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The Green Silk Saree by Bhawna Jaimini


Source: Pahari painting


My sister and I drooled

over the aluminium box

which my grandmother finally

opened last summer.

The box knows all the secrets

of my family. It has become

a legend now. before we saw it,

we often questioned its existence.

But there it was, in metal and space.

My grandmother had decided that

the secrets were not important

enough anymore.

So she would distribute

them all equally. I was asked

to choose first. If allowed, I would

have taken the whole box

but I settled on her green silk saree.

It was the first silk he bought me

when we both went to a South India tour in 1976.

Bangalore or Madras.

I don’t remember anymore.

My grandmother said, in a dry,

matter of fact tone.

The green silk saree is

a symbol of love, that could not be.

Now I know why she didn’t want

to keep it anymore.

The pallu tells me the story of

the first time she wore it

anticipating a compliment.

Instead she was handed over,

‘you look so fat’ and ‘stop eating all the time’.

The fall tells the story of the time

when she accidentally tipped over

but no hand came to rescue.

The hand was busy stroking

someone else. The oil stain

on it tells the story of the night

when he didn’t come back home

on her birthday. She ate alone,

finding comfort and love

in deep fried pakoras.

As I examine the oil stain

She tells me I can get it dry-cleaned

I decide not to.

When I wore it that night, she told me

That I looked beautiful.

I told her she too would have.

She smiled and her face lit up.

I am dry-cleaning the stains,

one yard at a time.


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