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The Silk Enterprise

The Madras Native Herald: March 4, 1869 London's banker Webster Murphy Mark finances an enterprise in British India. Murugappa Chettiar, a businessman from Karaikudi has a stake in the three silk factories set up near Kanchipuram, in Madras Presidency. The silk yarns produced here are of fine export quality.

Mark is tanned beyond recognition by the sun in Karaikudi. He stands on the cool terracotta tiles and sips spiced buttermilk that Selvi gave him. The gold bangles on her wrist leave bands of sweat on her bronzed hands. Mark keeps his hand close to hers, the sun has evened out the colors of their skin. He cannot bear to look into the sadness that lace her eyes.

His room is empty; there are only a pen and an ink case he is leaving behind, and the expensive writing papers that he bought in China during his visit to Suzhou to buy silkworms. On a sheet of paper, Selvi has written in Tamil script, Mark's name several times. It seems strange for him to leave his name behind like that.

He has a long journey ahead by road to Kanchipuram, and his suitcases are packed. Murugappa Chettiar waits at the large living room, his wife Visalakshi Achi swathed in a fine silk sari stands beside him. Achi looks at her daughter Selvi with concern when she comes out of the room with Mark.

Story by:

Uma Gowrishankar

24 July 2018