“See, how beautiful you look in that colour,” the old woman said trying to get the young lady’s attention.
“I am your daughter. Therefore, it is obvious that you’d find me beautiful even when I am dressed in tattered clothes, right?” the young woman brushes off the compliment with a smile on her face.
Her daughter always had problems receiving praise; if only she could do something to erase these self-esteem issues hidden in her little girl’s mind, the mother thought.
They were getting ready for a wedding. The young lady was admiring herself in the mirror. On her mother’s request, she was trying to drape a silk sari; a special one, carefully selected for the occasion, in warm tones of honey and sunshine gold. She loved how smooth the luxurious material felt against her skin.
Being a fuss-free dresser, the girl normally avoids wearing exquisite threads but occasionally gives in to her mother’s petulant demands. She knows how happy this tiny effort of hers makes the old woman. It is a role-reversal of sorts wherein the daughter playfully takes on the maternal role and indulges the childlike whims of her mother.
The old lady is very proud of her expansive collection of rare silks and soft velvets. She has been painstakingly collecting them from different parts of the country since ages. Every piece has been conscientiously chosen for its uniqueness- some for bright hues and some for intricate embellishments in shimmering gold and silver. The woman stores them neatly folded in soft porous muslin bags in an ancient dark mahogany almirah, which was a gift from her mother years ago. To keep moth and silverfish away, she puts small cotton pouches filled with coarsely grounded sandalwood powder, in the folds. The synthetic smell of mothballs disgusts her.
Unlike the mother, the daughter prefers simple clothing and would seldom wear anything that is too uncomfortable to walk in. Sometimes, when she is exhausted and not in the mood to indulge her mother, she snaps. “They are cumbersome. Not practical Ma. Why don’t you wear them yourself?”
“I cannot. My body is shriveled and they are too delicate and heavy for me. Can’t you see?” The old woman retorts, feeling hurt and dejected.
These fleeting moments of anger quickly pass and never mean much to them. The young lady is aware that by making these demands, the old woman is actually trying to instill a sense of prideful responsibility in her. Someday these beautifully stacked pieces in myriad hues of ruby, emerald, and amethyst will be hers to protect. A precious heirloom she will inherit like the ornate wooden closet her mother once inherited from her grandmother.
The crisp folds of the old lady’s saris contain numerous life-altering moments. They stand witness to the pain and joy she experienced while wearing them- like the sapphire one, studded with twinkling diamantes, reminds her of the fateful day she lost her father and the one in coral, she wore proudly to her daughter’s convocation ceremony.
Bequests are a treasure trove of stories lived and endured by one’s ancestors, the girl knows that. A day will come when she will tell these stories to her progenies while sewing pouches of sweet-smelling sandalwood powder to keep her mother’s legacy alive and fragrant.