Burgundy bellbottoms & a grateful heart

Kamaljit Singh Banwait

However tough times get, parents never let the wishes of their children die. I fondly remember the Terylene shirt I got in class IX for scoring the highest in English. I have never been embarrassed to talk about my childhood days spent in poverty. My uniform was a khaki shirt, trousers and a pink patka. I used to wear the same clothes that I got stitched for the wedding of my cousins to go out. Since the wedding was on the same day, it saved me from repeating the outfit. Back then, wearing different outfits for different occasions wasn’t a trend either. 

Due to my mother’s illness, I took charge of kitchen and cattle at an early age. I borrowed money to pay my college fee. Till class XII, I wore altered clothes of my elder brother. This makes me recall the memory of my Stretchlon trousers. I passed out from Sikh National College, Banga, and a year later, I was chosen as the editor of the Punjabi section of the college magazine, Charan Kamal. Subsequently, I became the president of the association of young writers and speakers of the college. I was told to organise a poem recitation competition and since I spoke well, I could host it too! 

Till then, I used to wear white pyjamas or my elder brother’s altered trousers. I had to join the chief guest on the dais. I nervously shared my shame of not having trousers for the event with my mother. She went straight to the storeroom and took out a piece of burgundy Stretchlon cloth from the chest. The almond-coloured shirt that I used to wear in class IX grabbed my attention. The event was due in three weeks, which gave the tailor time to sew the trousers. The cloth was bought by my elder brother who was home on vacation from Nagaland where he was posted. My mother saved it, so he could wear it on our eldest brother’s wedding. Maybe that’s why I just got a shirt to wear for the wedding. Regardless, the cloth wasn’t used by either of us. 

I finally figured my outfit for the event, but learnt about my father’s rice-thrashing day. This abrupt change in schedule, a day before the event, got me worried as rice-thrashing always left me with a troubled throat and tired arms. After working till noon, I reasoned with my father how the sore throat would affect my speech. 

My mother overheard the conversation, and while binding the straw, gave me a remedy that involved keeping cilantro seeds in my mouth. I hosted the event well. Her remedy had worked wonders. 

Now, weeks before my daughter’s inter-university debate competition, we ended up using the same remedy to give her voice a good texture. 

When my wife got silk trousers and turquoise jacket stitched for our son’s first birthday, and while growing up the luxury of having branded clothes and even a fresh suit for his college party didn’t intrigue him, the reminiscences of my past had me relive the moment when I was grateful for having Stretchlon burgundy bellbottoms and a Terylene shirt.

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