Space For Rent

Space For Rent
Sunday, October 4, 2015, Aswin 19, 1422 BS, Zilhaj 19, 1436 Hijr

Short Story
The heirloom
Mehnaz Tabassum
Published :Sunday, 4 October, 2015,  Time : 12:00 AM  View Count : 36

(Continuation from previous week)

The precious praying mat
After my grandmother's death, her room became mine. Everything changed in it, from top to bottom. But two things remained the same - the wardrobe and the precious praying mat inside it. Of course I detested those two throughout my teen years, till my early twenties. I begged my mom to move those away, to her room at least. She never listened. For her, those were the blessings of my ancestors. For me, those were the old, misfit reasons I could not invite my friends over at my house or let them in my room, ever! Who wants to be a laughing stock?
All these feel funny when I look at it now, particularly with her standing in front of it at least twice a day. Every morning she wakes up, freshens up and opens that door. In fact, it is the small noise that old door makes when she opens it in the morning that wakes me up. It is like my very own alarm tune; a cracking sound on a wooden surface, handled with hurried yet gentle touch.
I start my day seeing her standing there, browsing through the hangers; looking confused, annoyed, messy, divine.
Sometimes when she realizes I am up, she picks out a hanger and holds it against her, throwing the most difficult question at me, "How does it look?"
"Nice! You look nice in everything."
"Do I look like I am in the mood for cheesiness? Seriously, tell me! I need to hit the shower, or I will be late for work!"
"I am telling you, it's nice! Go for it."
"I know it's nice! Otherwise I wouldn't have it in my wardrobe. But is it perfect for today? It might rain later, you know!"
"Then why don't you try the floral printed dress you bought exclusively for messy rainy days?"
"That's too casual. I have a meeting today. I wanted to look formal."
"Then look formal! You'll look graceful in anything, even in a potato sack!"
"Enough with the cheesiness! You are no help to me!"
Then she pulls out a completely different hanger, shuts the door with great force to establish her fake anger due to my lack of cooperation in choosing the right dress for her and rushes off to the shower.
Besides her floral printed or patterned dresses for muddy, dirty rainy days, she had a dress for every kind of days.
The pastel coloured dresses for elegant parties.
The heavily embroidered, insanely expensive, often designer dresses she almost never wears, for "special" occasions.
The everyday cotton-linen-chiffon dresses which always smell like her sweat, perfume and detergent.
And of course there was her wedding dress. She takes that out every other week to simply look at it, to spread her hands on its details, to touch, smell and feel. She does this when she's alone and I let her feel that I don't know about it. But I think she knows. I don't know how though!
Yes, she had no dresses to wear yet, like they say. She was every bit of a cliché one can think of in that matter. But I knew why. Because every day had a unique story for her, and she would have the perfect adjectives to describe that to me, and why she needs to be dressed accordingly for that.
"Why do you care how you dress so much? Why is that so important?
"You don't find that important? You?"
"What did I do now?"
"Would you even look at me if I was dressed like a hobo? No. You guys are the biggest hypocrites. You tell us these mushy words that you don't care what we wear, if we put makeup on or not, and stuffs like that! But you are the ones who feel ashamed of us when we are not presentable, or fragrant or graceful! And now you are telling why do I care?"
She rested her case, and I silently agreed. I barely had any choices, because a) she was right, and b) I would have been beaten even more severely with the logic I had in my mind against her accusations. I had to avoid that shame.
When the wardrobe belonged to my grandmother, it smelled like old age. It only had a few colours inside it, mostly whites and grays. And blank spaces.
Now when she opens it, I see a rainbow inside. She used to hang the matching coloured clothes together. It took her hours to organize, but for her, it was worth it. It made her refreshed when she opened it, early in the morning, right before she would mess it up while looking for the perfect dress for that day.
My clothes were barely allowed in it. It was her terrain only. It was all her; her touch, her smell, her colours, her shapes, her sizes.
Among the few things that belonged to me was the precious praying mat my grandmother left in it. I used it to pray on it on special occasions, and for me, those were the only occasions! The last time I prayed, or should I say sat on it was our wedding day, when I had to promise that I will be responsible of her well-being, forever, from now on, in front of dozens of curious eyes. I saw her agreeing to the same terms, with her head hanging low, and in teary, timid nods.
I knew the prayers made on this precious praying mat come true. My faith was established that day.
(To be continued)

        Mehnaz Tabassum is a Lecturer at the Department of English,
East West University

Editor : Iqbal Sobhan Chowdhury
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