Renuka had her heart set on a black saree but it was too expensive… would she ever be able to get her dream saree?
By Rhituparna Chakraborty
Renuka could not take her eyes off the black saree in the saree shop. It had been years since she bought an expensive saree. Not that, she did not buy sarees. She did buy sarees but this one was stunning. It had a pretty golden border with pink and golden embroidery work.
It was expensive. Well, expensive as in, it was 10,000 rupees. For some people, 10,000 rupees was breeze. Spending that amount on a saree was perfectly fine. But for Renuka the amount was a princely one.
She told the shopkeeper, “Could you please keep the saree on hold for a week? Please…. I will come back and buy this.” The shopkeeper replied reluctantly, “Ma’m it is difficult to get customers these days. What if you change your mind later and don’t come for this saree later?”
Renuka thought, ‘He is right. What if I don’t feel like buying it later?’ She replied, “I understand. Nonetheless, I will come after a week. If the saree is still there, I will buy it.” The shopkeeper nodded and said, “Sure Ma’m.”
Renuka had a tiny beauty parlor at her home. Her husband Rajesh was a medical representative. Their household income was enough to take care of their basic needs, school fees of their two children and medical expenses of Rajesh’s mother. Renukahad initially wanted to work in an office. She had a master’s degree in commerce. In fact, she had a decent job in a private company earlier.
However, after her kids were born, it became almost impossible for her to step out of her home for job. Her mother-in-law was supportive and she had volunteered to take care of the kids while Renuka was at work. However, Renuka did not want her mother-in-law to be stressed at this age. Renuka believed that, since she and her husband had brought these beautiful children to this world, it was their responsibility to take care of them.
Rajesh was always travelling for official trips. Hence Renuka stayed at home and took care of the house. She had done a course in haircut, threading, make-up and other beauty related stuff. Hence, she started a small beauty parlor of her own in the balcony of her apartment. Women from the neighborhood used to visit her parlor often. She was adept in her work and she was amiable. Hence once a customer came in, she would become a permanent customer.
Rajesh was out of town for some official work. After dinner, Renuka calculated her month’s earnings. Usually, she used to earn around 10,000 to 15,000 per month. However, this month business was good. It was marriage season and there a lot of appointments. Renuka had earned almost 30,000 rupees this month.
She thought, ‘If I spend 10,000, I will be left with 20,000. Not bad. I think I can buy the saree after all.’ Renuka was elated. She would go tomorrow at around 11:00 a.m. and buy the saree. All these years she had been wearing sarees worth Rs.700 to maximum Rs.2000. Nothing more than that. For the first time, with her own hard earned money, she would buy that Black Saree. Oh, it was so pretty!
Next morning, she hurriedly finished her day’s chores and rushed to that saree shop. The shopkeeper was busy with some other customers. With hope in her heart, Renuka asked the shopkeeper, “Hi, do you remember me? I had come recently and there was a black saree that I wanted to buy. Can I have it?”
The shopkeeper looked at her and said with a note of disappointment, “Sorry Ma’m. That saree is sold.”Renuka was crestfallen. She had the money now but the saree was gone. The shopkeeper said, “Ma’m, why don’t you take a look at some other saree. We have plenty in our new designer collection.”Renuka replied dejected, “N…no. Thank you!”
The Black Saree had made its home in Renuka’s memory. It would be a vivid memory forever. She longed for it and she could not get that. Why? Just because she had to think twice before spending money? Why did she have to worry about money? And the lady who bought the saree without a second thought must be doing very well in life. Some people are blessed.
Afternoon hours were usually busy for Renuka. Her customers would come around that time. She would get calls and based on the calls she would schedule appointments and would provide impeccable service to her customers. Be it getting her customers ready for some event or regular facial sessions, hair cut sessions, pedicure or manicure, Renuka was a splendid beautician.
At around 7 pm, Renuka’s mobile phone rang. The person at the other end said, “Hi, is this Renuka’s Beauty Parlour? Renuka replied:“Yes.” The girl at the other end said: “My name is Mrinali. I need an appointment for tomorrow. I have to attend a party tomorrow evening. I would need your help in getting me ready.”
“Sure. Will 4pm work?”
“Perfect. I will come from office directly. My house help will come and give you the saree and the accessories by 3pm or so.”
