Asha hobbled her way to the kitchen where she usually found her mother during the mornings. She rubbed her eyes adjusting them to the light that pierced her. Her tiny feet touched the ground and waves of tingling sensations made her feel funny. A soft white cotton gown with fading red flower prints made her look adorable. Her hair bounced, recovering from the twists and twirls they had been subjected in her sleep and the faint pillow prints still showed on her cheeks. Without opening her eyes she clung on to her mom who was pulling out some bags. “Did you brush your teeth?” she asked. To which Asha whimpered as if that question ruined her morning.
In a hurried tone her mom said, “Oh, okay! So you can’t come with me then. Since, you haven’t brushed your teeth.” With these lines she had managed to zap the early morning melancholy between her and her sleepy lazy daughter who she knew hated to brush. Now wide awake Asha tugged her mom,“Where are you going amma? I will come with you. Pl-ea-se!” Her mother had replied,” But, I don’t have the time. If you brush in five minutes we will see!” Asha quickly disappeared into the bathroom and came out with a wet face and little toothpaste foam she had managed to spill on her gown. Her mom helped her changed her clothes and they left for the vegetable market.
Asha liked to accompany her mother on all her purchases. Unlike appa who wouldn’t budge on her desire to buy a toffee or two her mom would make sure she got some goodies. There were times when she got balloons and a big chocolate bar with a purple wrapper. It was usually during the first week of every month. Her mom had once explained it to her,” Amma got her salary, Asha.” She had spent the whole day trying to spell it,” Sa-la-ury.”
They made the usual stops at the same vendors, like they did every week. “Madam, today grapes are very nice. Take a kilo or two. Taste them, don’t buy if you don’t like them” the fruit vendor plucked a couple of grapes and placed them in Asha and her mom’s hand. Little reluctant she looked at her mom and popped into her mouth after her mom did the same. They bought half a kilo and moved ahead to finish the remaining shopping. At every seller they stopped, there was an exchange of notes and a slipping of coin or two after some bargaining. Her mom handed over these coins to Asha as she struggled with the now heavy bags dragging them from one stop to another. Sometimes more coins were added and Asha had to fill them in her frill gown pockets and sometimes she dutifully searched the one or two rupee her mom would need and promptly handed it over on request.
There was a sense of ownership for the money. But she knew that money belonged to her mother. She secretly hoped that her mom wouldn’t require the change and she could go home with her two tiny pockets - full of coins. Her mom never insisted on collecting back the coins from her. But, Asha would ask if she could add the change to her piggy bank to which she would not be given a negative answer. Asha would sit on the floor and pile up her coins in batches of ones and twos and estimate the money she had. It was a action she had picked up from the Uncle Scroog cartoons and dreamt of swimming in a pool of coins someday. She never understood why the coins on television were golden and yellow while all the coins she had ever seen were only grey. “Why do you save these coins?” her mother had asked her once. She didn’t have an answer. She didn’t know anything about money. She just replied,” I feel good amma. I like to pile them up and count them. I will be Uncle Scroog!”
When they came back from the vegetable market, Asha asked the same question and quickly ran into her room and added the twelve coins she had in her pocket to her collection.
To be continued...