I was looking through some old photographs and saw one of me in a saree which took my mind to the day my mother and I went to the newly opened Parthas to buy it.
I am not one of those who pull out all the sarees in a shop before I choose one. If I find one I like, I stop looking for more "selection', and make the purchase immediately.
On that day, amma and I went straight to the cotton saree section. A youngish sales boy was at the counter. He pulled out one stack of sarees and I immediately found what I was looking for. It was a beige coloured plain saree with a lovely temple sculpture figures on the border in dark maroon. Usually, amma is the one who takes the initiative to close the deal, but this time, she just stood there, her eyes fixed on the saree. Perplexed, I turned to the sales boy and asked him to bill it and pack it. Then I felt amma's gentle hand on my arm. I turned to her and was startled to see that she had bent over with her face close to the saree and was squinting down at it. Alarmed, I asked her
'What is it, amma? What's wrong?"
She looked up, gave me a strange grin and said,
"I forgot to take my glasses"
"But surely you can see the saree without them" said I, more alarmed than ever. Oh God! Could something have happened to her vision - something I had failed to notice?
Suddenly, she straightened up, looked at the sales boy, pointed to the silk section and asked him to bring some sarees from there. My heart leapt - she was going to surprise me with a silk saree, I thought.
As soon as salesboy started walking towards the silk section, amma grabbed my arm, lowered her voice, and in a conspiratorial tone urged me.
"Moley, this saree you've selected. See if those women on the border are wearing clothes. You said they are temple sculptures, didnt you? Quick! Before he comes back"
Eighteen years after that incident, amma and I were sitting on the veranda of her house when a house to house saree vendor came in with his wares. I was about to send him away when amma called him in. It was the 21st of December, I remember, and she asked me to take a saree. It was to be her Christmas gift to me. After the vendor left, I reminded her about the way she tried censoring my saree years back. Tears of merriment running down her face, she denied ever having done it.
She didnt live to see another Christmas after that. I have maintained her last gift to me in perfect condition - wear it once in a way and relive those moments.