Spring cleaning day today. I start the operation by plunging into a dusty tangle of junk jewellery that had moved cities and apartments without once being taken out of a giant wooden chest. The plan is to give away at least half of it, to make space for more important things.
The first to come out of the tangle is not junk jewellery. It’s a pair of gold hoops my mother believes she has lost. I think of old photographs of my mum, wrapped in silk saris that her parents had bought for her as appropriate post-marriage wear. She smiles into camera, presumably at my father, who she had met thrice before her wedding. She fits her form demurely against backgrounds she had only seen previously in Hindi films and on wallpapers in photo studios. She could have been a stereotype of an Indian wife or mother of the 60s, if it hadn’t been for the rings. They wink in spite of the British gloom around her, wild, gypsy-like, a tiny spark of individuality rebelling against a life vowed to conformity.
I rediscover a silver pair my friends had given me as a farewell gift when I had left Mumbai. They were loopy, large and flamboyant and l had loved them instantly in the poor light of the restaurant. I remember wearing them for months afterwards, loving the way they swung against my neck when I shook my head. Come to think of it, I shook my head a lot those days. I hold them now against my ears and feel overpowered. When did my clothes fade so much I wonder. And when did I fade?
Buried under the tangle is a pair that I’ve always disliked. My sister had given it to me when she had started working, and they’re well… hideous. Of course I hadn’t told her so, or anyone else. On the contrary, when a friend had remarked tactfully that the earrings weren’t my type, I had lied shamelessly about how beautiful they were, and defended my sister’s gawky demonstration of affection.
I find a pair I had once hurriedly bought to wear at a traditional wedding. I hadn’t had the time to get the 22 carat stuff out of the locker, so I had paraded all evening in a pair of burnished brass imposters. I had beamed all evening at compliments without a twinge of conscience.
There’s a set of earrings given to me by someone who I had loved once. And another given by someone who had loved me. The earrings are the only symbols left of both relationships. For the first time since I got them, I look at both pairs objectively, unclouded by feelings of hope, mush or guilt.
The tangle reveals dozens more and before I know it the morning is gone. So is the afternoon.
I put aside the gold hoops to return to my mother. They are hers, even if she doesn’t need them anymore to express her individuality.
The rest are mine, even though they may stand for things and values I've lost. I want to believe they're still there, hidden deep in me, waiting to be untangled and dusted. I make a start by putting all the earrings back into the box, promising them and myself, that one day I will be worthy again of each pair.
2 years ago