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My mother would string some loose jasmine flowers everyday and put them on – until my father passed away. I knew she had healed, however, when I found jasmine flowers with her again.
Mom loved her jasmine flowers. Almost every single day, she would spend the afternoon hours stringing together these tiny buds into a sequence. This would then be adorned around her little bun in the evening, and it would seem mom carried with her its fragrance- a sort of divine one.
Much as I loved their fragrance and sight, I have never been comfortable adorning them on my braid. As a young girl, it almost always seemed to be an irritant. As mom would braid them tight into my hair, I would pull them off and discard them at the earliest opportunity. One fine day, she just gave up. To her, my act seemed to be an insult to the delicate flowers that so selflessly spread its fragrance.
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Years back, living in Bangalore, these flowers would be bought from Valli– a local vendor, who would come by our home to not only sell flowers, but to also chit-chat on matters of life. An arm’s length of strung flowers bought from her would be offered to God every morning. Valli would also drop in a handful of loose buds into mom’s basket- which were painstakingly strung together by mom for her own use. Fridays were special, when the jasmine flowers would be mixed with the orange colored kanagamaram (the firecracker flower). Our home would be a myriad of fragrances, one that would instill a pious feeling.
…until she lost my dad. Surely as a country we have come a long way, eradicating some evil practices with regards to ostracizing widows. Yet, there persists still, even in progressive communities, customs that are irrational in every way. It is quite common to find women who have lost their husbands, to encounter restrictions of several kinds such as not being invited to auspicious functions, or adorn the once loved flowers. Mom continued to buy flowers from Valli, but things had changed. The basket no longer saw loose buds. The arm’s length of strung jasmine was still religiously offered to God every morning, yet the evening fragrance that would fill the air was absent.
Much as I pushed mom to ignore these absurdities and live life on her own terms, I soon realized that she herself wanted to abide by these rules. Having grown up in a community amidst these restrictions, she seemed to have accepted them all whole heartedly, and believed that her life was to be that way. The illogical thought process associated with widows was so deeply ingrained into her whole psyche and system that it seemed impossible for me to get her to think, otherwise.
No wonder they say time is the best healer. Five years since Dad passed away, the memories of his last few months slowly faded away. We had all come to terms with it, including mom. The years had helped heal her broken soul, as she began to venture out to meet people of her own age, discussing life- its woes and joys. Everything seemed to be on track, except that the absence of the jasmine flowers kept gnawing at the back of my mind.
During my last visit home, I noticed a spark yet again in her eyes, something that had been missing for a while. Valli still visited her every evening with her arm’s length of strung jasmine flowers. But this time, when I peeped into the basket, I noticed the loose flowers over there. So glad was I to see yet again, the afternoon hours spent stringing them together and, the evening yet again emitted the best fragrance I had ever come to know.
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