Simple and Wise

17 February 2024
4 mins read

“C’mon, Archana, the purple salwar suit is lovely. We can decide on that, no?” Arathi chided her identical twin sister.

“You know I don’t like purple, Arathi! The gold sequined dress is better. We can both get the same thing and wear it together. That way, everyone will know we’re twins.”

“As if our face is not enough for that!” Countered Aarthi, laughing at her sister’s idea who joined in the laughter.

“What about that awesome Bandhani design salwar suit we saw in the other shop? You can take the purple one and I’ll take the red. That’ll be great, no?”

“No! No! Bandhani is so out of fashion!”

“How about a nice pair of jeans and a matching T-shirt?”

“I don’t like jeans. You can take it for yourself.”

The two sisters were in Chickpet, Bengaluru’s bustling market, looking for the perfect Diwali dress. The best part was they had their own money to spend. Last week, the owner of one of the bungalows where Amma worked as a cook called the girls over and gave them two envelopes.

“There’s 2000 rupees for each of you. Buy yourselves whatever you want for Diwali,” Brinda Aunty had said, smiling at the girls’ happy faces. In the evening, the twins had held the cash in their hands and danced to a popular Bollywood song about money making their parents laugh.

Their humble but neat home bore evidence of their hardworking, responsible parents. Appa worked as a carpenter in a big furniture shop, and Amma as a cook and domestic help in a couple of bungalows nearby.

One corner of their hut was converted into a tidy little kitchen and the opposite corner into a curtained bathroom. The toilet was outside which they shared with a few neighbours.

The girls went to the local government school. They worked hard, did well in their class, and were set to write their Standard X board exam next year.

Today, Appa had brought them to Chickpet on his second-hand scooter. He dropped them at Chickpet Circle. “Come back and wait here when you finish. I will pick you up in a couple of hours.”

The small alleyways were filled with shops, multi-hued garments hanging on mannequins and windows enticing hordes of jostling shoppers.

The air was filled with wafting aromas of different kinds of fries and grilled sandwiches made fresh and sold by pushcart vendors who vied with shopkeepers in shouting matches, hollering for customers’ attention. The girls were super excited.

But finding the perfect dress! That was complicated!  The ones they liked were expensive. The designs they liked weren’t available in the colour of their choice and finding the right fit was challenging. The sisters visited over a dozen stores, but couldn’t decide.

Amma always stitched their clothes for them. This was the first time they came shopping for readymades. It wasn’t easy at all. But it was amazingly fun!

“Arathi, aren’t we lucky we can buy dresses of our choice for Diwali? Chandu is not getting new clothes this year because they don’t have enough money.”

“Yeah! All thanks to her father’s drinking habit! His loud abuses and her mother’s crying disturb our sleep every day. Why does he drink at all? Doesn’t he know alcohol is not good?”

“Yeah! Chandu says we’re blessed that Appa doesn’t drink!”

“Jenny’s father started drinking only a year ago. She told me he’s vicious when drunk. Anjali’s father picked up the habit recently!” Archana echoed Arathi’s anxious thoughts.

“What if…” An uncomfortable silence followed.

Suddenly, finding the perfect garment seemed unimportant. They had been on the streets for more than 2 hours now. The girls decided not to buy anything and waited at the designated place for Appa to pick them up.

“You didn’t find anything nice!” Amma said in surprise. Appa had gone to park the scooter at his usual spot a little away from their home. She laughed when they explained how complicated it is to choose one from hundreds.

“Amma, can you stitch our dresses this time as well?”Arathi said even as her sister nodded in agreement. The twins decided to stick to the simple yet perfect choice.

Amma smiled and said, “OK! I have some lovely fabric that Brinda Aunty gave me last year. I’ll stitch skirts and blouses for both of you. We’ll discuss patterns in the evening. But what are you going to do with the money?”

The girls looked at each other and said haltingly, “We thought we’d save some for next year’s school books, and use some of it to buy Chandu something for Diwali. Is that okay, Amma?”

Amma turned her face to hide her happy tears. She said, “Of course you can! It’s your money. You can do as you please.”

Despite their simple but heartwarming choice, she noticed the twin’s faces were still drawn. “What’s worrying you now, girls?”

They hesitated for a while, and then Archana blurted out the disturbing question. “What if Appa is tempted to start drinking?”

Arathi added, “Yeah, like Jenny’s and Anjali’s fathers?”

Coming without a warning, their question startled their Amma for an instant. Quickly recovering herself, she walked over to her girls and gave them a warm hug.

“Don’t worry. Appa is a strong man who will not fall for that temptation because he loves us more than anything in the world.”

At that moment, Appa walked in. The three ladies realised he must have overheard their conversation, given the surprise on his face. The girls hung their heads in shame and embarrassment for doubting him.

Blinking back his tears and hugging the girls, he said, “No, my dear daughters, you shouldn’t be afraid or ashamed of valid fears. You have gone beyond the obvious worries and desires of adolescent children. As your proud father, I promise you that whenever I feel tempted, I shall sternly remind myself to follow your path of finding joy in simplicity.”

Photo by Hakan Nural:



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Ratna Prabha

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