On solace, secrets and… scarves

I don’t believe in fate but I do believe in destiny, just as I believe that each person we come across in our life serves a certain purpose. The purpose might not always be straightforward, and might not reveal itself until years later, but fact is that every little event that happens in our lives needs to happen; has to happen.

Profound, I know, but it’s been one of those days. Of retrospection and realisation. Of flashback and joining the dots. Of that “Aha!” moment when you realise just why a certain someone had to be in your life the way they are. And this certain someone that I am talking about, I call my Maman.

It all started with Fried Eye, and my mentor there, and the unabashedly warm compliment a woman had left on my cover piece on Fried Eye’s anniversary. To be honest, she was just a name to me then, a remarkable one. Cut to two years later, when I was *this* close to quitting MCA barely three months from the final exams, and her name comes up in a conversation. “Talk to her” my mentor said, “she’ll make you feel better” So I sent a hesitant message to her, filled with “Please“s and “If it’s not a bother to you“s and “Would you?”s and “Sorry to disturb you“s. But when I got her reply, hesitance flew out the window faster than you could say “Thanks!” Obviously, there was no looking back. From messages to phone calls, and long giggly conversations, she became the one person I could bare my soul too; the mirror who shows me the real me even when I don’t see it. Because she always knew. She still knows. Always!

She knew that I needed to hear it’s okay to quit when no one else was willing to say it. She knew I wouldn’t quit either, but she said it was okay and that’s all that mattered. She knew exactly when to gasp and be indignant on my behalf, and say out loud what I wanted to say myself but didn’t have enough courage to. She knows when I need her and why, and even if I am out of touch for a long time I don’t ever have to justify myself. We pick up the threads of conversations from long ago and sometimes weave new ones out of the blue, and it’s always the same. It starts with a “Maman! You there?” and ends with a “Big hug, my lovely girl”. Or something in those lines. She knows when I am all giggles even in text, and she knows without hearing my voice when I am blue. And to her I have confessed things I wouldn’t speak out loud to myself.

So why today, of all days? She’s been in my life for nearly four years now and never have I written about her. What compelled me to do so today would be a scarf. A dreamy pink scarf that I envision her sewing pearls onto, simply because I am impertinent enough to demand her to do so. Because after all, she is my Maman. My soul mother.

The story of the scarves is a happy one, so bear with me. Now this amazing woman handcrafts rugs and weaves stories into them, and each precious rug she sends off with potpourri and a handwritten letter. When I got to know about the letter through a post she was tagged in, I knew I had to get one for myself; a letter, not a rug. The woman who had written the post had had the same idea as me, and so she had asked my Maman to make a scarf for her instead. And my Maman had obliged by making her this beautiful black crepe scarf. Now scarves and I kinda have a thing. I love scarves and although I am not a fashion woman and I know zilch about trends, I somehow have a nice collection I absolutely adore, because each scarf in my closet comes with a story. I have this delicate black thing I picked up from Sapa that I wouldn’t trade for anything because we walked 45 mins to reach the market, the softest silk one I picked from a souvenir shop in Hanoi on whim on a cold winter evening, the flimsy georgette ones I haggled for in the night market that I treasure just as much as my silk because I wore them to my first work place, my only Pashmina that I got as a baby shower gift, the scarves that traveled all the way from Ho Chi Minh City to Silchar and almost got lost on the way but made it in time for Valentine’s Day, the gorgeous silver silk scarf the then fiancé had picked up from Laos…. See what I mean? So yes, a handmade scarf AND a handwritten letter? What more could a woman ask for? I bid my time though, for I know you have to wait for good things. And I am glad I did because when I saw the vibrant yellow scarf my Maman posted on her Facebook page, I simply knew it was made for me.




Peacocks and lilies, it was named, and it was a brilliant yellow with deliberate splashes of bold pink and green, bordered with an elegant zari. To my somewhat gray state of mind that day, the simple image of the scarf brought something akin to fireworks. “I want this!” I yelled as fast as I could. Typical Maman; she laughed and said it was mine. The zari, the zari, I almost gasped, it’s soooo pretty! Calm as ever, the perfect foil to my giddy excitement, she mentioned that she had another purple and brown scarf with zari, and in case I didn’t like it she would make me another one. Black and gold, we decided, the gold appealing to the flamboyant side of me and the black… Well, because, black. That evening, she sent me the photo the zari scarf she’d had and I immediately said I wanted it. By then I was starting to get almost greedy. I wanted more of those beauties in my closet. So we decided on the yellow, the purple and the black she would make me. And that was to be it until I saw a photo of hers that made me stop in my tracks.

She was wearing pink, the kind of pink that made her glow and look as though she was almost blushing. And she looked, ethereal. There is no other word to describe it. Tongue in cheek that I am, I told her she looked naive and young. And that I loved the pink. You want me to make you a scarf in that pink? She asked. Would you, Maman? I replied. Done then, she said, you will get the exact pink. And like I know only she would, she went to the rangrez to get it dyed the exact shade of pink, refusing to leave until it was done. Because we’d decided on tiny silver and white flowers embroidered all over it, like stars on a night sky, she started embroidering the scarf but decided it wasn’t good enough, and took it all out. At which point we started a long conversation all about the pink scarf and how best to suit my extremely picky taste, and she patiently indulged me. We finally decided on pearls on pink, and she told me the next three days would be dedicated to making my dream in pink come true.

I know I will have to wait for my scarves to reach me, but I wrote this post before I set my eyes on them because how they beautiful they are is immaterial. Don’t get me wrong, I know for a fact they are pretty. But I didn’t want my words to be clouded by my awe of beauty. This post is for the woman making those scarves for me, patient enough to ask me question after question and answering my hundred just to make sure I get exactly what I want. To the woman who I haven’t even met, and yet love enough to consider my mother. To the woman whose virtual hug and “Oh Sam!” has the magic to heal all my wounds. To Maman my love. I know why you were sent to me. To bring me unconditional happiness and warmth. Unfailingly.


2 thoughts on “On solace, secrets and… scarves

  1. Dagny says:

    Sam…. You overwhelm me. I don’t know when I stopped breathing as I read your post. I don’t know if my breathlessness was a result of your “Oh My God, she’s writing about ME!” or because of not breathing. More the former than the latter I think.

    You wrote your part of the story… as naturally you would. There is a story from my perspective too… one I would write one of these days. But until then, know this: Talking to you, knowing you, walking short stretches with you… have given me intense pleasure. It has never mattered to me that we haven’t met in person… as I know it hasn’t mattered to you. You and I, we don’t think in such terms.

    From the very first ‘hesitant msg’ you sent me, I have KNOWN you. Not known in the sense of ‘getting acquainted’ but in the sense of ‘recognizing a piece of my soul’. “There, there she is… that wandering piece of my that I knew not I looked for.” And that was that.

    What happened subsequently, was inevitable… obvious… expected. You remember me asking you to read the “Square Pegs” piece? Now you know why, right? I couldn’t have a part of me be in so much pain. It hurt the rest of me.

    You’re an awesome, amazing girl Sam. And you deserve the bestest. Don’t ever doubt yourself… or your worth. Trust me, everything that’s the most beautiful and awesome the world has to offer… already belongs to you. Just pick it up and own it.

    I love you. You make me very, very proud. Your values and your grit; your integrity and sincerity; your determination and tenacity raise a perfect storm of fierce pride in me. And yes, I hate all those you hate… and those who give you pain either through blindness of sheer, unadulterated stupidity.

    But you know that already.

    Back to your pink satin and pearl scarf. I am even more impatient than you to receive it.

    Bless you my little girl! ❤ ❤ ❤


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