- It is Mother’s Day and the mithai pasal is swarming with daughters and sons. But sweetness comes at a cost
The crowd slowly starts to thin out. As other people rush out of the shop with their bags of mithai, Shakuntala moves forward towards the counter with careful, measured steps. The closer she gets to the counter, the faster her heart begins to beat
Nov 12, 2017-It is mothers’ day and Shakuntala, who has just stepped into adolescence, is very excited. It is a big day for her. For the first time in her life, she’s buying her mother some sweets with her own money—the five rupees she’s been saving just for this day.
Shakuntala has no memory of her father. He passed away when she was just a toddler. But her mother, who raised Shakuntala in a small six by eight foot room in the city, is her everything. She loves her mother to the moon and back.
The mithai pasal is located in the same galli that leads to her school. A galli that she dreads walking because of the allares that spend their whole day catcalling young girls who pass by. But she doesn’t have an option. She cannot avoid the route today.
As soon as Shakuntala drinks her morning chiya, she heads towards the mithai pasal with five rupees tightly clenched in her fist. She doesn’t remember the last time she saw so many people crammed in one place. The mithai pasal is swarming with daughters and sons buying sweets for their mothers.
Standing at the end of the crowd, she neither sees the Sahuji nor his sweets. All she sees is the backs of other customers who are shouting in their orders...One kilo Jeri, 50 Lal Mohans, Laddu for 200 rupees.
Shakuntala opens her fist and looks at the five rupees that is now drenched in her sweat. Her bright eyes turn sad as she wonders what might be worth so little money.
Just as she tries to shove away the nervousness, a chill runs down her body. What if the Nepte boy that always makes her uncomfortable with his eyes is at the counter?
“I’ll just go home, ask Ama for some money and come back later,” Like a traveller trying to decide which road to take, Shakuntala moves back and forth, unsure of what she wants and what she should do.
“But, I can’t do that. I shouldn’t do that. How can I ask Ama money for something I’m buying her?”
Shakuntala, who has always been an understanding daughter, decides not to add to her mother’s expenses. She has never demanded for more than what is offered to her anyway. She knows all the struggles that her mother goes through to make ends meet.
The crowd slowly starts to thin out. As other people rush out of the shop with their bags of mithai, Shakuntala moves forward towards the counter with careful, measured steps. The closer she gets to the counter, the faster her heart begins to beat.
“Just what I feared of.” The Nepte boy is at the counter weighing and packing all the sweets. Before she can turn around and run back home, their eyes meet. Unable to turn away from each other’s gaze, they take turns blushing. Unlike other days, when Shakuntala just pretended that he didn’t exist, today, she breaks the silence first.
“Give me whatever is worth this money,” she hands out the soaked note. This was a pleasant surprise. Nepte boy hadn’t ever imagined that Shakuntala would ever talk to him. He looks at the Sahuji who’s busy counting money and shoving it all inside a drawer.
“What do you want?” The boy asks in a rather soft, and almost loving, voice.
“Anything that’s worth my money.” The money is now covered by sweets at the counter. It has drawn no attention whatsoever. Not from other customers, not from the Sahuji. The boy looks at the little pink end of the note that is still poking out.
This is the first time this morning that he has stopped to think, and perhaps feel something.
“It’s Mothers’ Day,” his heart sinks a little. His life has been so entangled in the flour, the butter, and the sugar, that he hasn’t seen his own mother in forever. He doesn’t even know if she’s doing okay. When he left home for a better life, he didn’t realise that he’d end up in a mithai pasal, where sweetness comes at a cost.
He takes out a bag and fills it up with any and every mithai in plain sight. Shakuntala doesn’t know what is happening as laddu, peda, barfi and nimki–much more mithai than what her money is worth–go inside the bag. She looks at him and then at the Sahuji to check if he’s noticing. She cannot say no to his offer as he looks at her eyes with utmost kindness, maybe even love.
It is difficult for him to decide who it is that he’s filling the bag for–the girl in the city that he’s falling in love with or the mother back in his village who is probably waiting for him to show up at the aangan any minute now.
Published: 12-11-2017 10:50
- Mothers’ Day