“Oh! What an exquisite piece of work” My mother gushed. “The colour pink heightens your complexion.” I blushed. The soft, warm texture of the cloth was like a caressing balm “Take it ma’am,” Said the vendor. “I wonder,” Said I, “Is the warmth of the wool required? The city does not freeze in December like it used to do before” “It’s not just plain wool. It is cashmere!!!! The pink and white with a dash of shimmer will work wonders for you”, Said the charmer. I was in two minds but my mother seemed so sure. She nodded a “yes” before I could detract. The shawl with the intricate satin threadwork was wound over my shoulder to see the final effect. The haggling began thereafter and over an hour later the tender text of shell pink moon shine was signed forever as mine.

It was a whispered tale of secrets camouflaged in white. A dash of silver added a touch of suspense where there was none. I placed my cheeks on the shawl and almost felt a kiss “It’s so pretty!” My voice was nothing but a hiss. That season Christmas was white. Winter was a freezing journey through ice laden roads. Every hearth shivered. Beneath every mantel a crackling fire roared. I praised the All Mighty for the loving embrace of the shawl and never let it be anywhere but around my shoulders small. After all it was mine. I held high my head in pride and let the cashmere weave sparkle just below my neckline where in the hollow glistened a daub of prism refracting the glory of carbon in wanton delight.

One fine morning I woke up to a dull grey sky. The sun played truant. The greenery well nigh robbed of hue and shine. I looked for my shawl to twine it around my soul. But alas it was nowhere. Neither in the cupboard nor in the closet next door! I scouted every nook and corner of the house. I shrieked and cried. I sobbed and hiccupped and at the end of the day my maid I fired. She did not say much. Just looked at me for a while in silent reproach and left my home for good.

I felt the first pang of guilt.

A week later….

I was traveling through a dull cityscape lack luster and stone cold. Dusk was deepening and night stood bold at the doorsteps. I shuddered in the thermal cocoon of my car. A beggar approached as we halted at a traffic light. He gesticulated wildly for food and fire. I avoided his eyes and looked in particular nowhere.

My second pang of guilt rose and fell in deep layers.

As the car wheeled a little further I saw a leper squatting by the road side. The traffic was too heavy to fly past the sight. As the head lights illumined the patch. I started. What was that? Sagging shoulders, a lone crooked arm, a bulbous nose, bruised eyes with thick bags underneath and an ugly gash running down the left side of his cheek. His attire was tattered and torn and nothing much to cover the battered form staggering without support. Around his balding head he had mud splashed, unkempt, askew, unwashed for days, a pink flimsy cloth thread bare. As the tyres rolled closer to the pavement I saw him bend and kiss the asphalt with unfaltering reverence and piety. It was time for his evening prayers.

I turned my face away.  The wetness of my cheeks had stolen the warmth away of the pink and silver shawl I had found the very next day in one remote corner of my almirah, where I had in absent minded hurry tucked it away. There was no time to say sorry to my maid whom I had fired just the day before. I rushed to her hut but her kith and kin said, “She left the city, madam, the previous day.” I came back with halting steps. Her reproachful stare haunted me night after night day after day! With the taunt of the cashmere like a strangling knot around my neck – a burden of a life time, a sin which crushed my soul to pieces. As the car started to roll I pressed the window buttons and let the glass slide down. Just next to the leper as luck would have it we pulled up for a while. I, on a moment’s impulse unwound the shawl off my shoulder and threw it away with a whispered wish in the air. And lo and behold! It landed where? Just on the shoulder of the vagabond leper o’er there. Startled he turned around to see who it was. I smiled and waved as the car sped past.

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20 responses »

  1. Beyniaz says:

    Superb piece, Geetashree.

  2. gora sarkar says:

    Good reading, Geetashree, but don’t torment yourself over what happened. Be happy that you have done a lot of good.

  3. vimala madon says:

    Nice reading Geetashree,

    To err is human, to admit that one has erred takes one to a higher level of humanity, and to admit to the person you have hurt moves one towards a maturity that only humility can bring.

  4. Geetaji,
    I would have very much liked it if the person in the car had got down and handed over the shawl to the person on the road. These days, I see a number of people (including my relatives and my own friends) who are hesitant to help in a crowd, fearing being ridiculed by others…..However, I realise that in this narrative, the person was fighting with her own feelings more…..

  5. Dear Shail,

    Thanks for the note of appreciation. Regards

  6. Shernaz, I have come to understand that suspicion is the most disruptive force for mental piece and harmony.

  7. Isabel, thanks for reading. We learn from the little incidents that life present us.

  8. Sonal Shree says:

    A sensitive piece, beautifully carved by you, as always.

  9. Dear Geeta,

    Very nicely written woven amidst the emotions of desire for warmth (luxurious material warmth – the shawl) and the sensitive conveying of the message of kindness for the not so fortunate ones in society…

  10. Shernaz says:

    Geeta, You brought back memories of how suspicious I used to become of maids as soon as I lost something. Luckily, I never fired one or even confronted her till I had turned my house upside down. And invariably, whatever it was turned up as mysteriosly as it disappeared, thanks either to my carelessness or forgetfulness. A lovely write as always.

  11. Mira Pawar says:

    A lovely and thoughtful thought Geetashree!! Loved reading the piece.

  12. isabel says:

    As always was touched with your writings/ stories for it never fails to reach out into our souls as readers… and for its subtle infusion of life’s valuable lessons.

  13. Thanks Vimala for reading and appreciating.

  14. Namaskar and Suprabhaat Mathur Sahab,

    This is just a story to highlight how humans cling to worldly possessions more than relationships. When we give importance to the former over the latter, guilt is life long.

    The piece is not influenced by any real incident. It is just a thought to ruminate upon.

  15. vimala ramu says:

    A human story swathed in tactile luxury. With your wonderful expressions, I could actually feel the shawl around me. A good post,Geeta.

  16. jmathur says:

    Geeta Ji,

    Namaskar and Suprabhat (I am writing it at around 3.45 a.m.). Your post has brought alive many of my own memories. There are very less people in this world now who repent anything wrong done by them. I have seen even the most sacred ones (self-proclaimed as well as regarded so by others) avoiding any kind of repentance despite knowing their guilt very well. However you belong to the fast extinguishing category of such people. Hence this guilt is to be with you until and unless life gives you an opportunity of penitence.

    Very nice and touching post. You know very well that I too belong to that (now) rare species. Hence I am bound to like this piece from the treasure of your memories.

    Regards.

    Jitendra Mathur

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