The Electric Blue Frock

The puff has more dust sticking to it than the familiar smelling particles of Ponds talcum powder. The fragrance is as familiar to me as the hemmed borders of the electric blue printed frock that I used to wear almost every alternate day. The scorching summers would not allow room for sartorial experiments. Back then, adolescence had not made me self-conscious about how I looked but my grandparents emphasised that everyday, before sunset I should be dressed in crisply ironed, knee-length frocks adorned with laces, my curls tamed into neat ponytails and all traces of the stubborn sebum removed from my face with the same old powder puff which I now held in my manicured hands.

With my grandfather’s death, the house looks sepulchral. I brush the puff slowly across my cheeks and the talcum powder mingles with the sweat on my skin and the fragrance becomes one with memories of my mother sitting in front of the mirror every evening, adjusting the bindi on her forehead, the same fragrance filling the room as she carefully put the puff back in its case after it had dutifully served its purpose of adding a little glow to her porcelain skin.

The ritual was followed every evening at dusk before she proceeded to the lower storey of the house to make tea. A familiar booming voice breaks my reverie. My father stands at the door of the room that had a special significance for my mother. It had everything that she loved. Now, the same room evokes in me a sense of loss and excruciating pain. The dust-laden curtains, the morose flowers on the once-resplendent bedsheet, the cupboards which still hide vestiges of a life heartily lived: all these signalled that death has turned the pages of the book and the narrative has been changed irrevocably. It was time to go and I was not allowed to look back.

I throw a fleeting glance at the house one last time before my dad hands over the rusty set of keys to the new owner. The expression on the faces of the new inmates are in stark contrast to ours. I sit quietly in the car that has turned into a furnace in the cruel heat. I look down at my faded jeans and my expensive, pretty, summer sandals. My sartorial sense has finally changed for the better but I am shedding copious tears, longing to roam around in the house that is no longer mine, in the same tattered electric-blue frock.

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