‘Have a great day! Didn’t you check these sweets out? They are freshly baked rich oil! Oh, madam you are a beauty. This colour will suit you the best’
Shopkeepers bestowed the passers-by with plethora of compliments, disappointment flayed when they got to knew that people just came in to check out. “What Madam! You wasted our time”, the shopkeeper would scoff. The MANOJ SAREES shop was tucked between two other SAREE shops, and a perfect round of competition was full on. A light shri Ram bhajan could be heard from the shop. It was anything but hidden in the night, lit by strips of different colours of tiny LED lights, the difference due to the switching colours from red, yellow, blue and white and a big yellow bulb shined above the threshold, thronged over by people in and out. The look was perhaps synonymous to Diwali that day. The fluttering lights symbolising the switches and chiaroscuro from dark to white and the immortality of another light, one which is always there, hidden away from us, right at the centre.
The shop looked majestic.
A red Toyota car came and stopped near the market, and polished shoes, emerged out as the door opened. In the streams of purple and blue the gentleman entered the shop in a heavy brown coat. He carried a languid grin on the face sweetened by a slight petite dimple on the other cheek. Uncertainty flayed in his eyes as he moved towards what was supposedly a women’s saree shop. Maybe for many such unsure commuters, shopkeepers are always on the cue, ready to remove their confusion with their profound knowledge, because the very next moment the shopkeeper and with his nurtured round belly grinned and beckoned the gentleman in.
‘Tyohaar hain tyohaar. Yaha pe aapko badiya saree mil jaygee! Suna hain bagal waali shop mein toh ghatiya kapde ki saari bechi jaa rahi hain. loot maccha rakhi hain. (Today is the festival. You will get really good sarees here! I have heard that in the other shop beside it, bad cloth is being sold. The people are being looted away.’ The shopkeeper crunched his face and said.
He continued ‘ I have just heard and informed you. And you didn’t tell me what is your wife’s favourite colour?’
The man finally answered ‘No I am not married. It is for um a neighbour.’
‘Yes, she is old and can’t visit these shops on her own. The man remembered and continued ‘But she loves to dress up’
‘Arey, so why didn’t you tell me before’.
You didn’t allow me to say, thought the gentleman, Ramesh.
‘She would love sarees then. Appreciate it better than anyone. In our time women wore only sarees, not what we have today. Graced men’ he nodded and shook his head .
‘See you must tell her about this shop. And about what I had told you before you know…’ Sure, she would love some ramble. He shuffled behind for what seemed like 10 minutes ‘Ah! This one. Red orange texture. Having a nice border. Jute silk saree. Take it. She must be having a matching red blouse’
Left with no other choice Ramesh chose the colour and stood up with the shopkeeper towards the cash counter. ‘Old women like to dress up young.’ The shopkeeper said as Ramesh was leaving.
After his purchase, Ramesh hurriedly walked out in the night and in a similar fashion into his car, and drove off. ‘Diwali is today, and I must surprise her’ Ramesh thought while driving. The night encompassed thin layers of blue and black dominated over by a blaze orange. Suddenly, you could see the red Toyota parked near the iron wrought gate. A strip of lights was haphazardly placed over the gate. Ramesh approached the door, in a bit of wonder and looking down sheepishly rang the doorbell.
Black chappals came visible, below black coloured pants a brown shirt, and a perched oval face bearing a grim serious expression for a wise old man. After some time though, Ramesh realised the serious expression was because of something else entirely.
Ramesh asked excitedly ‘How is she, Ba? I have bought her a nice dress to wear too! she will be so happy!!’
Yes she will be. Certainly.
Ramesh waited for the man to say something. Beckon him in. He felt sheepish that day. After so many long unmet days.
‘so, what are we doing standing here. Let us go inside!’ Ramesh squeaked a tone.
The old man finally his neat demeanour giving up, teared up. Seeing Ramesh ‘s confusion, he pushed his head under his collar and tried to clean his tears. But failed. ‘She is unwell. ‘He loudly spoke in a throaty voice and started sobbing.
Ramesh couldn’t believe it. ‘She must have a bit of fev- ‘
‘SHE HAD A HEART ATTACK LAST WEEK’ the old man cleared. Sensing Ramesh ‘s shock he added ‘And… she is alive, but it feels as if she has lost her will to live. Lost herself. She doesn’t talk much. To me. She has changed entirely.’
‘That is why I called you. Before leaving, you had been close to her. Very much. This is an old man ‘s last attempt. I want to see her recover into her old self. Even if people expect old people to have lost energy already. So, you would stay here?’
The old man again asked ‘You would stay here, right?’ He thought the kid was shocked, and sad to hear the sudden news.
‘Hah!’ Ramesh said. An affirmation?
Ramesh walked in with an unusual attire on his face. There were no decorations, nothing. He put the jute bag on the mahogany table in the centre of the room.
And then started backing away slowly. From the room. He made his way and the old man confused asked ‘Aren’t you going to meet her? aren’t you gonna do what you always do. Talk to her.’
Ramesh, his beady eyes distraught again iterated a ‘Hah!’ just started backing away and when finally, he could feel the entrance behind himself turned and started walking out.
The old man finally understood what it was! He waited for him to move towards his car to come back only with his luggage. Of course.
He didn’t though. He didn’t turn. He went towards the car but didn’t move towards the rear. He moved towards the front wheel, and didn’t look back as he started searching his pockets sitting inside.
‘WHERE ARE YOU GOING YOUNG MAN?’, the old man called. Confused.
Ramesh looked around. The old man did have a very loud voice..
Sensing people, he turned and approached the old man . And hugged him. And spoke loud enough as well ‘Have a nice day dear uncle! And take care Aunty!’ uncle replaced Ba..He thrusted the the Ganesha gift card into his hands and walked away. Swinging a melody Ramesh started the engine. And the car roared and in no time went away. The old man looked at his occupied hands
‘I have many of these’.
And the gift prolonged into darkness as the door of the house creaked and closed.
” Some things become too old for us.”
BY :KUNJAL GUPTA