Tuesday 8 July 2014


She counted the notes in her hand once again.
Rupees 450.
“We don't do it for anything less than 500, woman,” he had said. “And in your case, only if you return before 4 this evening. Can’t wait any longer,” he had added.
That means , at least 50 Rupees more, she thought.

And perhaps a little extra . One could never be sure. And she couldn't take a chance with less money at hand .
 Not now, anyway.

She counted the notes again, and bundled them neatly to the end of her pallu. She turned back to look at the five-year old who had been playing with her doll, under the shade of the tree by the sidewalk.
She had fallen asleep, the doll clasped tight to her bosom.

Poor thing, she must be hungry, she felt sad . The little one had had just a couple of bananas since that morning, and it was half past two already.

If only I could sell these  off quick, she thought, looking at her basket of woollen dolls , which her daughter loved knitting.

Dolls in pairs. The bride and her groom. 
Dressed in  a fabric of creamy yellow with golden laces and a red turban , the dulha dolls matched the beauty of the dulhans in their red and green frilled lehengas, made of crisp shiny cloth.

Four out of the thirteen pairs that she had brought for sale that day remained in the basket.

Thirteen. She cringed at the thought of the number. She wondered why people called it unlucky.

Her daughter always made thirteen pairs.
Yellow and brown . Red and green. Pink and purple. Orange and Blue. In all weird combinations of colours she could imagine.
The whole basket would be a riot of colours when she finished. She would then pair the dulha with his dulhan, and sew their hands together.
An unbreakable bond, she would chuckle.

These woollen dolls that her daughter made had fed them their bread and butter for a long time now; ever since her husband's death . She sold them on the streets, at exhibitions, at the bus stations, near the museums, at the amusement parks - wherever she could find a kind soul who could part with a little money for her work. Usually, they were sold out by the evening. On days when she found it difficult to get customers, she went beyond her comfort zones and ventured into new areas to find a market.
And they pulled on with life.

She looked at the dolls again.
Eyes, nose and ears painted on the wool with a sharp brush and beads glued on to them neatly.
Her waist-length hair , made of thick black wool, braided to perfection.
The red turban conferring the much needed royal look on him.
Such skill !
She smiled at the thought of her daughter's talent.

Doll making was her catharsis. One that made her forget the pain of the love that had betrayed her trust and gone away,  after seeding her womb with a new life in a moment of lust.
The very same life, that was sleeping now under the tree.

She looked again at the sleeping child and tears filled her dry eyes, threatening to flow out with a rapidity she was afraid she wouldn't be able to control.

Poor kid. All of five years, and devoid of love so soon. If only....

" How much for these dolls, amma ?"

She turned to look at the face of an elderly gentleman, kneeling down beside her and examining the dolls with interest.

" Rupees Fifty a pair," she said, her hopes rising.

" Oh... pack three of them , please", he said.

" My grandchildren will love these, " he paid her with a smile as she handed over the polythene cover with the dolls to him.

She now had Rs 600. A little more than what she needed. She could leave now.
Packing the remaining pair in her shoulder bag, she got up and moved towards the little child to wake her up.

They had a long way to go.

" Do you make these yourself, amma?"

She stopped and turned back. The gentleman had returned.

" My daughter made them," she said. " Her mother", she added after a second, gesturing towards the sleeping child.

"Oh... they're just so beautiful. I was just wondering, you had one more pair, aren't you selling that ? ", he asked.

She paused before answering. Should she sell it too ? She would get more money, but no, she didn't need that now.

"No, sir. That's for her. That is all that she has," she said, looking at her granddaughter again.

"Arey, your daughter can make more for her, na", he said, but smiled kindly at the kid who had begun to stir out of her sleep.

She just smiled faintly to this and turned to walk.

" You seem to be in a hurry. Can you do one thing ? Here's my card. Can you just let me know when you have fifty such pairs  ? I want them to gift the children at the Orphanage I'm a patron of", he said, giving her a card.

She looked at him for a moment, and at the card.

" No sir. I'm sorry. I don't think I can. Those dolls were the last of the batch ", she said, lowering her eyes, her  voice curt and steely and turned to walk  under the red hot sun, her hand  tightly wrapped around her granddaughter's wrist.

No more time to explain.

The tears that had threatened her before a few minutes escaped the confines of her eyes and cascaded down .
She lifted her face , chin up , the heat of the sun falling directly on her cheeks.
She wanted the tears to dry soon. Lest the child should ask her the whys and why nots.

She couldn't afford to lose any more time. She had to reach the man before his demand for money went up. And before he could put a finger on the time he had allotted.

Her daughter was waiting for her to return with the money as promised.

She walked, her back bent, her frail shoulders aching , hoping that she was in time for the burial of her daughter's body at the public graveyard.
Image courtesy - Google Images


  1. I got goosebumps reading this one, Sreeja. You are gifted with the art of story telling. Such a beautiful story, but haunting...

    1. Thanks for those kind words, Aathira :) You're so kind :)

  2. Ah Sreeja, this is so poignant! You write so well.Till the end there is no hint of how it will end. Yesterday I tried to copy your style in one of my posts.I don't know whether I succeeded.Kindly give your expert opinion.

  3. You are back and how!!! Wow Sreeja, this one brought a tear in my eye and I'm the one who never cries!!

    This was mindblowing. I am so so so proud of you for writing this! :)

  4. oh my...that was unbearably sad Sreeja...it really tugged at my heart....ur are such a talented writer!

    1. Special, when it comes from you, Titli :) Thanks darling :)

  5. Brilliant! This was such an emotion packed tale Shreeja. I did keep wondering why the lady wouldn't sell them all. Loved it :)

  6. Superbly narrated, wondering if it is inspired from a real-life incident as you've tagged it under biographical accounts!

    1. Thanks , CW :) Well, I guess it must be a reality for someone, at least !

  7. No words, Sree. That was one of your best, and I loved the narration. I think A got it right in her comment, and I agree with her.

  8. I was reading it with bated breath and wondering for what she needed that money. Very poignant tale very beautifully woven, Sreeja. Loved it!

  9. Sreeja, Sreeja, Sreeja! I have no words to express how I feel after reading this story. You are quite a storyteller. Love.

    1. Love, Beloo :) I'm honoured :) Thanks, dear !

  10. A beautiful poignant tale told with a strong heart. The last sentence left a lump in my throat.Salute you Sreeja.

  11. Sreeja, you wrenched my heart out with this tale. Incredible storytelling, my dear. Just incredible! The punchline was spectacular!

    1. Thanks a lot, Shailaja. That boosts my confidence :)

  12. Such a beautiful and poignant tale here Sreeja. Your best work for me. Just loved it. Amazing :) :)

  13. Tragic tale so soulfully told Sreeja! Yet again a brilliant write!

  14. This was so beautiful, Sreeja. I was really surprised at the end. Such a lovely tale yet so tragic.

  15. I'm speechless!
    You are a master story-teller!!

  16. Chechi :* :* :* You are an amazing storyteller. Love you lots and keep writing. I want to read more of you. More and more and more.

    1. Paru :* :*
      Thanks for that, a lot and a lot more :)

  17. Hey! I have got something for you here. http://silentdrizzle-parvathy.blogspot.com/2014/07/award-time.html

  18. That was a touching story. I was almost cursing her for being rude to a customer, and then I read the ending. Too good :)

    Destination Infinity

  19. Namaste.....
    Ah but the harsh realities of life.....

    Nicely done, thanks for sharing.

  20. Gosh!I was wondering why she is saying No to the offer that gentle man made!

    Great Story Telling! keep writing!!


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