It’s 25 degrees Celsius in Chennai, India. And, it’s raining. I call it a lovely weather, although the room temperature is 29. I find the weather beautiful only because I barely see rain. (I wonder if humans are always inclined to appreciate the rare stuff more.) Also, we are all pluviophiles, aren’t we? Okay. Most of us. 🙂
When it rains, and if I am at home, I religiously do two things. I read, and I wear a sweater. This evening, when I pulled out my black sweater from the closet, my mother observed, “It’s not that cold really for you to wear a sweater.” But, I cannot miss an opportunity to wear one. Maybe, if I count the number of times I wear a sweater every year, one fist should just do to finish counting. The temperature at work is invariably 25. So, I recede into my hooded cardigan five hours a day. But, wearing a sweater when I am at home is way different from wearing a cardigan at work. Because, a warm memory surfaces whenever I wear a sweater — particularly a black one — when I am at home.
I was a sickly child; my mother would wrap me up in a sky-blue sweater whenever it rained. But my sister, who is six years older than me, would wear the black sweater vest that belonged to my maternal grandfather. Mother would be busy in the kitchen, and I would whisper to my sister, “May I wear that black sweater? Just once?” Her answer was always no. She was incurably fond of it too. That black sweater vest with a tiny hole in it.
When my sister flaunted it, my mother would run her fingers on the sleeveless sweater. She wouldn’t particularly talk to anybody, but words would escape her mouth. “My father was an enormous man. If he wore this sweater, and swaggered in our village, everybody would be enchanted.” It was a proud remark that we often heard. But, we never stopped our mother from reminiscing. After all, we wanted to listen to her over and over again. We wanted to know about our grandfather we had, but quite did not have.
“He rode a bullock cart. I think, he also rode a horse cart. My father was an efficient man,” mother would say dusting the sweater. “Although he was always seen in a dhoti and a shirt, he would restlessly wait for December, just to wear this. My father in this sweater — that’s how I recall his image often.” As my sister began to wear it repeatedly, the hole in the sweater grew bigger too. My mother would curse the rat that damaged her relic. All my life, I tried convincing my sister to let me wear it once. “You would catch a cold if you wear a sleeveless sweater,” she would say in a concerned tone. Despite her care, I longed to slip into it once. To my dismay, it never happened.
“If only father didn’t gamble, if only he didn’t lose money in gambling, our lives would have been a lot different,” mother had once admitted about our grandfather. We had no comforting words to offer. “But that’s okay. He was a great father to me all the same.”
A few years ago, when we cleaned the attic, we found the black sweater vest safely stored in a suitcase. For some weird reason, the hole in the sweater had grown bigger. We thought we should get rid of the sweater, but we didn’t know how to suggest without hurting our mother. Adjusting her spectacles, she laid her hands on the charmingly vintage sweater, and she muttered under her breath, “I think it’s time to let go of this sweater.” We knew it would have been hard for her. But, our futile words wouldn’t have helped her either.
I possess half a dozen jumpers, but to my mother and my sister, there can be only one beautiful black sweater vest in the whole wide world. And, I concur.