Today morning the house-help came for work wearing a brand new gold bangle and a ring. I didn’t notice. I need tea in the morning before I start noticing anything, unless it is a spectacular sunrise, to which I give my immediate attention as the sky is liable to change colors at a moment’s notice. So, yeah, I didn’t notice her acquisitions straightaway, being busy making tea for her, and myself.
“See this?” she flashing her bangle adorned wrist at me, and the ring on her finger. “I got it yesterday.” she added with a huge smile. “Do you like it?” Answering her own question, she said, “No, you wouldn’t know much about ornaments. You don’t wear any!”
While the monologue was on, I wondered idly whether she had won a lottery (Just kidding!) or if one of her sons had been generous (most unlikely!). It was, as expected, neither. Continuing her monologue, she explained to me about a loan she got via some government scheme or other for the financially backward people. ‘Whoa!’ I thought, ‘And you go and spend it on gold?’ But she had her reasons. “Cash would get over, but gold will remain with me.” I merely nodded, one eye on the boiling tea ready to be poured out.
She wasn’t done, though.
“I had two bangles, you know, one from each daughter-in-law!” she said, “but I had to pawn them when money was short. Later I had to sell them off when one of the sons wanted to buy some land.”
There you have it. Whether cash or gold, ultimately children take it away from parents like her. But her train of thoughts had now switched tracks. “Don’t you have the tradition of welcoming the daughter-in-law home with a lamp, and then she gifts you a gold bangle?” she asked. I smiled, shaking my head. She’s been with me for two years already and knows I don’t walk down the ritual path. So I knew this was merely a fishing expedition to find answers, curiosity almost killing her, same as others before her:
Why does she walk around wearing capris and tees at home? She never wears a sari. No kajal in her eyes, no bindi on her forehead, no gold bangles on her wrists, no gold chain around her neck, *gulp* no mangalsutr even! Not even when she goes out. To top it all, every now and then she goes and gets a crew cut worse than army recruits!
I can read them like a book. A couple of times I have been asked if I belong to some other religion (‘…because you never go to the temple!’). How can I make anyone understand the exhilarating feeling of liberation one feels when once one stops conforming? 🙂
©Shail Mohan 2018