Thimmi and the Rim Jhim Saree – A Short Story


Thimmi, 35, lived with her husband and two children in a one room tenement in a really crowded part of town. She worked two jobs to keep her family loan-free, and to provide them with three healthy meals each day.

Her husband, Selvam, was a dreamer, who spent his days planning new business ventures, or taking up odd jobs around town. Thimmi was a strict disciplinarian. She worked hard and saved every penny, kept meticulous accounts, and tracked every currency note that her husband spent. All financial transactions in the household had to be approved by her.

Needless to say, Selvam was terrified of her, but he put up with all her controlling ways only because he did not really have to worry about the family or its upkeep. He also secretely admired her grit and her attitude.

The one thing that truly irritated him was that Thimmi had this uncanny ability of knowing the moment he earned any money, even paltry sums from the odd jobs he took up from time to time . He was never good at lying, and before he knew it, he had usually surrendered all his earnings to the finance manager of the magic in-house bank, where money travelled only one way.

He yearned for the days before his marriage, when he could wheedle money out of his innocent mother, and spend hours idling on the river bank, smoking and pondering about his future and his dreams.

Thimmi was a force to be reckoned with and her sole focus, to the exclusion of everything else, was for her kids to be well educated, go to university and have good jobs that paid well.

Everything else in her life was designed to help her achieve this goal. She worked from dawn to dusk, with happiness and vigour. Luckily for her, the children were obedient, hard working and good at their studies.

On this evening, just like every other day, Thimmi was getting back home after a really gruelling day. Her back hurt, and she gently massaged her lower back, as she navigated the crowded market street and its cacophony of hawkers.

And it was then that Thimmi saw it – a beautiful mannequin draped in the most beautiful saree that Thimmi had ever seen. Its texture and colours called out to her, and on a whim she walked into the saree shop.

The salesgirl told her that this particular saree was called the Rim Jhim saree and that it was all the rage. Thimmi draped the saree across her left shoulder, and suddenly craved this saree for herself. She wanted to buy it then and there. Thankfully common sense prevailed, when she heard the price. It was worth three months of her family’s savings. She sighed, with both disappointment and relief, and walked out.

Image courtesy – http://www.shutterstock.com

But the Rim Jhim saree haunted her both in her dreams and in her waking hours. She walked to her safe many times to take the money out and indulge her craving.

“What have I ever bought for myself?” she reasoned. But somehow, she managed to control herself.

Some of her friends bragged about buying the saree, and all prime time TV soaps had many commercials that constantly advertised the saree.

One evening, when the temptation to buy the saree became too much to bear, Thimmi decided to do the most sensible thing. She took out all the cash from her safe, carefully counted the money, and put it in a bag and sealed it tight with tape.

Thimmi then walked to her children’s teacher’s house. The teacher had been very helpful to her and was almost like a mentor to Thimmi.

Thimmi decided that she would leave the cash bag with the teacher, and ask her to keep it till this crazy temptation in her head had passed.

The teacher was at home, and welcomed Thimmi warmly. She asked Thimmi to sit down and went in to get her a cup of tea.

There was a lot of noise of people talking and laughing in the room adjacent to the living room, where Thimmi was seated.

As the teacher gave her a cup of tea, Thimmi asked the teacher if a class was in progress, and if she was disturbing her in any way.

The teacher said, “Oh, no no….come with me.” And she entered the room, and Thimmi followed.

“This is my sister, Vasundhara, and she has recently started a saree business. I am sure you have heard of the Rim Jhim sarees that are in vogue now; fresh stock has come in just today, and the sarees are selling so fast.”

Thimmi clutched the money bag in her hand and ran out, saying, “I think you are busy, Teacher. I will come back some other time.”

What an escape that was! She was close to tears as she walked home, her life suddenly feeling empty.

When she entered the house, her two children were busy with their homework. She washed the day’s grime off with a quick shower, and started preparations for dinner.

When her husband walked in later that night and saw Thimmi, he sensed that something was amiss. His wife of ten years looked forlorn.

He sat down next to her, and she suddenly rested her head on his shoulders, looking defeated.

The two of them just sat there. He, trying to energize her, and she drawing comfort from his presence.

After a while, they sat down to a quiet dinner, each wrapped up in their own thoughts.

