Friday, October 14, 2005

Another shade of blue

One of those days when a slice of memory from the past hits you hard. So hard that you realize it hits you the way it does coz you are so far away...



“Straight from Bengal. THESE madams are the original Bengal cotton sarees”, he beamed at us. Unmasked pride. “Unlike any others you get in South India. This is ORIGINAL”; drawling at original for emphasis.

Salesmen were common to our house. My favorites remained the bangle-man and the ladoo-man. Hushed squeals of delight when the wares would be opened to sparkling eyes. I would point excitedly at the colored glass bands and my mother would indulge in the whim. Red ones, blue ones, orange ones- every possible color of delight.

Silk saree vendors with yards of heavy cloth and arabesque patterns. Pearl vendors who would bring not only dull tiny objects that would roll in the hollow of your palm but also huge mirrors that lied, for they would make my fat and ugly aunt look almost beautiful. But only when you saw her in the mirror. The many pearls that often choked her neck did nothing to me except develop an allergy to chains. I never wear them.

“I don’t really like pearls”, my mother would politely demur. But she would say the right things when the rest of the people would buy terrible looking stuff which were colossal and ugly.

“I have too many silk sarees”, I would hear my mother murmur in dissent.

There never was a trace of regret. Quiet resolution. Strong. Unwavering. There never was a tinge of envy too. Her tone was and is something I have learned to imitate. To perfection.

But that day was different. I saw her fingers hover over a blue Bengal cotton saree. Hesitant fingers touching the material to find a defect that wasn’t there. To convince herself that it wasn’t as good as it looked like. Fingers that turned reluctant to stop touching it…

The saree wala with an instinct they all have when they know people are hooked, pounced on her. Classy. Would look bee-eau-tee-full on you. Elegant. Words rang. Amma seemed impervious to it all. It was a nice saree. I hoped Amma would buy it. I’d never seen her buy anything at all.

“How much”, she asked quietly. Her walls against temptation turned porous suddenly, I guess.

“350 rupees only madam”

Amma gasped. It was then that I realized that 350 rupees was huge an amount.

I guess even the saree wala knew it was huge an amount. He realized what I did not that day- it was too huge an amount for us. His interest wandered to my many aunts who were gleefully picking up magentas, oranges and purples. He even winced at one of my aunt’s selection and wowed it along with my mother- both of them sharing a conspiratorial smile. The prices went 300, 400, 600, 550… But 350 was huge an amount. Too huge. For us.

I saw my mother say the right things as always. Pretty of course. Oh, yes. Looks very nice and especially on you. Words she was adept at. But that day she was not at her best. Her attention wandered and constantly to the classy blue saree that no one wanted…

Many sarees were sold that day. Not the blue one. My mother must have been glad- I don’t know. I assume she was. She must’ve been…

The saree wala took a strange fancy to this quiet beautiful dark woman, for he said in a hushed tone against all the babble, “You can have it for 300”

My mother smiled a grateful smile, but shook her head in the negative.

“I have too many Bengal cotton sarees”

He smiled a knowing smile, taking in my mother’s old worn cotton saree, which stood in straight folds, starched with pride.

He wasn’t rich enough to lower the price any more and we were poor enough at 350 rupees being too expensive…

He bundled his wares after pocketing most of our family’s fortune, hoisted it up on his shoulders and walked away…

I ran after him. “When will you come again?”

He smiled. “Maybe when the young lady is old enough to wear sarees… and I sure hope you have as good a taste as your mother does”

I am old enough to wear sarees now.

He never came.

350 rupees is not expensive now. I buy my mother sarees regularly. But I’ve never found the shade of blue she wanted, the day 350 rupees was too huge a price to pay for a blue Bengal cotton saree.

45 Comments:

Blogger shub said...

nice. :)

7:08 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

really nostalgic! my mind visualises the movies through scripts of your words...

sometimes the characters are in animation, sometimes real (meaning, imagining yourself as the young child)...

am sure I have a fair idea of how you looked as a kid...yeah! you can wonder at my ability to visualise ;D

11:39 PM  
Blogger Jasmine said...

