Monday, January 21, 2008

The white plastic purse

I lay today, buried in my quilt with angry tears running down my flushed cheeks... raging like i had countless times before at my non-understanding parents
thinking how they have never understood me
how they have always wanted me to live their life rather my own..
forever saddling me in chains..
taking away my right to a life...
the right to take my own decisions and make my own mistakes..
crying out my frustration hating them for never knowing what i really want and what are the things that are important to me..

and through these tears, rose before my eyes, i don't know from where.. a long forgotten image..

a little white plastic purse.. with a layer of deep blue gelly water swimming from side to side in its outer jacket.. i could have sworn the tiny yellow and red fish bobbing in and out of the stardust tinged waves were as real as you and me.. and seems like a couple of stars had taken a mighty fall and landed in the shimmering mini sea to give the little fish company..

and just like that, i was back in class 1 waiting with bated breath for my first ever school trip.. a one day excursion to a nearby picnic spot "The Bombay Picnic Spot". No no it wasn't anywhere near Mumbai, the city of dreams.. but for a 5 year old, who lived in a small town, which took 15 minutes to go from one end to the other, it was dreamland all right.
I had been going there for years, ever since i was a baby and it undoubtedly was my favourite place in all the world.
But that was not what had kept me awake the whole of the night before.
It was the fact that i was going there on my own without my parents to look after me. of course, the teachers would be there, but still.. How proud i was, just thinking about going up to the ice-cream man, in the bright orange and white uniform, all on my own and getting myself a softy. How many times had i rehearsed it in my head as i lay there in the dark...
watching as the smiling softy wala bhai took an orange cone from the tall cone building by his side.. as he pushed the liver on the big steel machine.. i could feel the vibrations from the giant and watch as the soft snow white cream swirled out of its tiny mouth in that single fluid motion and settled into the cone, forming a perfect inverted spiral...
aaaah and yes, for the first time, i would be handling my own money, a full 100 rupees.. at that time it had seemed like a king's ransom.
I had been rehearsing my favourite songs for a week now 'coz ma'am said there would be singing in the bus.. aah i couldn't wait to get on that wondrous white bus

but what was that? that feeling in the pit of the stomach?
was it fear?
what if i made a fool of myself in front of the whole class?
oh! i could almost hear them all laughing at me now.. could see the look of disappointment on Seema ma'am's face.
how would i ever go back to school with that?
i was petrified.
i didn't want to go on that stupid trip
the next morning brought fresh terrors
what should i say to mummy so she won't make me go?
mummy... she had been bustling up and down since early morning, as excited as i had been.. packing my bag.. making sure i had everything.. dividing my money into small parts and putting them all in different places.. telling me what to do and what not
but i wasn't really listening.. i was imagining the disaster that lay before me.
she suddenly stopped talking.. had i said something aloud?
no i was sure i hadn't..
but she just stood there looking at me, and then took me silently in her arms and told me not to worry, that everything would be fine that no one would laugh at me and it would be the best trip i had ever had.. that no matter what she loved me and would always do
and standing there in her arms then, silently feeling the safety pin poking into my chest as the hanky it held in place was crushed between us, i knew it would be just be like that..

and it was..

the bus ride was great.. everyone loved my songs...
The softy had never tasted this good when my dad had gotten it for me.. the rides had never been this thrilling on the countless times i had ridden them alone...

I saw it while going towards the popcorn stand to get those sweet honey flavoured popcorn i had loved..
It lay among all the rest of the toys.. yet, there was something that separated it from all the rest of them..
Its milky whiteness and that deepest of blues attracted me, making me forget my special popcorn..
I picked it up and tilted it this way and that.. and there in my hands, the sea was alive.. the waves formed and broke in their little closed up world.. the fish swam forward and then disappeared again into the blue depths.. as if shy of the hand rocking their world.. and the stars.. aah the stars twinkled and shone like diamonds on a liquid piece of velvet..
It was undoubtedly the most beautiful thing i had ever seen and i knew i had to have it.
"Uncle iska kitna hoga?" I asked the gray haired attendant for the price of my jewel.. "tees rupaiya..30 rupee" he replied.. that's all i had left, which meant the pop corn would have to go and so would the candy floss.. but i didn't care as my tiny hands fished in the little pink purse for the 3 ten rupee notes and placed them in the rough hands of the man, and off i went with my little plum.
I hid it deep inside my bag which i held on to all through the ride back home...

That night as my mom got ready for bed, i covered her eyes with my little pink hands and then placed it in her lap
as she looked at it, i saw her smile change to wonder and then... then she was crying.. and i was so scared.. scared that she hadn't like it.. that she was angry i had wasted all my money on it

and then she was hugging me and telling me that i was the best daughter in the whole world and i told her i loved her and she said she knew
she looked at the purse again and said that it was the most beautiful thing anyone had ever given her and that she would always keep it with her..

she has kept her promise..
she still has it at somewhere in the back of her Almira with all the other things i have given her over the ages..

I hope things could always be as simple.. i wish i could still be that little girl who thought of her parents.. who was not afraid of showing her love.. i wish mom would still hug me one of these days and tell me that it would all be ok and that she loved me no matter what..
and i would stand there again in her arms believing every word she said..
i wish i could just hug her and tell her how much i love her and that she would believe me too..