The Joy Of Connecting

Everyday / Thursday, October 21st, 2021

I took my Mom to a local exhibition yesterday—one of those local “arts and crafts” fairs that dot our cities.

It was one of the few times she has been outside since her recovery from Covid.

My heart was pounding when I parked the car. There were unmasked people everywhere, and the memory of beeping oximeters is still fresh in my mind. My mind doesn’t remember my last salary, but it remembers those oximeter numbers very well.

Yet, despite my anxiety, I can’t keep her cooped up inside forever. We have forgotten the mental toll of this pandemic as we rush to get outside, leaving those older flailing behind – categorized unemotionally as “those with co-morbidities.”

The fair was set up under a colorful canopy. A green plastic carpet in front and, inside, many stalls of musty colors. Carpets, paan, pickles, saris, incense, and the booth where we paused the longest: buying nightgowns.

“How much?” my Mom would ask.

“Rs 500,” the shopkeeper would mumble.

She would eventually get it for Rs 300. (I would have thought I had struck a good bargain if I had paid Rs 450).

I don’t know how my Mom does it: but the strategy was the same at each stall:

✔️Never settle for the first price.

✔️Never show too much interest.

✔️Walk away firmly. Most often, they call you back. (They did)

We got back to my car with many nightgowns, a few mats, and some pickle jars. I let out the breath I didn’t know I had been holding and frantically poured sanitizer on her palms.

“Sad for them, right? At the end of the day, they make so little,” my Mom said suddenly.

“Then why did you bargain so hard?” I asked, astonished.

“To get a fair price. You can’t cheat.”

How do you know what’s fair? I wanted to ask. But I kept quiet because I remembered that each of the shopkeepers had laughed along with her, cutting prices, examining together the quality of “100% cotton” – their shared banter something I have forgotten with my swipes on a smartphone. Sure, my phone promises great Indian shopping experiences and delivers convenience. But it doesn’t give me these old comforts of connections.

“Get your Mom again,” one of the shopkeepers grinned, waving as we left. “You give better price next time!” my Mom retorted.

I smiled too and remembered that this is what it means to recover from Covid: To really cherish the beauty, the incessant joy of being alive. Sometimes, that joy is masked by the clouds of despair that hang over me. By the termites of loneliness. By the stress of not making enough money. By the loss of confidence. But as I drove back with my Mom, who continued to delightedly point out the green guavas, the prickly pineapples, and orange-hued papayas from all the street vendors, I am in awe of just what it means to live this day. It means just this: Be here now. 

And to look for those papayas, the guavas, or that odd trembling leaf and smile that you have so much space in your heart for not just loss, but the sheer presence of love. 

6 Replies to “The Joy Of Connecting”

  1. It feels so right to feel these little joys of living our every day “routines” in life. It seems like you both had a beautiful time together in that exhibition – just by being there and feeling the presence of life unfold in many moments. May we all be blessed with these moments in our lives – we all need them desperately and quite rightly so.

    1. Ah Sudha – I sometimes lose sight of the joys, but you are right: may we all be blessed with these moments in our life. Now, more than ever before.

  2. Good for your Mom. I, too, love to haggle, but she seems to be in a class of her own.

    And good on you for getting her out and about. I love those markets, too. So much stuff, activity, color and, best of all, potential bargains. Hope she has had her boosters if she needs them after having had the disease.

    Karen and I were lucky today to receive two new masks each from a friend. They are a new design which has two triangular popups, one over the nose, another under the chin. They fit, are effective, comfortable and don’t slide down over one’s nose. See if you can find them.

    1. Dave, I somehow don’t remember you ever haggling. 🙂 They are not giving boosters yet here in India, and I doubt they would anytime soon given our remarkably efficient government. I haven’t seen these new masks. I would love those although I can’t imagine how these look.

  3. I feel nobody can beat mother’s bargaining techniques 😄 this pandemic has changed our lives so much . Those were the days where we could step out fearless and shop . But now the way we shop has entirely changed!

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