Thursday, April 14, 2011


As a young girl, rummaging through my Dida's (maternal grandmother) almari (cupboard) on a summer noon, I came across a stiff, boxy, bronze-coloured 'ladies' bag' with a short shoulder-strap, the kind carried by yesteryear heroines like Nanda and Asha Parekh, swinging it along with their hair and hips when the handsome hero serenaded them.

I was completely unable to visualize my rotund and grey-haired Dida looking even remotely like those buxom heroines. Why is it always so difficult for children to imagine old people to have ever been young? Now, at my age, it is so much easier!

Much later, I saw some faded sepia photographs of my Dida in fancy winged glasses and back-combed bun of hair, wearing a nice sari and posing beside my dashing Dadu (in a formal suit and tie) before some party. It was only then that I was able to connect that bag with my Dida, who otherwise had always seemed to be a cloth batua (hand-made bag) kind of a person.

To my great delight, the twist-to-open knob of the bag twisted open to reveal, apart from some old coins, a fancy hair pin (the kind you plunge into a really big bun or a really evil villain's heart) and a defunct gold-plated watch (Swiss made, with real gold) with a tiny rectangular dial and, sadly, one hand only.

The watch and the pin became useful accessories in all kinds of role-play, including espionage dramas.

And that bag became my faithful companion in countless hours of playing teacher-teacher, being boxy enough to hold all my old notebooks and ink-less pens, and also sturdy enough to last through the temper tantrums of a very ill-mannered teacher prone to throwing down her bag at the slightest provocation of her imaginary students.

It might have been a big comedown from the ball room to the class room, but the bag adjusted with the grace of a true lady.