I don't know if I've said this before, but I think you write really well. Especially when you keep it simple like you did it with this post. Think I'll go and read it a second time around now.

3:02 AM  
Blogger aks said...

hey love...nice post...

3:29 AM  
Blogger brahmanan said...

hi.
wonderful images this conjures up. aha!

3:47 AM  
Blogger Jithu said...

touching...

5:36 AM  
Blogger hope and love said...

touched.. loved it..

7:27 AM  
Blogger Sujit said...

Memories are like events that keep comming as they happen... Hope you get your blue saree sometime or the other and very nice writing..

9:30 AM  
Anonymous Divya said...

blue is such a lovely colour....
nice post!
TC,Divs

12:23 PM  
Anonymous BlogMela.com said...

Wonderful post, but may I suggest a different title, borrowed from your writing itself....

"Starched with Pride"

12:36 PM  
Blogger aparna said...

beautifully woven!

7:30 PM  
Blogger thelearner said...

Brilliantly written.

10:10 PM  
Blogger Living_dead said...

Truly nostalgic! Blue is my fav color, and indigo as well.

Your writing reminded me of a classical bengali movie, i saw ages back...where this lil girl used to wait eagerly for the toy wala, who used to come on every month end to their house to sell toys. she was so impressed by the variety of toys he got. After she picks up a toy, she would ask him when will u be back again. The man always smiled back and said next month i will get even better toys for you. Happy hearing that, the girl used to follow him till the gate, and watched him till he disappears out of sight. So it went on like that for some years. But she noticed one month end that he did not come, she cried and did not ate anything that whole day. Her parents tried to comfort her that he will come back, but nothing on earth cud fill up the void she felt.

Months passed, years gone and so the decades, he never came back...he was lost somewhere. Meanwhile, the girl grew up and it was the day of her marriage, an old man with his rag of toys knocked their door. Her dad faced him, and he recognized the old man immediately. The old man requests her dad to just have a glance of chutki (the lil girl he knew), who was so excited about meeting her and happy abt hearing that it was her marrage day. So her dad calls her up. She comes out in her wedding dress, and the old man's joy knew no bounds. Happy tears danced in his eyes as he felt mesmerized that the lil girl now turned into a sucha beautiful lady.

But she looked at the old man, with disgusting contortions on her face. She asked her dad "Who is he?". Dad reminds her about the toy wala. But however she cud not recall the past and went back in after she shrugged and said she dunno anybody like that. The Dad turns back and looked at the dumb stuck old man who stood right there motionless, as his happy tears turned sad, heavied and rolled down his cheeks. The man bends down and picks up his rag of toys and turns to his way back where he came from silently, without a word...

L_D

4:43 AM  
Blogger fr0z3n said...

well.. i dont know what to say.. your writings forever awe me.. the beautiful images you conjure, linger in the mind forever more..

6:42 PM  
Blogger Minal said...

Lovely post

11:15 PM  
Blogger Praveen said...

Wow, this is an amazing post. Easy to read and yet conveying a great deal.I seriously did not wish the post to end.
I hope you do find that blue saree, and write an equally wonderful post when you do find it :).

2:48 AM  
Blogger NPOjha said...

Poornima,
Superb writing. Brought back memories of a time long past.
Many thanks and look forward to reading more.
Nikhil

3:23 AM  
Blogger Poornima said...

Shub: Your pic always makes me smile!

Anon: Sharat- am sure you have a wunnerful imagination!

Jasmine: Keeping it simple...Most of what I write is, no?

Aks: Hey sweetheart... I need to come up with more ways of saying thank you!

Veerabhadra: Feeding your imagination... :D

7:38 AM  
Blogger Poornima said...

Jithu: Wow! I think I need to write a book! :p

Hope and love: That's the mother in you talking!

Sujit: I am looking...

Divs: Ah... I thought you'd disappeared!

Blogmela: Ah... too lazy to go n change the title! But thank you for the suggestion...

7:41 AM  
Blogger Poornima said...

Aparna: Thank you.

Thelearner: I seem to be stuck with 'thank you'!

