling / he raises her hand to his cheek — here, right in the middle of calcutta, with the whole world looking on. is he immensely brave, or merely stupid? ‘there are ways and ways of knowing.’ he’s smiling too // 82

perhaps she’s right to hope. perhaps love and longing can make a magic around them // 83

‘and she fell in love, just like that?’ i’m a little scornful / ‘just like that.’ / ‘why?’ / ‘because he was the one to wake her and tell her about the magical universe of men — diamond light on sleek mango leaves, the kokils crying to their mates from the coconut trees. he rescued her from sameness, from too much safety. there had been no mirrors in the palace. when she looked into his eyes, their dark center, she saw herself for the first time, tiny, and doubled, and beautiful. i think that’s why she loved him most. without him she’d never have known who she was.’ // 86

that’s how it is sometimes when we plunge into the depths of our lives. no one can accompany us, not even those who would give up their hearts for our happiness // 90

‘…i guess there’s a lot we hope for that never happens.’ // 95

sometimes the pain is so deep, the only way to survive it is to keep one’s attention on something immense beyond human sorrow / if there were a falling star now, i know what i would wish for. i would wish ashok a new love, one that held no hurt in it. if there is such a thing // 130-1

and suddenly the fact that we are leaving each other cuts into me like a whiplash — the way truths do, sooner or later, when you have kept your gaze turned deliberately away from them // 140

how beautiful she looks. more beautiful than she’s ever looked in her life, i hear the guests whisper as they admire the chandan marks on her forehead, the translucent flush on her cheeks, the way she lowers her thick lashes modestly as she follows ramesh. but then they’ve never seen her bare-breasted on a stormy night, her soul flashing in her eyes // 150

a long time ago, in school, i’d watched a movie of a california redwood tree that had been struck by lightning. it hadn’t burned up, as one would have expected, or been charred black. from the outside, it looked almost like the other trees. but one day a man leaned against it — and the tree crashed to the ground. when they looked inside, they saw that its entire core was hollow, and filled with ash / i feel like i’m that tree // 151

…how quickly the sweetest love turns rancid when it isn’t returned. when the one you love loves someone else // 153

is this how it’s always going to be in my life, love and caring denied to me where i expect them, and given when i am not looking? // 210

i feel i should pray, so i kneel and place my head on the bricks. but i am too distracted. when i close my eyes, unrelated images flash across them. ramesh drinking tea as he leafs through a paper, a stray cat i used to feed as a child, the shiva temple where ashok presses his marigold-scented lips on mine, the back of singhji’s turbaned head as he drives anju and me to school, the way a fugitive sorrow flits across anju’s veiled face as she watches sunil watching me at our wedding. so much unfulfilled desire in this world, so many people in need of help. what — who — shall i pray for? // 215

because that’s the thing about us human beings when we really love someone, we can be happy even while our heart is breaking // 222

have to believe in possibility. how else can we bear the enormous weight of life? // 252

i stare at my husband. at the dark, heavy shapes of the words he has just released into the air between us. how little i know of this man. how little we ever know of the men we rush into loving // 252

my heart beats erratically, as though i were still that naive girl in the cinema hall, balanced on the threshold of adulthood, my eyes dazzled by its neon magic. my foolish heart, as though the world has not taught me a hundred bitter lessons since then // 258

the events of our lives have marked us, yes, but they have not changed our essential selves, no more than an avalanche changes the rock-heart of the mountain slope over which it crashes // 260

in dreams begin follies // 264

…sometimes the only way to healing is through the corridor of pain // 290

now the last obstacle has crumbled, the last mountain of skull-bones crossed, the last monster beheaded. the last, best magic worked: the prince and princess turned into ordinary humans, but still finding each other worthy of love // 293

people rarely recognize things they are not expecting to see, even when they’re right in front of their eyes // 312

…when all the dross is melted away from the human heart, only gold remains // 314

it’s always interesting to me how certain books come into our lives at just the right moment, and this was certainly one of those books for me.


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