When he could bear it no longer, Selvam said, “Thimmi, don’t be mad at me, but there is a new opportunity for business. There is a saree in the market called Rim Jhim, and women are going crazy about it. My friend, Velan wants me to partner with him on this, but I would need to put in some money, Thimmi, please?”

Thimmi looked at him strangely, and went to lock the doors and put the coupons out for the milkman. She came back and sat down on the bed – that forlorn look back on her face again.

Selvam was puzzled. The normal Thimmi would have shouted or yelled or refused him the money.

Thimmi stretched and closed her eyes. Selvam went to switch off the lights and added, “The company is giving each dealer two Rim Jhim sarees, you know? You can come and choose one tomorrow, if you are ok with my going ahead with the deal. I promise I will be careful Thimmi, promise ok?”

And when he turned he saw Thimmi sigh and smile, a smile of pure joy. And she nodded and said, “Ok”.

Selvam switched off the lights, a puzzled look on his face.

Thimmi relaxed and was soon in nod land.

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The bench


It is 5 pm in the evening, and I head out for a walk. The rain has spent itself, and puddles have formed everywhere. Silver water drops hang precariously on leaves and branches. Some droplets catch the evening sun and sparkle.

I walk down the trail, taking in the scents of flowers, rain-soaked leaves and wet soil. I can hear some birds calling out, but I can’t see them. There are beautiful flowers and buds. There is this group of mynas in front of me, their attention drawn to something in the bushes.

I click some pictures, trying to capture the beauty that I am experiencing. Ants on leaves, star jasmine flowers, buds filled with promise and hope, a flower that has fallen down on the trail – totally unmarred – and dried leaves that make squelching sounds when I walk through them.

It is an idyllic evening, and I stop frequently to observe the plants. And then, at about the midpoint of my walk, I see this – a beautiful wooden bench, surrounded by green foliage.

This bench is my pit stop. I sit and close my eyes, and focus on the sounds of the rustling leaves. I focus on my breath, I take long, deep breaths, and life seems perfect just the way it is.

Yesterday is gone, tomorrow seems faraway. I am in the here and the now, and a feeling of peace envelopes me.

Sitting on this bench, I ponder over the mysteries of life and its purpose. I am grateful for this moment that is totally mine, to look within.

The birds are heading home, the plants are settling down for the day, and I leave this beautiful bench, totally rejuvenated.

The art of work


The wipers in our car are working overtime. The skies have opened up, and the rain falls in thin transparent sheets. One layer of rain falls, gets wiped away, and for a mere fraction of a second the world is visible, before another sheet falls.

And thus it goes on till my husband and I reach the concert venue. The concert venue is partly open air, with free seating. As we take our seats, the rain slowly peters out; only the ‘backbencher raindrops’ are left, rushing to join their peers, dropping in huge plops from the roof.

Rich Indian classical music fills the air, as the singer transports us to a different world, making us emote. My husband steps away to take a call. Very soon, a little girl of about seven comes and takes my husband’s seat. She has a packet of wafers in one hand and what looks like a small piece of thick cardboard in the other hand.

She adjusts herself comfortably on the seat, looks up at me and smiles. What a lovely and heart warming smile, I think. I smile in response, and wave hello! She says hello too.

After a few minutes, she touches my hand. When I look at her, she shows me the other side of the cardboard. It is an artwork of a three-dimensional flower in a pot. I mouth a wow and clap gently.

Courtesy – clipartlibrary.com

I ask her if it is play dough. “No, this is air-dry clay”, she says.

She lovingly runs her fingers over her creation, and asks me, “Do you like it?”

I tell her that I like it. She then says, “I like it too, a lot.” And her eyes light up. She continues to admire her artwork and looks content.

I realize how difficult it is to experience this kind of joy from the work we do. We are constantly striving to perform better, to attain the goals that we have set for ourselves. But with our sights set only on these bigger goals and destinations, we seem to have lost the art of experiencing the joy in the good, simple and everyday tasks that we perform.

Another lesson learned from a sweet little girl!

The Yellow Bag


It is 7.00 p.m. and my thoughts are already on tomorrow’s things to do list. I click in exasperation, as I realize that I need to dash to the supermarket for some essential supplies.

