Author’s note: This was so far the hardest and most fun to write chapter in this story. Part of that was the need to avoid cultural appropriation in the portrayal of a real world society, however far into the future it is projected. The other part was a desire for accuracy and fairness. I hope that in this chapter, I’ve succeeded in portraying even a fictionalized South Indian culture accurately and respectfully. So here is part 5 of the serial. Enjoy. ~ Troythulu
Than’yhidre and Meenakshi were fully attired for the day’s outing, both in stylish dress to avoid disapproving looks from the locals, with Meenakshi’s putavai, or South Indian sari, traditionally Tamil in cut and color, and Than’yhidre in a Moktuula-Yogg tabard and dual shoulder-wrap commonly worn by upper-class Kai’Siri women. Were it not for her dress and lavender-dyed braided hair, Than’yhidre would be hard to tell from a local woman. Kai’Siri were exempted from local laws banning muscle-powered weapons, but concealed weapons were not permitted, so Than’yhidre wore her Miduuk-Yokku nanoblade openly, peace-bound in a sheath, but ready to be released and used at a moment’s notice in her expert hands.
Meenakshi spoke momentarily in her guide’s voice.
“Chennai was rebuilt almost from scratch as part of the planetary reconstruction from pre-Shutter records and biological samples of plant and animal life found in vaults on Mars, by the best scholars, scientists, and engineers the emperor could find. The bombardment of India by a wandering Broogh swarmfleet in BIY-259 had caused vast devastation to the subcontinent. Cities were leveled, mountains flattened, forests razed, and tens of crores in the region died in the first salvo. The Broogh were defeated with the coming of a rival swarmfleet that the pre-imperial governments of the Solar System joined forces with. The Broogh you saw yesterday are descendants of that same allied swarmfleet. It’s been five centuries hence, and only within the last eighty years was reconstruction completed. My family line are among the survivors who rebuilt Tamil Nadu and Kerala districts. My great, great grandparents led the reconstruction and repair of surviving temples and other ancient buildings.”
She then lowered her voice and switched to a more conversational tone,“Not to pry, Than’y but how did you discover your Tellusine origins? How were you able to so early in life? I know very little about Kai’Siri other than the fine soldiers who serve duty in our military divisions, and some women tourists I’ve spoken with.”
“Well,” Than’yhidre began,“My adoptive family admitted it after much insistent badgering from me on the day they sent me to the Academy to train. But it began with my dietary problems. I can’t easily consume many of the common food staples of Sirug, as those sometimes caused allergic reactions . . . alien animal proteins and vegetable products. The Kai’Siri are very much adapted to the foods their ancestors learned to survive on. My first reaction to local food led to a brief visit to the hospital, which after treatment led to genetic tests, and since then they were careful to give me only foods from Terra. But I was a good child to them, and they were wealthy enough to afford the cost. I grew up increasingly alienated from others after being bullied by other children for eating “Erturi-food,” but that only made me more angry and combative, which led to my wanting to get training as a Null-dancer. I loved watching them perform, and wanted the glamour and glitz of the very best ones. Plus, I had a knack for dance. I practiced almost constantly. I loved my adoptive family, well, most of them, but was only too happy to go. And so were they. They gave me full access to my medical records on the day I entered the Academy.”
The two women turned as the reached their destination, the first stop on Than’yhidre’s visit.“This temple is one of those that survived the Broogh bombardment almost untouched. For some reason, it wasn’t a priority target. It’s one of the oldest temples in this locality, said to be several thousand years old if you believe the local lore.”
Meenakshi did a mock stern and serious face as she said, “Do you remember the protocols for entering?”
Than’yhidre smiled, counting on her fingers,“Let’s see, washing before visit: check. Dressing appropriately: check. Buying some strange but yummy-looking Terran fruits to offer the deities: check. Leaving handheld electronics at the hotel: check. No animal skins in clothing: check. Easy-to-remove footwear to leave outside: check. Oh, yes…” She looked down, following Meenakshi’s gaze, at the Miduuk-Yokku nanoblade in its sheath by her side, embarrassed that she’d almost forgotten, as she detached it and sheepishly handed the weapon to an attendant, “…and no weapons! And for what goes on inside, that was easy to access from the local Net nodes and go over scores of times in my head!”
“Good girl!” Meenakshi said, suddenly dropping the mock serious face, “So, get ready for your first real taste of one of the oldest cultures of Terra.”
The two women, footgear now in cubbies alongside the temple entrance, strode inside together. One might almost think them sisters . . . .
To be continued.