A long time ago, she used to visit a cloth store near her home. The store itself was nothing spectacular. It was named Mini Bazaar for unspecified reasons. Her family was on friendly terms with the shop owner, which again was nothing strange as her parents, her mother in particular, had the knack of being on chatty terms with pretty much every person they came in contact with. From the ironing guy to the milk delivery man’s wife to this, the owner of Mini Bazaar.
During her early teenage years when everything seemed hateful, she hated with a passion the pink saris he displayed outside. She felt real let down if her mother suggested that they visit Mini Bazaar to purchase cloth to make into a frock for her birthday. The charm of a ready-made frock with frills and laces bought from that store you had to get to by taking an auto was significant. This one was just round the corner from home. You could even go there and come back home before the rains during the monsoons.
One day when they were passing the store, and breathing a sigh of relief that they were not obliged to buy the atrocious yellow sari that hung there, they spied a bunch of children, and a lady in full black burkha inside. The mother went in to chat of course, and it was discovered that the lady was the wife of the owner. Everyone was feeling very happy. The store was doing well. The film star looks of the shop-owner, combined with the relative lack of competition meant that his store saw many ‘footfalls’, especially during Deepavali and New Year and so on.
When the curfew was imposed on her home town, she did not really believe in it. She was away in Chennai, at the insulated campus there, and while the country was in turmoil, they really hardly felt or saw anything inside. Her parents tried to dissuade her from traveling but they were not convincing. At any rate the trouble was not significant at the time she left. By the time her train reached Bangalore, however, bad had become worse and curfew had been called on.
Her cousin who was sent to meet her at the Bangalore station was just as removed from reality as herself. They both ignored the warnings and climbed onto the waiting train, which was strangely, almost completely, empty. They did get home safe and sound, but that was not the story of Mini Bazaar. It was completely gutted, to the ground, including the store house in the back that held many more reams of cloth.
Being a college girl meant some privileges. The era of loose, haphazardly stitched tailor-made frocks and salwar kameezes was somewhat behind her now. Therefore the need to visit Mini Bazaar did not really arise. And, considering her hatred for his displayed saris, a social visit was definitely not on the cards. Then how to explain away the fact that her feet led her there, to the blackly smoldering store? How to explain her words of commiseration? Once in a while people who live in their own heads need to see and touch, say and feel, reality. Yes, that must be it. To get a touch of reality.