Anjali walked down the beach with her friends and family, and her four year old daughter clutching on to her hand. It was so beautiful, the wind in her hair and face, the soothing sound of the waves crashing over the rocks and the soft reggae music wafting from the shack nearby. She just loved Goa, and was glad that they had found this corner of the beach, which hardly had any tourists or vendors. It was clean and seemed perfect at that moment.
“Hello didi, want to buy some bracelets? Or some anklets maybe? For yourself, or your little baby? Look I have them in so many different colors and designs. You can buy the elephant one or the tortoise one. Maybe a red one to match you baby’s dress?”, a gentle yet determined voice of another woman took Anjali out of her dream-like state.
“No, thank you, sorry, we don’t need any. Thank you so much“, Anjali tried to decline as politely as she could with a smile and tried to walk away.
But the trinket seller was relentless. By now, Anjali’s daughter had caught sight of the colorful bracelets and anklets and had started tugging on Anjali’s shorts asking for her to buy the rainbow colored one with the tortoises. Anjali sighed and selected the one her daughter had taken hold of, and paid for it.
But the trinket seller wasn’t done it seems. “C’mon didi, buy a few more please. There haven’t been many tourists out here today and maybe you can buy a bracelet for yourself? Or some souvenirs to take back for your friends and family?“, she smiled as she started walking with Anjali.
Anjali turned to look at her properly now, half out of frustration to ask her to leave them alone, and half out of curiosity, since the trinket seller was speaking impeccable English for someone from the village. She was dark skinned, but her skin glowed like smooth dark chocolate. Not a single mark on her long oval face. She was slim and was of the same height as Anjali, which wasn’t very tall, and she was wrapped around in a simple cotton saree. Anjali thought that for all her expensive clothes and shorts, the trinket seller looked a hundred times more beautiful in that simple saree. She had wanted to tell her to go away, but something in the other woman’s twinkling yet tired eyes made her stall.
So, she asked, “Did you make these yourself?”
She had a sheepish smile and replied, “Since you were my first customer today, I’ll tell you the truth. I collect the stones, but there’s someone else in the city who strings these together for a price. We get to sell these to tourists and whatever we earn, a split goes to the maker of the trinkets. It’s one of the sources of our livelihoods, and like your daughter, my daughter loves them too. Sometimes, even my little son wears them.”
Both of them laughed at that and Anjali was impressed with her tenacity and her cheerful way of speaking. She thought maybe it was time for me to help another woman in need.
“What’s your name by the way? And you speak very good English, I must say“, Anjali asked her with a smile.
“Kavita. Actually we all go to night school to speak English since most tourists speak in English here and its good for the trade. Otherwise, I speak Konkani with my family“, she replied.
“Wow, that is so impressive. I feel almost ashamed saying that I’ve lived half a decade in Maharashtra and still cannot speak Marathi properly. I’m Anjali.“
As they walked a little more, Anjali had a thought. She took out 1000 rupees and handed it to Kavita with an encouraging smile, and said, “You don’t need to sell a few of these today. Maybe you can take the rest of the afternoon off and get your son and daughter to the beach to play, and let them wear a few of these trinkets.“
Suddenly, the smile on Kavita’s face faltered and she looked uncomfortable.
“Sorry didi, I know you are well to do, but free money is not good money,” she said, with a defiant yet the same gentle voice.
Anjali felt mortified. She realized, in the breath of that moment, that in her effort to try and be helpful, she had not only humiliated this self sufficient and self respecting woman, but in that one suggestion, she had tried to create the class barrier between the two of them that she used to be so careful not to do back in the city. She realized, that in the end of the day, she was no better than the rich snobs she used to dislike back in the city, in her society and at her work place.
“If you want to give me the money, you will have to buy an equivalent number of the trinkets“, Kavita added.
“I’m so sorry, I really didn’t mean to offend you. I’ll buy ten of the anklets and see if you can give me different colored ones.”, Anjali said with a frantic effort to try and make amends.
She made the trade, and a short walk later, both women bid goodbyes to each other as Kavita spotted some more tourists heading their way.
A few days later, Anjali wrote on her travel blog:
Travel Blog Giveaway!
I am hosting a giveaway of these beautiful hand made anklets made from stones collected right in my country, by the pristine beaches of Little Vagator in Goa. All you need to do is tag your friends, like this post and follow me on Instagram. Oh, and most importantly, spread the word about Kavita, the beautiful trinket seller and buy a bracelet or an anklet from her whenever you are in little Vagator next, and tag me in the post.
As she hit the publish button, she realized, in a way, she had become the trinket seller now, handing over beautiful anklets, to increase the footfall on her blog. She just hoped and prayed, that some of her good luck would flow down to Kavita as well. The woman who inspired Anjali that day on the beach.
*******Short story by Prachi :)*********
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