The Purple Lotus

Smita Bhattacharya

She could walk on water but no one knew. She did not want anyone to know. But today it was about the lotus. The clusters of pale purple flowers that sprung like gasping mouths along the far end of the lake. The lake itself was a glassy green debris sprawled at the back of an ancient abandoned citadel; no one ventured there because they thought it cursed, inhabited by ghosts, the lotuses aberrations. But she differed. She’d first seen the purple lotus five years ago when she’d just come to the village and escaped to the back in search of some fresh air. And there they were, a bunch of three, staring at her as if need of succor. We are kinfolks, she thought and stepped into the water, knowing easily that her feet would find its way on its tremulous surface, as if stepping on mossy green tarpaulin. She knew she could do it just as she did the other remarkable things once she put her mind to it. But she wasn’t supposed to tell people about it; her father had taught her that very young. But she’d promised her sick boy a lotus. And she was going to pluck one for him today.


What a bitch, he thought. What an absolute waste of flesh. This was another of the mystic powers that the villagers were beginning to murmur about. They were calling her a goddess. But he knew she was probably a witch. Surely a witch! One time he had caught her snuffing off the kerosene lamp with a blink; she thought he hadn’t seen. The other time it was settling down a mad bull with a whistle; it was faint but he’d heard. Oh, she tried to hide it, but he knew well enough. He’d noticed, unbelieving at first but gradually seeing, believing. Something was wrong with her. No wonder her father had been diffident when handing her over for marriage. He had been cheated. He was going to teach her a lesson today. So, she would never attempt any of her magic again. Like walking on fuckin’ water.


He couldn’t understand what was happening at first. He watched as his mother walked to the floating purple flowers, leaned over and then look up startled as his father let out a large bellow and charged towards her. When his father reached the edge of the water, he seemed to hesitate for a moment, then plunged right in. Swam, Swam, Swam. It wasn’t a big lake but his father seemed not to be moving. And his mother stood where she was, immobile. His father swam, but… stayed where he was. The boy looked up, at his mother, standing still, a gentle, wondering smile on her face. He had seen his mother do magic many times but his father never saw it. He never wanted to see it. He was angry, he was always angry at her. So, she did not show him. But the boy knew the magic lotus was important to make him well, his mother had said that in the morning before she left the house. And he did not want to be sick anymore. But what about his father? He watched as his head bobbed and arms flailed on the surface of the lake, as if something was pulling him under. Father, stop! he wanted to cry out but did not. Because he did not want his father to stop and his mother to be hurt anymore. And he really, truly and so badly wanted the purple lotus.


Smita Bhattacharya is a 37 year old, award winning short story writer based out of Mumbai. Her short stories have appeared in Indian and international publications (The Statesman, DNA, Fiction Magazines, Fem, Chicago Literati, Eastlit, Earthen Lamp Journal, Elsewherelit, Tall Tales, the Pomegranate anthology). She has two published books: He Knew a Firefly and Vengeful, both of which rank among the top 100 Asian Literature & Fiction on More about her can be found at:

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