The Pink Princess Gown


Many many years ago, when I was in primary school – in grade four – I was selected to play the role of the princess in the play, ‘The Frog Prince’, for our school Annual Day.

Rehearsals were on in full swing, as I memorized my lines and performed multiple times before the mirror, before my grandma and aunt, and in the kitchen, as my mom heard me and corrected my intonation and expressions, while still busy cooking with her back turned to me.

I had to carry a small golden ball for the play, the ball that would fall into the well. My dearest Uncle, my dad’s brother gave me one of his orange table tennis balls, which I then wrapped in gold craft paper.

There was only one item left, and that was my costume. I needed to wear a princess gown, with multiple layers of frills. Even before I got the costume, I imagined myself in it. But then, we ran into a problem. The rental shop did not have one that fit my size, none of the clothes’ shops in town had a suitable gown.

When my mom came from the market after doing the rounds of various shops and told me that she could not find one, I was upset and wondered what would happen.

But my mom, with a twinkle in her eye said, “I have bought the material and I will stitch you a gown for your play.”

At the time, I was happy and went back to my world, content that the gown was sorted. After all her daily chores, my mom took my measurements and proceeded to start cutting and sewing.

I remember clearly that it was late at night when she started. However, because of the heavy monsoon rain and winds, there was a power cut. I remember that my Dad lit a huge candle and sat with my mom, as I dozed off to dreamland.

The next morning, when I jumped out of bed and ran to the room with the sewing machine, the room was littered with bits of cut cloth and thread and lace. But on the handle of the cupboard, on a hanger, was the most beautiful pink princess gown ever. My mother made me try it on and made a few adjustments. I had to take it to school that day for a costume rehearsal.

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

The rehearsal and the final Annual Day play went off very well. I wore that gown on and off when the desire to become a princess overtook me, which was quite often. And as with everything else, the gown slowly faded away into oblivion.

Today, when I think back to that night, I can imagine how much effort my mother would have put in, sewing without power and just by candlelight. I am sure she sewed into the wee hours of the morning. And what to say about my Dad, who was with my Mom supporting her through the night!

My Mom probably does not even remember this, but I still do. At that time, I was just thrilled that I had got the costume, but now I can only see my mother’s deep and selfless love for her child. Love you Amma and Dad. Thank you for that night and for the many millions of things you have done for me.

Weaving a tale – A short story


The rain beat down mercilessly; it had been pouring the whole week. Flashes of lightning captured snapshots of a group of people standing in the pouring rain, with the Banyan tree under which they stood offering only some semblance of cover.

But even louder than the noise of the falling rain was the loud pounding in Devan’s head, as he was berated and belittled by his community.

Devan stood with a bent head, as he heard things that seared through his heart.

Devan, and all the people who stood there that night, belonged to one of the oldest weaving communities in the country. Their history dated back to hundreds of years; they had been weavers for kings, queens, princes and princesses, and now in 1975, they wove for society’s elite. Their weaving techniques were a closely guarded secret, passed on from generation to generation.  They married only within the community, to protect their craft.

Devan’s daughter, Chella, had done the unthinkable. She had chosen her husband from outside the community; an act that the community considered treacherous; and one that could threaten the very fabric of their existence.

Chella had been forced to leave the village, and had been banned from ever entering it.

Devan’s wife had died when Chella was 9 years old. From then on, Devan had been both mother and father to the girl.

The people threatened to ostracize Devan if he attempted to revive ties with his daughter.

A broken father stood, facing his fellow-men, as his heart broke into a hundred pieces, as he thought about his daughter. He had not been given any time to talk to Chella, or tell her anything. The news had spread like wild fire in the small village and even the pouring rain couldn’t put out the fire.

It was a long night.

The sun rose the next day, and slowly life limped back to normal. Devan missed his daughter and ached to talk to her. The village has only one phone and that was in the Headman’s house. He resigned himself to his fate.

In their community, there was a practice that each time a girl got married, her father would weave the bridal saree, with motifs of all the things that the girl liked.

As Devan went about his chores, an idea took shape in his head. After his usual quota of weaving everyday, he started weaving a bridal saree for his daughter – every warp, every weft, woven with love and the agony of separation.

In a few weeks his gift was ready. On his next day off, he met a very old friend of his from a neighbouring village and sought his help in passing on the gift to his daughter. The friend swore his secrecy and took the saree with him.

Devan hoped and prayed that his daughter would be happy to receive the gift.

The friend made it to the small town and located Chella’s house. New bride though she was, the girl looked unhappy and sad. She perked up when she saw her Dad’s friend.

She cried for her father and his plight. She was happy that he was not mad at her and thrilled with the saree.

After her Dad’s friend left, she opened the saree and cried, as she saw each motif that her father had woven into it – from sunflowers to butterflies, lollipops and colourful ribbons, bits of her life leaped out at her. As she studied it, her trained weaver’s eye saw that there was a written message woven into the saree.

It read, “Chella, my dear. I love you and bless you with every happiness in your life. Have a good life. I bear no anger towards you. Believe in your dreams. You have made the right choice. I love you. Blessings – Papa.”

The burden of having chosen an untrodden path slowly fell away from Chella’s shoulders.

She smiled – a wide, beautiful and confident smile.

Handing down love


My son turned 13 today and in keeping with our family tradition, I asked him to meet me in my room after dinner.

Curiosity was evident in his eyes,  but he merely nodded. My wife and I had gifted him a course in kayaking. There was also a glint of excitement in his eyes, as he probably expected another surprise birthday present.

He walked into my room, with me,  after dinner. With great ceremony, I opened the drawer on my table. I took out a small gift wrapped package and gave it to him.

He opened it with a lot of excitement. I could see his face falling, when he saw that it was an old, battered geometry box. There was a letter taped to the bottom of the box.

He looked at me, quite puzzled, waiting for an explanation.

I told him, “Open the letter.”

The letter ran into many pages. I told him to start reading from the last letter, dated 24th August, 1919, written by my great great grandfather to his son, on his thirteenth birthday.

My son quietly read all the letters, letters written by many fathers to many sons, to their sons. Nearly a century of family love there. Some letters were humourous, some were filled with love, some with dos and don’ts.  But a great archive of our family’s history, its shared love, and a wonderful tradition. He finally came to my letter and read it.

He looked up, and asked, “But why the geometry box?”

“Oh, the geometry box was probably handy, when my great great grandpa wanted to get this going,  what he also did was inscribe his name at the bottom of the box, with the date”, I said.

My son flipped the box and saw the metal engravings of his ancestors and laughed when he saw my name.

I also added, “The instruments in the set can be used even now. They are of excellent quality. After you are done with it, inscribe your name and pass it on to your son.”

He took his gift and walked out of the room. I know for a fact that 25 years from now, his throat will catch the way mine is now, when he writes a letter to his son, and wishes him well.