My mother stands in my grandmother’s room, it is still my grandma’s room, though she is no longer in this world. It’s been six months since she passed away, and only today, my mom feels strong enough to sort through my grandma’s things. I can see her eyeing grandma’s things, pausing here, and appearing to flick something from her eye, when she is actually wiping away a tear.
Then her body straightens, driven by her resolve to finish the task at hand. She attacks grandma’s big metal trunk that has all her sarees. When we open the box, the trunk gives a metal creak, and the smell of my grandma floats up. She used to smell of a little bit of cardamom (that she chewed after every meal), a little bit of jasmine (flowers that she wore in her hair everyday), and a little bit of our home. Both of us are hit by nostalgia as we sift through the bright hued sarees – parrot greens, yellows, reds, midnight blues…!
As we reach the bottom of the trunk, there is a saree that is folded rather oddly, it does not have the geometric precision of the others. Curious, I pull it out, only to find that one whole section of the saree has small knots tied on it -at least a hundred, at first glance. I trace my hand across one of these knots, only to find something hard under it. I show them to my mother and ask her what they are.
My mom laughs, and replies, ” Oh! That is grandma’s Reminder Saree. ”
“Reminder Saree?” I ask, puzzled.
“Yes, reminder. Your grandma used to tie small coins in this saree, as reminders for tasks she had to complete”, says my mom.
“Oh!” I say. “But how did she remember all of them? Why didn’t she simply write them down? How did she know which tasks were done and which were not?” I ask.
“This was the method that most women in those days followed, as they were busy in the farm or in the kitchen and had no time to write things down, so these coin reminders were easy. And your grandma had a fantastic memory. Once a task was complete, she removed the corresponding coin”, replies my mother.
“Oh! so you mean she has these hundred reminders for things that are not yet done?” I ask.
“Yes, probably. Now we will never know what they are”, answers my mother and goes on with her work.
That day we managed to finish sorting through grandma’s things and relived all the fun memories we’d had with her. I asked my mother if I could keep the ‘Reminder Saree‘ with me. My mother agreed.
Time just flew by, as I got busy with my school year, projects and playtime with friends. Occasionally, my eyes would fall on the ‘Reminder Saree‘, and I would wonder about those unfinished tasks. But then, some other small thing was enough for my attention to waver, and life went on.
Soon, it was my tenth birthday. We had a family lunch, where I was showered with gifts. After our heavy lunch, most of us had dozed off, when we heard the door bell chime.
I could hear my mom talking to somebody. Suddenly I heard my name called.
“Malli, Malli”, my mom called.
When I went to the living room, I saw our village bangle maker. He had a parcel in his hand.
He handed it to me and said, “Your grandmother had ordered these for your birthday & had told me that she would tie a coin in her saree, to remind her to pick these bangles up on your birthday. Since she is not with us anymore, I decided to come in person and gift them to you on this special day. Happy Birthday.”
I opened the gift and was thrilled to see that my grandmother had ordered five colourful sets of the most beautiful glass bangles for me. I remembered telling her that I loved the green ones she always wore on her wrists.
I wore the bangles and spun around the living room, moving my arms up and down and enjoying the gentle tinkling of the glass bangles. I quickly ran to my room, took out the Reminder Saree & untied one of the reminder knots and took out the coin.
At least one mystery of the ‘unfinished tasks’ was solved.