My grand-mother Beryl (‘Nanna’ as I call her) is British/Russian/Portuguese – an exotic mix indeed! Born and raised in India, my 95-year-old Nanna has a sworn love for all things Indian – especially spicy Indian food. On the flipside, she doesn’t look Indian and has zero understanding of Indian languages. Then there is her uncompromising sense of dress: frocks only.
As a child, I admired Nanna’s style – bright floral frocks, exquisite crystal brooches and her favourite perfume “Charlie”. Her frocks were strictly hand-tailored to a checklist – 6 piece skirt of modest length, collar with lace trimmings, a sash, fancy buttons on the bodice and most important of all; a side-pocket. The lace could be omitted on “house frocks” but the side pocket was non-negotiable.
As an earning adult, I began to buy fabric and have dresses tailored for Nanna. By this stage, she didn’t leave the house much and all her dresses were “house frocks”. Nevertheless, my otherwise easy-going Nanna still cares much about “fit” – never forgetting to provide a sample dress and a firm reminder, “Make sure to put in a pocket!”
Almost anything we ask for magically emerges from Nanna’s infamous pocket – sweets, combs, hairbands, prayer books, candles/matchboxes, safety pins, a rosary, band aids, loose change. Nanna, however, has never carried any make-up. According to her, “Only empty heads waste time titivating”.
Yes, Nanna and her pockets have afforded me many laughs.
Recently, on a school morning, I fixed my daughter’s hair with a hairbrush and hairband casually whipped out from the pocket of my dressing gown. I then retrieved a pen from my pocket and signed her school diary. The phone rang inside my pocket. I silenced it and fished out my lip balm instead. Putting on some lip balm with one hand, I rummaged through my pocket with the other. I took out a band aid and slapped it onto my son’s forehead. Finding the band aid was difficult amidst the guitar picks, roll-on sunscreen, erasers, lollies and other random objects.
I laughed as I realised I had turned into Nanna! I finally understood her wisdom regarding pockets. I smiled even wider, realising that I had succumbed to it a long time ago.
Through high school and university, I preferred to carry a guitar instead of a handbag. The pockets on my jeans held my essentials – chewing gum, guitar picks, keys, lip gloss, nail polish, graphs, a list of physics formulas, cell phone, driver’s license and money. On the odd day, I even stuffed my scientific calculator into my pocket.
As a mother, I’ve carried all manner of novelties in my pockets – toys, thermometers, paracetamol and breakfast bars. If the pockets were roomy enough (like on a jacket), they have famously held a diaper, a pack of mini wipes and a bottle of water. I find that the best way not to lose one’s handbag is not to carry one!
Over the years, I’ve begun to see that Nanna’s deep wisdom around pockets extends far beyond the literal to the things that ultimately define us – the unseen that we choose to carry and that which we choose not to.
Pockets must carry a ready smile and a touch of sunshine for a rainy day. It must carry a desire to share – Nanna shares even the tiniest piece of candy irrespective of how many of us are around; never about the quantity, always about the heart. The coins in one’s pocket are powerful seeds of change. Pockets must carry a pinch of salt to mix with the rude and the unjust. Everything we carry, of course, is wonderfully offset by the things that we must choose NOT to carry – un-forgiveness, anger, gossip and jealousy.
Pockets are everyday things – fascinating in an everyday kind of way. The laws of ‘pocket’ are simple. Pockets must never have holes. They must be deep enough to keep things safe and must never carry substances that may leak. When using a pocket, preferably avoid any unsightly bulges.
I’ll now leave you to discover the joy of working a pocket – front, side, top, back, plain or fancy – just make sure it’s your own.
READ ALSO: Road rage desi style