L_D: First of all am MAD to you for not telling me that you have a blog! Hmpf!

And the story you've narrated, I've read something like it... something very like it. The Kabuliwala by Tagore. And I think its even made into a Bengali movie... Try reading it sometime. Its fabulous.

Frozen: You've complimented me enough! Thank you!

Minal: Another Calvin I see.

Praveen: Easy to read... that sometimes seems to be the cue...

Nikhil: More... ah- everyone's the Oliver Twist!

7:47 AM  
Blogger SnM said...

I was tired, and wanted to go home and sleep. Walked out of my building, and was welcomed into the open by heavy showers... I walked back into the building, and checked your blog straight away.

Certain things remind me of certain people...

7:55 AM  
Blogger Poornima said...

Snm: I've written so many rain posts, made so many rain memories... and I feel so happy that some people think of me when it rains... That's one of the bestest things you can say to me. Ever.

2:02 PM  
Blogger r r said...

very nice.
reminds me of tagore's kabuliwallah :)

4:50 PM  
Blogger ayvid said...

yea missed a few posts...
read all of them though!n i think u have had enough words of praise for all of them!:-)
TC,
Divs

5:40 AM  
Blogger Poornima said...

Rr: That's the second time someone's said this- after reading this post of mine! I am at a loss as to what to say!

Divs: Lol. Nope- no 'praises' needed.

7:12 AM  
Blogger yodanz said...

Poornima great write, enjoyed it. Reminded me of my childhood days, when I was the only boy, sitting around a bunch of women admiring these saree purchase, and occasionally the salesman using me as a manikin to make his point.

2:05 PM  
Blogger mannu said...

you not only make the blog writing an art.. but the blog-commenting too..

hows amerikka ?? ;)

1:31 AM  
Blogger Poornima said...

Yodanz: Lol... that sounds like fun!

Mannu: Amerika is huuuuuuuuuuuuugeeeeeeeee!!!!!!! :D

7:47 AM  
Blogger mannu said...

bigger than Angamali ?!?!? ;)

2:46 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

beautifully written.....

4:29 AM  
Blogger Poornima said...

Mannu: I dont think so! :D

Anon: Thank you... but am not sure who this is!

8:38 AM  
Blogger REVerenD said...

POIGNANT... you do have a way with words, the lump in my throat is still there...

10:19 AM  
Blogger pallavi said...

i knew i couldn't stay away for too long...and what a post to return with!!
my grandmother had a fabulous collection of sarees...i wish i could wear them like she did..

2:22 PM  
Blogger Poornima said...

Reverend: Well... thanks!

Pallavi: Oh Lord- I DID miss you!! Next step, writing something on your blog!

And saree- well, am sure you'd look FABULOUS in any!

2:52 PM  
Anonymous anon from frost said...

hey.. got ur link from colleague... you write really well!.. i love the pictures which look tailor made for your blog! Keep up the good work!

4:12 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Poo : Give the girl a break. She'll be back... she still has a lot of stories to tell. ;;)

L_D

7:08 AM  
Blogger Poornima said...

Anon @frost: Well... am not sure I'm too thrilled about this! But thanks for the kind words.

L_D: Aha! I remember hearing those words somewhere! Lol!

7:22 AM  
Anonymous FRIEND said...

really good, too good,... it reminded me abt the story KABULIWALA & of course my own childhood...when even a hundred seemed un affordable...now when v can afford it, v dont have the same things v wanted.. u made me miss my family.. ur writing is too good,it reminds me of myself & when i read it i can picturise the whole thing going in front of me. u r gr8. keep writing.

11:21 PM  
Blogger Arun said...

Someone needs to get over with the American holiday and update this blog!

~ A

2:19 PM  
Blogger Poornima said...

Friend: Ah... thank you.

Arun: Well, for once I seem to be complying! What American holiday! Gah- am working my whatever off!

3:20 PM  
Blogger Aslan said...

awesome..

12:53 AM  
Blogger Poornima said...

Kuts: Ah...How've you been?

7:22 AM  
Blogger ishmi said...

beautiful! :)

5:00 AM  
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