I quickly pick up my wallet, take my cloth shopping bag and rush out of the house. This cloth bag has become an integral part of every shopping expedition. Easy to carry, and eco-friendly too!

During my childhood, most shops – especially garment and jewellery shops packed the garments and jewels – that customers bought – in bright yellow bags that had the name of the shop printed in bright red letters on both sides of the bag.

One simply couldn’t miss these bright yellow bags. They were made of cloth and were well-suited for heavy-duty wear and tear. My mom carefully preserved these bags, and used them to send stuff across to her friends, or to go shopping with.

But my siblings and I, and most other teens I presume, were mortified to be seen carrying these bags. They were not ‘in’, they were loud and attracted attention. They did not go with the cool, smart teen images we had of ourselves; and we weren’t going to go anywhere with a bright yellow bag accompanying us and thereby reduce our cool quotient!

We tried reasoning with our mom, when she argued with us that it was just a cloth bag, a very useful one at that, and that there was nothing wrong in using it.

The yellow bag or manja pai as we called it was ubiquitous at home, in shops and on the streets – flashes of yellow and red, faithfully carrying money, vegetables, books, and everything else that people needed to carry on with their everyday lives.

We, on the other hand, wanted plastic bags, and paper bags…or trendy looking bags in lovely shades that suited our cool personas.

And then, time flew by – and our streets and shops were flooded with plastic bags – light to carry and easy to use – or so we thought.

And slowly, the yellow bags faded away.

Plastics took over our lives, and with time, lots of plastic bags were found in the bellies of fish and other sea creatures, plastic bottles floated in the sea, plastics were everywhere!

With the passage of time, awareness came to people.

And now, cloth bags are back. And I suddenly feel nostalgic for those yellow bags, and for those simpler times, when our planet was greener, where we were probably helping the planet, one yellow bag at a time.

Monsters that hiss


I am in a deep sleep; deep in dreamland, deep in nothingness, totally oblivious to the evening that has just passed or to the day that is about to break in a few hours. And in that transition period, when today has not yet passed the baton to tomorrow, I am suddenly being shaken awake.

Completely disoriented, I wish the person away, whoever it is. In a few minutes, my head clears a little, and I can hear panic in my daughter’s voice.

“Amma, Amma, wake up”, she says in a whisper that is also strangely shrill.

I groan in irritation. “What is it?” I ask, dragging the words from my sleepy brain.

She says with some urgency, “There is something in my room that is hissing.”

Image courtesy – http://www.shutterstock.com

I am jolted-awake now. Hi…ssss…ing? My brain, though, is slow to react. My daughter repeats it and insists that I come to inspect.

“I heard it twice”, she says. I get out of bed and tie my hair up into a tight little knot. This somehow gives me the energy and the strength to find the source of the hissing monster in our house.

On the way out of the bedroom, I turn back and see my husband, happily asleep. I tell my daughter that we will wake him up as well, one more member to the team.

Why should I be the one to hunt down hissing monsters late at night? I prod him awake. Nothing. I tell him about the hissing. He mumbles and says something incoherent, with his eyes partly open.

I prod him again. But he has already dropped off.

Well, I am irritated now. This irritation preps me to track down the source of the hissing. I march to my daughter’s room and carefully inspect her table and the areas near the window, from where she says she heard the hissing. Nothing, nothing at all.

And, just then, both of us hear a loud hiss from the table.

I burst out laughing. The hiss was from a brand-new automated air freshner that pumps out a fragrant spray at preset intervals.

My husband and I had set these air-fresheners up in all our bedrooms just that evening, and we had forgotten to inform our daughter.

“Amma, you know how scary that was?” She says laughing with relief, and also at the absurdity of this late night sojourn.

I turn off the freshener, and walk back to my room, still irritated that I was the one who had to go looking for hissing snakes at night.

The next morning, my daughter and I share details of our midnight adventure with my husband and son. My husband then says, “I told you last night that it was the air-freshener”.

Ahhh…that was the mumbling we heard. I roll my eyes.

Soon, my kids leave for school. My husband is about to leave. He goes to the bedroom to wear his tie. I follow him, and start making the bed.

His back is to the dressing table, and suddenly there is a hiss, and he jumps, startled.

That was air-freshener number two.

I laugh.