Next day was a very busy one for Renuka. By 2:30 pm, she wound up all her work so that she could devote her time peacefully to her new customer Mrinali. At around 3:35 pm, the doorbell rang. It was Mrinali’s house help. She had a packet in her hand. Renuka took the packet and walked towards the parlor. She then opened the packet to organize the things properly.
Renuka was stupefied at the saree the packet contained. It was the same black saree which she had desperately wanted to buy. It was the same elegant saree which had stolen her heart. The saree was as beautiful as ever. And Mrinali was the owner of that saree.
Mrinali, who had a nice job. Mrinali, who had money, full time house help, driver and what not. For Mrinali 10,000 rupees was nothing. What a lucky soul she was! Caressing every fold of the saree, feeling its luxurious texture, holding it in her hands Renuka told herself, ‘Why is Mrinali so fortunate and I am not? Why does she have everything in life and I don’t? All she had to do was, sit in a comfortable car, go to work, earn money and come back home and relax. Look at me. Struggling to save money, working like hell at home, working in parlor and to say, I can’t even afford a saree I love.’
Renuka broke down. Her tears rolled down her cheeks. She was lost in her world of gloom and despair, when the doorbell rang. Renuka was startled. She quickly wiped her tears and rushed to answer the door. It must be Mrinali. Renuka opened the door. Yes, it was her new client.
Renuka was still standing there staring at Mrinali when her younger child Rihaan came in crying, “Maa, Shanaya is not letting me touch her crayons.” Then Shanaya came in and yelled, “He did not give me the glue the other day.”Renuka yelled at both of them. She said, “Go back to your room and don’t come out till I am through my work. Or else no ‘kheer’ in the evening.”
Mrinali who had been witness to the whole episode, laughed. Renuka said, “I am sorry. Kids, you know….’. Mrinali smiled and said, “Please don’t say sorry. Your kids are adorable.” Renuka smiled and said, “Thank you. Please come in, let us get started.”
Renuka took Mrinali to her parlour and draped the saree perfectly on Mrinali. Then she went ahead with the make-up. Right from foundation, to eye shadow to lipstick, Renuka applied everything so perfectly on Mrinali that, Mrinali looked ravishing. She looked jaw dropping gorgeous.
After seeing herself in the mirror, Mrinali said, “You know Renuka, I have never felt so beautiful in my life.”Renuka smiled and said, “You are very beautiful Mrinali.” Mrinali replied, “Thank you Renuka.” Renuka then commented, “You know Mrinali, black sarees with such pretty embroidery work look so good.” Mrinali said, “You like black? I thought I was the only one who liked black.”Renuka laughed and said, “I love black. In fact, I am planning to buy a saree like yours very soon. Because of work I don’t get time to step out to the market. But soon I am going to get one.”
Mrinali smiled and said, “You will look amazing in black.”Renuka nodded and said, ‘Hmm.’ Deep in her heart, Renuka knew affording a saree like this was never going to be easy and there were bleak chances of her owning a saree like this one.
Days went by and a week later Renuka received a parcel. There was a note along with it. The note read, ‘Dear Renuka,I can’t thank you enough for making me look so beautiful the other day. More than that, it was so wonderful to see your family. You know what, I always wanted to get married and be blessed with children. But then, who would want to marry a physically handicapped girl like me who does not have one hand. To add to that a deformed foot, which causes this limp. All thanks to birth defects, but this is my life. Well… I feel this black saree will suit you more than me. Moreover, I prefer dresses to sarees because I cannot drape sarees on my own. I always need help. I will be happy if you keep this saree. Since I have worn the black saree once, I am sending a new one along. Hope you like both of them.Love, Mrinali
Renuka was overwhelmed with Mrinali’s gesture. The black saree was her dream, but the pink saree that had been sent along with was even more beautiful. But more than that, what was beautiful was the lesson Renuka learned.
And Mrinali… Well, handicap was a term which could never be used for her. She was independent and strong with a heart of gold. She was beautiful inside and out. And Renuka realised that people don’t get everything they want, and so, happiness is all about being content with what one has.
#Disclaimer: This is an original work of fiction. This story has no relation to any person or any entity living or dead. If something is relatable to someone or something, this is a case of pure coincidence. This story cannot be copied, published or reproduced without the consent of the author Rhituparna Chakraborty
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Rhituparna is a content developer and soft skills trainer. An ardent fan of diaspora writers like JhumpaLahiri, she has written around 199 stories so far, some of which have been published in The Sentinel. She writes a blog https://rheetuparnachakkravorty.medium.com/