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PRICE OF VANITY

It was the wedding of our nephew and my husband, who is abroad, had told me to try to attend it. He had just had his yearly vacation in India and so could not think of another trip just now. So he wanted me to represent him.

Being a simple person by heart, I had decided on a sari that I was going to wear for the wedding. However, one fine day my hubby dear called up and asked me what I was going to wear for the function. When I told him of my selection, he told me I would better get myself a new silk sari, since I would feel out of place otherwise. I was happy to seize the opportunity.

I decided to go shopping first in our local area to see if I could find a suitable sari. My son, Akhil, had come to drop me there in his vehicle. He too came into the showroom and agreed to help me select a sari. Akhil felt that the saris we found there were not good enough to hold up pappa’s dignity. Hence I set out for T-Nagar, the shopping paradise of Chennai. My son dropped me at the railway station.

I was lucky enough to catch a train in about 5 minutes and thought, “Oh, it seems to be my lucky day. I will be able to get the perfect sari of my dreams.” But this was not to be. As soon as the train left the station I had a call. It was Akhil calling up to tell me the key bunch I had given him did not contain the key to the new lock we had installed lately. I was irritated, but what was to be done. I got down at the very next station and crossed the tracks, running to catch the train that was coming in the opposite direction. As I got down at our station, Akhil was waiting for me. “The salesman at the local showroom would have cursed me, that’s why this is happening. We made him take out a good many of his stock without buying anything. I think I will make do with the selection here”, I told Akhil, hesitating to go to T. Nagar. But Akhil did not want to revisit the showroom and look foolish, so he urged me on to go to T. Nagar.

I walked into Pothys and looked at all the saris. Being a Sunday, the showroom was crowded beyond its capacity. The saris of my choice seemed either very expensive or too cheap. After browsing for about one-and-a-half hours, I settled on a sari that I felt was enough for the status of my better half. It was a leaf green silk sari with a brownish border. I then realize my bias for the green color has made me choose yet another green sari. Anyway I did not have the energy for another process of selection. After a battle to get to the counter, I somehow paid the bill and got out. It was getting dark as I returned home. Of course I did get snacks for Akhil to clear my conscience.

I waited for my soul mate’s call to show off the sari. He was pleased with my selection. I asked him if I had to purchase something for the relatives there. He put in, “There are scores of relatives to be taken care of. So better buy something for the kids alone. Also, get some sweets to give Amma at home.”

I chided myself for not having asked him that question earlier. Only two days left for the journey and I had all the packing to do too. Also, Akhil being in his crucial point of school life was unable to accompany me. So I was expecting my dad to come over from Kerala and take over. Since my father was not well versed with the kitchen, I would have to prepare something and keep it handy in the fridge for the three days of my absence. Anyways, it was a suggestion from the head office and hence had to be adhered to. This time I decided to shop locally.

After spending another couple of hours at the stores, I was pleased with my selection of the dresses for our nephews and nieces. Upon reporting back, I was badly rebuked by hubby, when he heard the cost of the dresses. He was very angry with me and said those children would never wear such cheap dresses. Actually they were comparatively expensive dresses that were available locally. Yet his remonstrations kept coming back into my mind. In Francois de La Rochefocauld’s words, “……. we enjoy the vanity more than the thing given.”

The D-day for the journey arrived and my father arrived promptly in the morning. I apprised him on all the little details. The criticisms about my carefully selected gifts for the kids still disturbed me. After lunch, I slowly told dad, “Pappa, I had bought some dresses for the kids in my husband’s home. But my husband is not pleased with them, he said they are too cheap. Please can you give me a ride to the showroom so that I can exchange them. Also, I have to get some sweets for them.” Pappa hesitated. “I prodded her and pushed her into learning to ride a two-wheeler and now what is the use, someone still has to give her a ride.” That may have been Pappa’s thoughts just then. On further pleading dad gave in.

Having crossed the road we parked the Dio and then went into the showroom. The salesmen were not angry as I had expected. We were going to get more expensive clothes after all. We got clothes that cost us twice the amount spent before. The bakery was a little farther way away and by the time we finished all our purchases it was 3 p.m. The train was for 7:55 and I had to leave home at least by 5 p.m. in order to reach on time. Pappa was tensed.

As I sat behind my father on the bike, I dreamt of the impending journey, how I would get to see all our relatives who had gathered for the wedding, how I will see my newborn niece, Helen. All of a sudden the bike tilted and my father lost his balance. I was thrown off the bike and then for a few minutes I could not gather my wits. I was unable to stand up and passers by came and lifted me up and somehow made me sit on a chair at a nearby shop. There was no strength in my legs as I tried to stand up and I felt like crying. We sat for a long time there, me unable to move. Needless to say, my dad was very tense and did not know what to do. To make matters worse, I was worried that my son would have returned from school and would be waiting as he did not have the keys with him. Slowly I gathered my strength and got up. Somehow I was able to sit behind my father on the bike once again. As I reached home, my son was waiting at the gate exasperated. He was already in a bitter mood as I was going away without him and now there was no one to open the door for him. I expected him to explode. Yet even in this situation Akhil surprised me by how calmly he behaved.

All my dreams were shattered. The silk sari, costly dresses, sweets everything was ready for the journey, but not me. I could not bear the pain and spent almost three hours in the hospital waiting for the doctor. X-rays confirmed that I had a sacral fracture and the doctor advised rest for 3 months at least. My greatest disappointment was the fact that I had put down the hopes of my husband.

So I thought of the Bible verse, “Then I looked on all the works that my hands had wrought, and on the labour that I had labored to do: and, behold, all vanity and vexation of spirit, and no profit under the sun.”

The silk sari is still unused and the kids’ clothes awaiting my next trip to my hometown.

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Posted on February 2nd, 2014 by shinchi

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