The look on my husband’s face – priceless!

A hundred years


I am filling up an online form. When I am filling in the date, I accidentally type the year 1919 instead of 2019.

One typo error and my mind travels back in time to a hundred years ago. I wonder what the world would have been like at that time. Then I think about my family. My grandmom would have been a little girl of about nine. Slightly older than one of her great- grandsons is now.

My grandmom had eleven siblings. She was the ninth child. When my siblings and I were kids, we would badger our grandmom to tell us stories about her childhood. She would talk about her marriage to my granddad and the grand celebrations in their village to mark the occasion.

When my grandma was in pigtails and ribbons, the world was at war. Between the two wars, she grew into a beautiful young woman, got married and had her children.

Image courtesy – http://www.123rf.com

We always lived in a joint family, and I can still remember how active my grandmom always was – right from sunrise to sundown. The kitchen was her realm, and her energy flowed from there in the form of love, cooking and chiding.

Every morning, for as long as she was active, my grandmom would finish her morning chores and rush to the temple to pray. On her way back, she would stop to buy vegetables and fruits. If she was planning on buying a lot, she would ask one of us, her grandchildren, to be on the lookout from the top of the hill where we lived. When we would see her at the bottom of the hill, we would skip down to help her carry the heavy bags home.

The moment we got home, she would give us candies that she had bought for us – in small brown paper pouches – lemon, orange and raspberry flavoured.

Time flew past, and we grew, went to high school and college. Each time we came home for vacation, we realized that our busy grandmom had aged just a little more than the last time we had seen her. When she was in her mid-seventies, she retired from her domestic world, handing over the reins to the next generation.

She spent her time reading books, or meditating or praying. She would watch some television on and off. But her eyes would light up the moment any of us went and sat next to her, to talk to her. She would ask us questions about our lives and hold our hands in her small wrinkled palms, demonstrating her love, without saying much.

My dad would come home every evening from work, have his shower and dinner, and sit down with his mom, asking about her health, her cough and about her day. He would lovingly bring her dinner, a glass of water, and her medicines, every night.

Our grandma always had a ready stock of mint lozenges that she ate to soothe her throat. She stored these in a small pouch. One of the highlights of the day was when she would call us and give us these lozenges to eat. She would break them up and give us just a small bit. We cherished both the lozenges and the love behind them.

It is 2019. A hundred years have flown by, since a small girl grew up in a time before ours, and became our grandmom. And now, our parents are at that age, vulnerable and frail.

Where did time fly? When did we become this responsible?

It is literally as if someone changed 1919 to 2019 with the mere flick of a button – a hundred years, four generations, lovely memories and the relentless onslaught of time.

Clarity


I am in a cab that is stuck in heavy traffic. All around me, drivers are tapping their steering wheels impatiently, while some others are busy on their phones.

My phone’s battery is at a meagre 5%, and with no messages to check or people to call, my gaze wanders to the buildings on either side of the pavement. I crane my neck to see the trees lining the road. The blue sky appears bleached under the glaring sun. The leaves on the trees filter the sun’s light in various patterns, each pattern unique.

Amongst all these trees with leaves is also a wise old tree that is bereft of leaves. A sudden movement on this tree’s branches catches my eye. I realize that it is a bird, a crow.

Picture courtesy – Illustrated by Ann & Ani (image copyrighted)

The crow keeps moving up and down one particular branch. Up, down, pause, up, down, pause…the crow keeps repeating this for sometime.

I wonder what the crow is thinking. Is he worrying about his loved ones? Is he confused about choices that he has to make? Is he testing the tree for its suitability for him to build a nest and start a family?

The crow continues pacing. After a few minutes, he stops, his head clear. He has made up his mind. Soon, he flies away.

This is quite similar to how we humans behave too, especially when we are confused, and have to make choices or have to take firm decisions in our lives.

Sometimes, we require ‘alone time’ in our minds to sift through our thoughts, think through the consequences, process them, and then come to a decision.

Sometimes, we pace up and down our living rooms, or embark on solitary walks, thinking and evaluating.

And always, when we look within, the right answer comes to us, at the right time. It was always there, it just needed us to choose it.

And then comes clarity, and a sense of lightness.

Just like the crow that flew away into the sky. Free now, that the decision had been made.