Looking at her hands, Akash asked her, “Why don’t you wear any bangles? If you want I will buy you a few. Do you like glass bangles?”
“I don’t know what’s gotten into you? The moment I said yes you have started behaving like a nut! I should have known. Why do you want to change me?”Meera said in an angry voice.
“Oh, you look so pretty when you get angry”, he said and she laughed and walked away. As she was walking away from that favourite meeting place in the college campus, beneath the tamarind tree, she just looked at her thin arms. Why no bangles? Akash had already told her that she was a tomboy, more like man with no qualms about most things that girls would worry about. Bangles?
In the History of the world class, her mind drifted to a memory. It was so clear before her eyes. When she was fifteen, when she was at school, she had gone with her mother to a reputed gold shop in the city.
It was the first time that she had been inside a gold shop. This much of gold in so many forms, it amazed her. So did the cash counting machine at the counter. Her mother showed her a beautiful pair of bangles among the display items and asked her, “Do you like them?”
Meera was surprised that it was for her. May be something to do with the fact that she had become a woman recently. Girls were gifted so many things and fed so many things. But being away in the city with not many relatives around, nothing had happened and she had gone to school as usual.
“Try it on”, the salesman was offering it to her. She put them on and suddenly was dazzled by the beauty of her frail hands with these pretty bangles on.
“Those look really good on her hands. By the way do you accept credit cards?”?The salesman nodded and her mother was already at the counter signing the bill. “let them remain on her hands, okay”, she told the salesman. Meera was shocked and soon they were out of the shop walking along the busy street.
Mother was holding Meera’s hand and told her, “Now dear, we have to go and sell this to the shop over there. I have to give some money back to your aunt. I had taken it from her some two months back when I was not well and couldn’t go for work. She has been pestering me for it because her son’s first birthday is this week and she wants to give a big party”.
“Doesn’t she have any other money with her?”, Meera said. She knew her aunt had lots of money buying clothes every other week, travelling with her children and her house full of guests. Why did she give the money if she wanted it back so soon?
“See dear, I have just got my salary this month and I have lots of debts to clear. I cannot ask anybody. If I do this gold business, I don’t have to ask anybody, just pay back the bank in installments. It may be a loss financially but not a loss of my self-respect”, mother said. Her whole manner was so serious as if she was talking to an adult and not to a fifteen year old kid hardly aware of anything.
As they entered the next shop, mother told the shopkeeper quietly, “I want to sell two bangles”. The shopkeeper looked with surprise as she showed the bangles on her daughter’s hands. Glistening, new and lovely. “Are you sure, madam ? They look new and look beautiful on her fair hands”.
Mother, always to the point and proud just said, “Meera, give them to him”. Now, he went to the gold weighing machine and weighed the bangles, rubbed them against some stone to check the purity and finally said, “Madam, you won’t get bangles like these anywhere. But I cannot give you the full price. Only four thousand rupees for both of them”.
Meera just looked at her mother. She had seen the bill signed at six thousand and she knew that her mother would be losing a lot of money through this transaction. But her mother was quick and she kept on looking at the bangles on the counter.
Back home, she could not forget the feel of those shiny bangles against her wrists and how fair and beautiful her wrists had looked all on a sudden. Even her tiny blue veins on her wrists had looked lovely against the shine of those bangles.
In the evening, her aunt came with her children. Usually she is fun with the children but now she saw them in a different light. All new clothes and gold and rich manners, but no love for her mother who has just recovered from her hysterectomy. She saw her aunt take the money from her mother and she was counting it. “Oh, I was so worried about how to get money for Deepak’s birthday and Chacha was pestering me about the money I had given you”.
Mother went on with the talking as if nothing had happened and it irritated Meera that she did not mention how she got the money. Was it not enough that her mother was a widow who lifted the entire burden of her family on her frail shoulders and to listen to all this nonsense. She wanted to make it all right in the future. There has to be a better tomorrow when she can prove it to her aunt and everybody around her that life is not about spending money on clothes or on throwing big parties for people you hardly care about.
Meera heard the bell and walked out of the class. Akash was again at the favourite spot beneath the tamarind tree. She thought, now he will call me a manly woman, an amazon and so on. As he came near her, he just waved his hands and she saw that he had red and green glass bangles in his hands.
“If you are not wearing them, I am going to. A womanly man for a manly woman”. Meera laughed and tried to snatch it away from him. Finally, when she managed to snatch it out of his hands, a few of them had already broken. “Now, I will have to marry you”. Both of them laughed as it was a line from a lovestory that both of them had read together.