(Artwork by Ashwin Pandya)
Monal of nine years wore a baby sari in the month of February . It was gifted to her by her most favourite humans outside of her nuclear family, her two unmarried aunts who visited them every year during summer vacation.
She felt very pleased to be dressed like a grown up specially like her class teacher. Her Class teacher Mrs Ghosh had a way of draping her pallu ( loose end of the sari) over the cardigan to keep cold out and yet look stylish. Monal requested to be dressed exactly so.
Her sari was a simple cotton one, dark brown in colour with diamond motifs in off white. It was Basant Panchami by the Hindu Calander and Saraswati Puja for the people of West Bengal or Bengalis. A tradition Monal’s mother followed every year for that day was she used a turmeric paste made from the fresh roots and added oil to give Monal and her baby sister a massage before a hot bath. Monal believed that it made her skin glow and look pretty.
As soon as she was ready and while her mother draped a smaller sari for her baby sister she knew that she had to go down and pluck marigolds of various sizes that grew aplenty in their garden. It was for the puja that morning. The marigolds were never easy to pluck and left a smell in her slightly yellow stained little hands that was not better than the sandal talcum powder she used after her bath. But right then at nine years Monal’s Mamma had told her that she would always look pretty if she felt pretty.
This lesson learnt at a tender age always stayed with her.
Short Stories by Sushmita Gupta