My grandmother inspects the double string of pale green beads
As translucent as her aged hands. She does not know what they might be:
Chrysoberyl or tourmaline or chalcedony,
Something, definitely, that grows better with time (like wine),
and does not fade.
We sit side by side and the necklace flows (its green-gold hues flash like cold spring water) from her white palm to my own.
I protest, saying Didu are you sure you don’t want to keep this?
She says Child I don’t need this now I haven’t worn this for quite a while.
Once, my grandmother loved the color red.
Fiery sarees, brick-red lipstick: all used to be her signature style.
(My mother and I grow pale and red alternately in embarrassment if someone suggests we wear red nail paint).
Then she bowed to convention.
No more red glass bangles.
No more red-gold-black embroidered sarees
from places with names like Dhaka and Tangail
redolent of timeless eastern towns.
Like colored light passing through an inverted prism she suddenly
crept into a featureless blank white plain-
except for the constant background noise of pain.
The green stones sit awkwardly on my neck, like a queen’s necklace on a servant.
(Old, massive, sturdy. Looks good for another fifty years. )
In those days, my grandmother is saying, they used to make good things. Strong things.
Not like today where you change your phone every two years (and your relationships too, she sighs). But there is laughter in her eyes again and so I accept the gift I don’t deserve.
(As long as she does not seek solace in whiteness, as long as green mangoes, gold fish, yellow sunflowers and pink bougainvillea continue to interest her.)
I ask her how much the beads cost and the corners of her eyes crinkle up into the biggest smile I have ever seen.
They’re priceless, she says.