She had started to get worried the moment her teacher announced that everybody was required to wear white frock for the function. She knew she doesn’t have any and cannot afford to buy one. The function would be so much fun. She just hoped that by some sudden miracle she is able to discover one. She would have to ask her maa.
“Why is your mom so old?” Girls around would ask her. She knew the answer but would keep them at bay by saying something like
“She isn’t that old, she just looks like she is”
She called her ‘Maa ’ even though she knew it wasn’t that way. Her mother had died long back, she may have been 2 years old then. She somehow did not want to admit it to herself that the woman who loved her so much is not her mother. Her father is in Army and she didn’t like him much. She would hide under the cot whenever he visited them which was once or sometimes twice a year. He was against her going to school but it was her maa, her mother’s mother, who wanted her to study. There was barely any money coming in the house , just what her father would send which was just enough for her school fees and other basic needs.
After she went back home and helped her Grand mom prepare lunch and rummaging through every possible piece of cloth they had which also included the table cover, sofa cover she asked her Grand mom
“Maa do you have something in white that I could use as a frock?”
“Oh why don’t you wear yours?”
“The one that u bought last Diwali”
“That one is not white, it’s yellow!”
“Oh my eyesight and I always thought it was white” chuckled her grand mom
“Why don’t you get them checked?”
“What change would it make if I am able to see white as white? And somehow it makes me feel better to see things my way”
She wasn’t in the mood to argue.
“I need a white frock for my school function” and then she saw her grand mom’s face a few moments before feeling of helplessness and sadness escaped it.
She could no longer bear it so she ran out saying that she was going to play with her friends and that she hates functions and doesn’t wish to go.
Even as the words came out of her mouth she knew how untrue they were, she really wanted to be there for the function, for the joy of it, for the song they will get to sing, for the clapping, for the free ladoos that they would be getting after the function. She decided to go even if she had to wear the yellow frock.
Even after making the decision of going for the function the next morning, she kept tossing and turning in her less than comfortable bed. What she was feeling was a mix of excitement and nervousness. Just then she felt a stir and she glanced at her maa who was sleeping by her side. She could not resist any longer her urge to put her doubts to rest and called out in a hush but urgent tone/
“hmmm…” came the sleepy reply.
“umm I was thinking…”
“It will be all good, you my dear will get lots of clapping. Haven’t I told you that million times already? Now let me sleep.”
“I love you” she said as her maa drifted back to sleep her jaws open and breathe heavy and noisy.
As she reached her school it seemed like it was flooded with girls, everyone of them wearing different types of white frocks. Some simple, some lacy, some over sized, some fancy. She could feel the stares creeping all over her, she felt like turning and making a dash for home but the mirth, the joy, happy giggles the celebration all together seized her from leaving. Nervously she approached her class teacher. Even before she could wish her a good morning, a slap landed on her cheek with a thud. Everything was a blur from then on. She just remembered a little discussion, sneering teachers as if she was an untouchable, girls giggling at her foolishness. She was made to stand at the far end of the ground – a punishment for her disobedience.
As it rained she sat at the bus stop letting tears roll down her burning cheek. She let the rain drench her. She wished that the rain would wash away the yellow of the frock and then may be hidden underneath it would be a spotless white frock.