It was 5 o’clock in the morning. A very thin mist hung over the Bandra* sea face. It wasn’t cold, but the poor old man who sells tea and biscuits on the Bandstand* corner, was wearing a thick hand-woven pullover. He was dressed quite inappropriately amongst his peers, who wear khaki cotton shirts during the business hours. Soon the customers will start pouring in for their morning tea; soon the chill in the air will disappear and he’ll lose the small window to wear his precious pullover and flaunt the story of how he came across it. The narrative almost always ended with a note, a special mention that it was videsi!*
There were two more stories weaved into the threads of the chai wallah’s* pullover. One, of the person who made it; the other of the person who gave it up; both of which he was completely unaware of. Instead he puffed his chest in his momentary, garment derived pride and starts his daily business.
Five thousand miles away, locked in a cupboard, sat a ball of grey Aran yarn; the very same with which Alba had crocheted a pullover, now serving tea to Mumbai office goers.
Alba was starting to crochet for the first time; a pair of white baby slippers for the yet unborn Sefora. She hadn’t thought she will manage the job this well, when she clicked a picture and sent it to Craig.
Craig was unaware of her hidden talent of working with the yarn. It was the array of talents she displayed, that attracted him to Alba in the first place. Crocheting was just now added to the list. “Isn’t this the cutest thing on planet Earth right now?”, read Alba’s text accompanying the baby slippers. Craig, caught by surprise replied, “It definitely is!”.
Since that day, Alba has been crocheting for everyone amidst the constant encouragements Craig brought into her life; But never did she think of making something for Craig. Whenever he would ask, “Who is it for?”, Alba would reply but at the same time reassure herself that he didn’t ask one for himself; that she shouldn’t read between the lines.
Six months later, looking into the ocean from her window, a tearful Alba remembered Craig’s smile, the one he gave each time he saw her come live on his computer screen. A sudden flash of feeling struck Alba in the middle of her recollection. She clenched the fabric around her chest and gasped, “Oh! Why didn’t I! Why didn’t I, when I could….” and tears choked her voice. Why didn’t she make something for him, even after the day he asked her to show how crochet is done, over Skype. Why didn’t she understand it back then, that he wanted something made by her!
It was too late now. Craig and Alba were no longer together. He got so busy with his life under the Californian sun, that he forgot about the person who was waiting for him across the Atlantic. This opportunity to reach out to him with something he wanted long back, was probably Alba’s last hope at getting across to him.
Once again she starts to weave. This time not strands of yarn into an elaborate garment, but reels of her feelings into an elaborate blanket of unrelenting commitment, weaving in all her emotions with the yarn. Her daily sessions with her knitting gave her the chance to touch Craig a thousand times over and tell him how much she loved him. She knew in her heart that in only grey can Craig look as handsome as he actually is.
After the arduous process of weaving and joining the parts together was over, she hung the pullover on a hanger and stared at it from a distance. All of a sudden, she ran towards it, hugged it and started crying. She was imagining Craig in it. Fourty eight more hours! In her excitement, Alba slips into the pullover herself and smiles. She stands in front of the mirror; like a child dressed in a grown up’s clothes and clicks a picture, to remind herself of this moment forever. Her beloved pullover will reach Craig in 2 days and he’ll see it; He’ll see how much she still loves him. To that much, that she could blindly get the size right without ever needing to touch him.
Two months have gone by and both Craig and Alba had gone through a lot. He has pushed her away. He had committed in taking care of her when she came to meet him but left her alone hours before she was to board her flight. After all this, how could he have kept a part of Alba with him? How could he keep the pullover, which she had spent a lifetime of love, creating? The love, he has walked over.
Alba used to tell him, “If ever a time comes when you cannot wear it, due to circumstances in life, donate it to someone, who can’t afford this warmth”. Back then, Craig would have said that it will last a lifetime, but today Alba’s very sentence echoed inside him. He had to give it away. That would be best for him and probably the right thing to do.
The charity in Mumbai where Craig donates his clothes every year received the usual set of things they expect to get from him, except one. Inside the parcel was a thick grey pullover too, along with the routine clothes. Alba never came to know what happened to her pullover. She didn’t contact Craig again. But if she had, she would have been contented knowing that it served its purpose of making someone happy. So what, if it is the chai wallah and not Craig!
*Bandra– is a suburb of Mumbai, India.
*Bandstand– walkway along the sea on the west side of Bandra, Mumbai, India.
*videsi– from the western nations.
*chai wallah– A person who sells tea by the road, as they are called in India.