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.

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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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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.

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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.

Amma


After marriage and kids, rare indeed are the opportunities for one to spend quality time with one’s mom, especially if both of you live in different cities.

I’ve suddenly got this opportunity to make a dashing visit to my mom’s place, at the end of a long, busy day.

It is past 11 pm when I reach. I hear my mom’s cheerful voice the moment I ring the calling bell.

I am enveloped in a huge mom-hug. And, as we chatter away, trying to catch up on all news, she walks into the kitchen and comes back with a hot cup of filter coffee, prepared to perfection, just the way I like it.

I stretch out and revel in the joy of spending time with my mom, without the kids to interrupt or ask their hundred questions. Our conversation meanders from the past to the future and back to the present.

She gently prods me to the dining table to eat. And, unbeknownst to myself I wolf down the hottest, softest and yummiest chappatis, with green moong dal sabzi and tomato chutney, washed down with mom’s love and more coffee.

Memories of times past come rushing back – when the whole family used to sit around the table at dinner time arguing, laughing, singing and sharing our fears, success stories and failures.

I stretch and unwind like I haven’t done in a long time. There is a sense of peace and contentment – of being a child again, completely pampered for a few hours, of being at the receiving end of pure unadulterated love, mom’s love.

In the morning, as I leave, she hugs me, and pins a strand of fragrant jasmine flowers on my hair.

My eyes mist over. It is time to go, back to my duties and to my family.

Love you, Amma. There is simply no one like you.

Little brother, big brother


My little nephew, all of six, keeps his four older cousins on their toes, whenever the whole family meets up during the holidays.

It is fun to watch these four teenagers drop all their eye-rolling and headphone wearing behaviour to play games that my nephew wants. Games that mostly involve buses, cars, airplanes and a lot of role-playing and running around.

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He demands and gets their undivided attention, from the moment he is up everyday till he decides that he’s had enough.

And woe betide the cousin, who slinks away to do teen things. He goes after them and ensures that they get back to being drivers or pilots. But the older kids indulge their little brother every single time. They call him ‘their bundle of cuteness.’

When we all met up during the December holidays last year, my son and my nephew were engaged in playing games the entire morning. By lunch time, my son wanted a break. He pleaded with my nephew, who would not let go, and the boys ended up squabbling.

In just a few minutes, my son walked out and sat down on the couch, with a loud sigh.

My nephew came to me, clutching the right side of his chest and said, “Periamma, you know he (pointing at my son) punched me on my heart.”

My son jumped up to retaliate, “I did not” and then with his eyes narrowed my son said, “By the way your heart is on the left of your body, not the right, so this proves that I did no wrong.”

My nephew looked slightly taken aback, but was not going to back down. Very quickly he shifted his palm and placed it slightly below his right chest and said, “Ok, not my heart, but he punched my right lung.”

The entire household burst out laughing.

And very soon the two brothers made up and disappeared to play.

How quickly time flies.

And, just this week, my little nephew has a baby sister in his life. A tiny, pretty doll, whom he adores.

He has transitioned smoothly from being a little brother to being a big brother. He spends all his free time looking after her, cooing to her and generally showering her with love.

Time flies, kids grow, but our love only gets deeper for little, big brothers and their even tinier sisters.

Priceless Love


The afternoon sun sheds its warm glow, as I absently flip the pages of a book that I just picked off my bookshelf. I smile. For, within the pages of this yellowed book are some small, hand-pressed pink flowers.  I marvel at the passage of time – it is nearly a decade since I pressed those flowers carefully into the pages of the book. 

pressed flower

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

 

As I lovingly run my fingers over the petals, I am transported back in time to nearly ten years ago – to one of many evenings, when I would sit with my friends by the pool side for our evening chitchat.  And, the routine was the same every day.  At about 6 p.m. my friends would nudge me and smile.  Without appearing to do so, I would look for him from the corner of my eye. 

He usually wore bright coloured tees and shorts and would come walk-running down the grassy path near the swimming pool.  His eyes would scan the pool deck chairs for me, and his eyes would finally find mine. 

With a smile of absolute love, my son, three years old, would run and give me a small flower and a hug.

Priceless love preserved in miniature flowers!

A whiff of nostalgia


My daughter and I are out shopping. The mall is crowded with shoppers, all of them on a mission.

My daughter’s list is both simple and complicated. Simple because her colour choices are limited to only black or blue. Complicated because we are scouring every shop looking for that particular top or dress that matches the image she has in her mind. Our time is limited, so we are walking down each aisle, our eyes piercingly intent on the task at hand.

After what seems like ages, my daughter pronounces herself satisfied; mainly because of the addition of a black hoodie to her collection.

On the way out of the mall, I quickly rush to pick up a lip liner and a compact from my favourite brand. And, as I wait in line to pay, my eyes are drawn to a red box that looks familiar. I go over to see it up close.

I was right! This was the first perfume that I had bought with my own money, nearly two decades ago. I had saved up to buy three things – this perfume, a camera and a hair dryer, all of which weresome of my treasured possessions then.

I pick up the tester bottle, and gently spray the perfume on my wrist. I inhale…just a whiff…and I am transported.

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Transported to another time in my life, where there was no husband and kids, where life revolved around my career, parents and siblings.

A life that was filled with so many possibilities and fun. It was time spent with friends, and shopping. It was time spent wondering about the future. It was time spent on my red bike that took me everywhere. It was also a time of loss, when my grandmom died, and a time of joyous celebration when my niece was born the next year.

It was the threshold time before both marriage and motherhood; a time that was my own.

I smile and share some of these memories with my daughter. “When did I stop using this perfume”, I ask myself.

But that’s life for you – as it takes you on new journeys, other fragrances and experiences enrich you, making you forget the old and the sweet.

But, all it took was a whiff ….to bring it all back. My daughter sniffs appreciatively and asks if she can use it. I say yes.

And very soon, she will also embark on new journeys and create her own memories, which I hope are as fragrant as this perfume that’s wafting in the air.

‘Tis a brother-sister thing!


Today is Raksha Bandhan, a day that celebrates the special and deep bond between brothers and sisters. A day when sisters tie raakhis on their brothers’ wrists. A day when the brother promises to care for and protect his sister; and also gives her a gift.

A truly beautiful celebration indeed!

In our home, we celebrate this special bond every year. I have the raakhi and other paraphernalia required, ready for my children.

Image courtesy – Dreamstime.com

They stand in front of each other. My daughter picks up the raakhi and ties it on my son’s wrist. They don’t say much. They just high five each other, exchange a quick hug, and go their separate ways.

There is no talk about a gift.

It is business as usual, they are each back in their own world, where the other does not exist. When they do acknowledge each other, they tease each other ruthlessly, argue constantly or ignore each other.

I observe this.

The day has flown past, the sun has already set. My kids are talking animatedly. Very soon, my son comes to me and tells me that he is taking his sister to the mall nearby for a treat, and to buy her a gift.

And before I nod, the two of them are already at the door, arguing about something inconsequential, as all siblings do.

I smile. I walk back in.

Many years from now, when my kids move out of home and make their own lives, these bonds will deepen further.

But this bond, this love – will always be expressed this playfully, through silly arguments, high fives and awkward hugs!

‘Tis a brother sister thing, after all.