Diamond Earrings5 mins 161 5 mins 161
“Whoosh!” , This was the sixth whistle of the pressure cooker. Mr. Swamy quickly folded “The Hindu” newspaper and rushed into the kitchen when he smelled the burnt milk. Vatsala was grating the coconut at a lumbering pace immersed in her thoughts, unaware of the milk that was burnt on the cooktop.
Vatsala immediately switched off the stove as her husband screamed at her, “Are you still thinking about that devilish, bulky, loathsome mother-in-law of your senseless TV serial? Will I get to eat that Pongal today for breakfast or shall I set out to work famished?” Mr. Swamy stormed out of the kitchen seething with anger or resentment over his starvation.
It was that time of 2016 when the whole country went jittery in just one word “Demonetization”. Vatsala had been saving money over the years without her husband’s knowledge to buy the jewelry of her dreams –“The Seven Stoned Diamond Earrings”. It was an unfulfilled desire right from the time of her wedding when her poor father could not afford to buy her one. She had planned to buy it for her 50th birthday as her husband had no interest in buying jewelry which he considers as an unintelligible investment.
She was now worried about her 1000 and 500 rupees notes which were to be banned in a few days and was thinking about all possible ways to deposit in the bank. Vatsala only had a joint bank account with her husband, so she needed to secretly open a bank account to deposit her furtively amassed savings. She knew the perils of her hard work to save every penny of her stashes. Over the years, she had to cut down on unwanted expenses, bargain with the vegetable vendors, buy clothes at a discounted price, walk or opt for the bus instead of an auto rickshaw; negotiate with the old newspaperman and the junk purchaser to save her precious money.
Vatsala lost track of the amount she had saved till date. She now reached all the hideaways in her house. She pulled out the notes from all possible places that even an Income tax raid crew could not have deciphered. The money came out from the brass containers, between the folds of the silk sarees, some securely inside the cloth pouches that were hidden under the mattress of the bed and some notes had multiple layers of security that were concealed in unimaginable corners of the house.
Finally, the notes came out of their hiding dens. Most of them were wrinkly since they had been folded multiple times. The notes smelled like the places in which they were hidden. Some smelled like talcum powder, some like naphthalene balls, some woody and some metallic. She pressed the notes with a warm iron, to make them crisp once again. She counted and said, “Eighty thousand”, with great pride.
The next day, she went to a bank along with her friend Chitra and after an endless wait for nearly four hours, she opened a new bank account and deposited the money. Within a few days, she received her very first personal checkbook and a debit card. She could not contain her excitement.
The day before her birthday, she went along with Chitra, to the jewelry shop where she had only window shopped all these years. Her contentment knew no bounds when she entered there. She saw chunky necklaces studded with rubies and emeralds, bangles with intricate designs, earrings of all shapes and sizes, bridal collections with antique designs. Both Chitra and Vatsala experienced a paradise on earth.
Vatsala asked for the seven stoned diamond earrings. The salesman showed various variants of the earrings. She said,” I want the traditional design, similar to M.S Subbulakshmi’s”. The salesman showed just the earrings she wanted. She held her breath when the fourteen diamonds of the earrings sparkled in her hands. This had been her dream for 27 years. Just then the salesman clicked the calculator for some quick calculations and said, “Madam, these are 0.1 cent diamonds Rs. 90000”. “I have only eighty in the bank but I cannot withdraw all the money. I might need money for an unforeseen emergency. I will not buy this “, said Vatsala to Chitra. She then brought a diamond earring of a different design which was around 70,000 rupees. Before leaving, she looked at her doting piece for one last time and left the shop with a heavy sigh.
On the day of her birthday, she wore her brand new diamond earrings and admired herself in front of the mirror. She kept the earrings back into the jewelry box. Just like a typical Indian mother, she had actually bought them as a gift for her daughter on the day of her wedding as she could not afford it on her big day.
“Vatsala, can you bring the Sunderkand book, I haven’t read it in years”, said Mr.Swamy. Vatsala pulled out the book from her daughter’s shelf and gave it to her husband and went back to the kitchen to prepare lunch. "Vatsala!” he called her a little furiously. She ran out of the kitchen in fear.” Why have you kept the money inside this book? ”Mr.Swamy asked. He pulled out the notes from the envelope which had been stuck between the pages of the book these years.”15000 rupees and all of them banned currency notes.” he yelled. Vatsala’s heart sank.