It was an early monsoon Sunday afternoon. The monsoon showers poured down the entire morning and seemed to have taken a break. Mugdha gently rolled up the window blinds and opened the window. Warm air wafted in and spread across the room. She looked up at the sky. The sun shone bright while the dark clouds glided swiftly. It was a perfect afternoon. She slided in the rocking chair and picked the book lying on the side table and began to read from the page that had its right corner flipped down as a bookmark. It was her regular routine or rather, her favorite time in the afternoons.
While Mugdha was engrossed into the book, she heard a mellifluous song coming from the backyard. She walked towards the window and tilted her gaze in the direction the voice reached her ears. It saw her maid’s daughter, Meena singing heartily. She usually accompanies her mother, Rajyam to help her in the household chores. She is swift with her work and usually runs errands to Mugdha. Like a gust of wind she paces around and appears in a jiff with a never ending smile that curve the ends of her lips. Mugdha always marveled seeing the chirpy eleven year old Meena blooming with stupendous energy.
Today as well the little girl was in her usual high spirits singing a song in the local dialect. In the song she described about ‘pattu pavada’, a traditional attire worn by girls from South India. The ‘pavada’ is in deep red hue with a thick golden zari border. The border had peacocks and swans embroidered in an elegant way. The golden dots well known as ‘buttis’ ran all through the pavada that sparkled like diamonds under the bright sun. Like way, she went on describing the minuscule details of the pavada. Rajyam, Meena’s mother continued to scrub the soiled utensils happily smiling at her little girl while Meena washed and stacked them in a steel wired basket next to her. Her slender hands worked in a fine rhythmic way. Mugdha felt the clink clank sounds of the utensils amplified the song like a background score.
Watching them, Mugdha took a stroll down the memory lane when she was of the same age as that of Meena. Her world had been tiny where she found happiness in little nothing’s. Family bonds were the greatest assets. Living at peace and being content were considered as the measures of success. Endurance and perseverance battled the tests of time. It was an era bygone she thought and let out a wistful smile. She went back to her recliner and resumed her reading while Rajyam and Meena continued with their chores. Each of them got indulged with their routines and schedules in their own little worlds.
The next day, the day after, and two days later too, Mugdha could overhear Meena stuck to the same song.
“Where did she pick up the song from, Rajyam?” Mugdha casually enquired, a week later.
“Its from our local habitat Amma, she has been singing the same song round the clock,” grinned Rajyam scratching the back of her ear.
“She sings beautiful,” applauded Mugdha.
Rajyam received the praise with a bashful smile. Meena was in the backyard playing with Mugdha’s daughter, a nine year old. The duo were busy hopping on the checkers they had drawn as a part of hopscotch game, their favorite recreation sport. Mugdha always loved watching them and their child like innocence. Today her gaze was fixed at Meena. She gave a brief thought and continued with her work.
Two days later, Rajyam was leaving after having finished her daily chores when Mugdha called her.
Meena who tailed Rajyam, stood behind her twisting the loose ends of Rajyam’s saree.
Mugdha looked at Meena and waved at her in a gesture to come over. She pulled out a box neatly wrapped in a golden foil and gave it to Meena. For a brief moment Meena blinked uncertain of the situation and looked at Rajyam who nodded her head as an approval.
“Meena, this is a gift for your singing, take it…,” assured Mugdha.
Meena smiled and took the box. Rajyam expressed her gratitude with shimmered eyes. A little later they left to their home.
Back home, Meena slowly unwrapped the gold foil that enclosed the box. Her eyes illuminated a million stars when she saw what’s instore. A deep vermillion red pavada with a golden zari border. There were peacock embellishments in the zari border and the buttis that ran all through the pavada resembled numerous sinking golden sun’s on a red streaked horizon. She instantly picked up the pavada and sprinted to Rajyam in great happiness.
“Amma…look at this pavada…. Isn’t it very pretty,” she beamed in excitement.
Rajyam who was busy preparing lunch looked at her little one’s euphoric face and felt happy.
“It is indeed fabulous dear” she exclaimed.
Meena’s happiness knew no bounds. She danced in joy and kept running her hands over the intricate ornamentation, sequins and beads embedded in the border that bedazzled incessantly. After taking a close look at the pavada, she neatly folded it and secured it in her metal trunk case.
The following day, Meena lazily woke up to the warmth of the sunrays that gently stroked her eyelids. She looked around. Rajyam had already left for her duties, perhaps ought not to wake up Meena, who slept late the previous night.
Mugdha asked Rajyam if Meena liked the gift. Rajyam profusely thanked her for the generosity and described how elated she had been all day long.
A few days later, Mugdha heard Meena singing the same song which had initially drawn her attention. She strode across the living room to the backyard and saw Meena in her usual cheerful spirits. She was wearing a mint green long skirt which had few patches along its sides. The rear end towards the right side was a little torn and the threads dangled loosely. It was the same skirt that she had noticed a few days back and felt deeply saddened of her state. And it was then, she decided to get a new pavada for Meena.
‘Why hasn’t Meena worn the new one yet?’
‘Hadn’t she yearned for a pavada like the one from the song she was glued to?’
And so on, several thoughts clouded her.
As Mugdha kept pondering over myriad thoughts that surfaced her mind, reality struck her like a bolt of lightning.
She was judgmental …
Her perceptions were misconceptions…
Meena’s present state had little to do with her inner joy. She was content with her fate and found bundles of happiness in every little thing that crossed her path.
Mugdha experienced an epiphany. She removed her eye glasses that blurred her vision, brushed off the fine dust that collected around its golden rim and wore them back.
Through the crystal clear glasses that she wore, Mugdha once again gazed at Meena and smiled to herself as a cool breeze swayed across her.