People & Culture

Favourite things and all that…

Text & Photographs by Devyani Bisht Chauhan

I have never been a hoarder of things. Though I would be what I call, a hoarder of thoughts and memories and everything intangible. And live in a sort of bubble formed in the mind, that comes alive when the heart strikes that chord and calls to dance to its tune…

That's the little me with my parents. Photo credit: Devyani Chauhan Bisht
That’s the little me with my parents. Photo credit: Devyani Chauhan Bisht

That’s what happened yesterday when my children and I watched Julie Andrews come alive on-screen singing “These are a few of my favorite things” to the Von Trapp children while they huddled together and clung to her, listening to her list of favorite things. This led to us sharing our favorite things. While my son’s favorite was a super-hero character toy, my daughter’s was her newfound skill and love for sketching. When my turn came, I was but a little lost. I raced my mind to think of one favorite thing I own but couldn’t come up with anything that truly gave me enough joy to bestow upon it the favourite tag.

It was only later as I settled down to read, and the moment I held the book, that memories of all my favorite things came tumbling out and brought with it an avalanche of all the sensations I so fondly associate with each thing, each memory. And these are a few of my favorite things and the little stories that are etched to it.

My mother's pink sari. Photo courtesy: Devyani Bisht Chauhan
My mother’s pink sari. Photo courtesy: Devyani Bisht Chauhan

1. My Mother’s pink saree

My earliest and fondest memory of a saree is that of my mother, of watching her drape those yards so effortlessly. I would stare at the meticulous way her hands turned back and forth, exacting those pleats before tucking it in her tiny waist. My mother’s pink saree, that blinged with each move and every turn she made was my favourite from her entire collection that hung so proudly in her wardrobe. It was part of her trousseau, given to her by her mother, with all the love the heart can muster while sending off a daughter to start a new life only hoping that the new life unfurls ahead with as much sparkle as the saree.

The pink saree came about in my possession much later when I happened to visit my mother and she opened her old trunk. There it lay, shining and bright, occupying a slight space that a slight georgette fabric would need. One look at it and I wanted it. My mother’s pleas of ‘it’s old’ and ‘it’s torn at some places’ fell on deaf ears, as I picked it up and my hands caressed this beautiful piece. I’ve worn it a couple of times since then and hoped each time, that I looked as graceful and as elegant as my mother looked when she wore it.

My first box of Staedtler sketching pencils. Photo Courtesy: Devyani Chauhan Bisht
My first box of Staedtler sketching pencils. Photo Courtesy: Devyani Chauhan Bisht

2. My first box of Staedtler sketching pencils

In my second year of college, I grappled with studying textile design. It was demanding and the small city we belonged to lacked the fancy resources we needed. One morning my mother presented me with a full set of the Staedtler shading pencils and water-solubles that weren’t easily available and which I so desperately needed to work with for my course. When I look back now, I realize my life wouldn’t have stopped without it, no. And I would have completed college without a trivial thing such as a box of pencils. But the effort my mother put, in bringing that to me and I don’t know-how, was enough for me to treasure this box for years to come. It may come as a surprise, but I still have the complete set barring only a 6B pencil. And the others have decreased in height after enduring a few sharpening sessions. I see my daughter using it now, and I have to mention, this Staedtler box will remain my favourite for all the joy it gave me then and the joy it gives me now when it’s passed on to the one who cherishes it equally.

3. The little metal knife

In the days preceding my wedding, my grandmother handed me a little knife to keep at all times. After asking all the whys and whats, feigning some indifference and then promising to keep it glued to me, I was told this was to ward off the evil eye. As an astute non-believer, I didn’t know what to do with it. I sat with it in my palms closed tight till the sweat made me yank open the palm and I pinned the knife at the hem of my shirt. It eventually did remain with me, long after that day, long after I got married and for years to come. Now it sits in a little pouch filled with old things from the past. And each time I look at it, a certain belief creeps in, that she’s still looking out for me from the world beyond. And all I can do is smile.

‘Memories warm you up from inside. But they also tear you apart”-Haruki Murakami.

Devyani Chauhan Bisht
Devyani Chauhan Bisht

About the Contributor

Devyani is based in Doha, Qatar and is working as a teaching assistant in a British school. She’s a mother of two aged 10 and 6 and loves to read paint travel and write sometimes.

What’s your favourite childhood story?

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The Lifestyle Portal

Tanya is a graduate in Sociology from Sophia College, Mumbai, a post-graduate in Communications and Media from SNDT Women’s University in Mumbai and holds a Master's Degree in Journalis & Mass Communications from Chandigarh University. A former writing mentor and a seasoned lifestyle writer, Tanya writes columns on The Lifestyle Portal of life and living.

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