Joy Every Morning
Joy Every Morning
Twice a year. That’s how often the contents of my crockery cupboard see the light of day. Delicate cups and saucers, gravy boats, dinner plates and serving dishes. I take them all out, wash and wipe them and put them back safely and lovingly for use when I have guests. And I? I use some tough, scratch proof mugs for my morning tea. They are a bit ugly, but I try not to mind – it is only me, after all.
I am not the only member of this tribe called Save Life for Later. There are many more, some of whom are even firmer followers of its tenets. One of my friends uses a chipped cup, with the chip turned away from her … except when she has company. Then the chipped bit is turned towards her and hidden from their eyes. A beautiful blue pottery crockery set gazes at her from its place in her sideboard all the while.
I have stored my clothes two whole almirahs – Godrej almirahs, with a mirror on the door. My mother always told me that clothes were much safer in those. My grandmother had also told her so. And, if there is a tradition hidden there, I’ll find out when my daughter grows up. She might of course say, “Amma just because you used to live in the Ice ages, I don’t have to freeze too!”
More of that story later. My clothes are sorted into neat piles according to an elaborate system of classification and categorisation. Saris, salwar kameezes, trousers, shirts in different piles. Not according to colour, or year of purchase, which is not as silly an idea as it sounds. I have clothes that are twenty-five years old. Some saris, of course, are much older and should be handed down to my teary-eyed daughter on her wedding day, say all the stories. I must confess that I have a couple of piles of favourite clothes sorted a bit differently. One pile will fit me after two months of exercise. Another pile will fit me when that extra inch of flab on my waist has melted away. And so on, in order of increasing ambition and self delusion. The rest of my clothes have been arranged according to use. At home, going to buy vegetables at the pushcart outside, going to buy vegetables at a posh store, going to a mall, going downstairs to the building lobby, going to meet an acquaintance, going to meet a close friend, going to a party, going to a wedding, going to a wedding in the family … I only have to classify my impending outing according to those pre-defined parameters and voila! I have my outfit ready.
So, you will find me standing at my almirah, holding the doors open and staring intently at my clothes, rather in the style of Guru Dutt about to break into “Yeh duniya agar mil bhi jaaye toh kya ho!” in the film Pyaasa. I find myself constantly splitting hairs … is that a close friend, or only a “friend”? Is that a get-together, or a party? My whole life needs to be reviewed right there, and I don’t have time for that just when my whole focus is on much more pressing topics like clothes. I never find myself wearing my best clothes. I am always sure that there’s a grander, better, or more appropriate occasion around the corner. I’ve draped one of my favourite saris exactly twice in two decades. It’s a mercy that saris don’t go out of fashion like that fancy Anarkali kurta which was sadly outmoded when its turn finally came. I’m sure it will be back in fashion in exactly twenty years, if I could but look into the future.
That outdated kurta had its uses, though. I stood out in the entire crowd of women at the party, wearing short, straight cut kurtis with Patiala salwars. I also met someone who was able to recognise me only because she had seen me in that self-same kurta exactly six years ago. That incident shook my faith in my clothes classification, I must confess. What is it that keeps me from dressing for myself, instead of for the world? From looking my best for my family that sees me every day? Have I ever wondered if my tea might actually taste different in a Royal gold-edged cup? No. I never have, thank God! However, when did I decide that it was too much trouble to use my fine dessert bowls for the apple crumble or the chocolate brownies that I make for my daughter?
Yesterday morning, a delicate, elusive, flowery perfume wafted through the house. It brought a smile to my face and erased the frown from my forehead. It ushered a fresh, little breeze into the humid October morning. It seemed to be coming from the kitchen. Could it be simply my imagination? I went into the kitchen to investigate. I found the flowers in a little jasmine gajra wound about my domestic help’s hair.
She turned and greeted me with a smile infused with the freshness of jasmine. Her sari brought in the sunshine – bright and lovely and draped smartly. Then it struck me that she had always come to work dressed as well as she could. Not for a wedding or a party, but to sweep and mop the floors of other people’s houses. To wash their bathrooms and take out their garbage. No air-conditioned comfort or smart office interiors to greet her. Not just that, there is no one to notice, let alone appreciate, her appearance. For all the attention that is paid to her, she might as well be just another fixture in the house.
She might become sweaty and grimy, but before she left my house for the next one, she would prink herself up and step out as jauntily as the flowers in her hair. Those jaunty flowers told me in clear tones that echoed through the house — Live life Queen size. Everyday!