The red scarf placed on the beige couch added a dash of colour to the otherwise earthy decor. It gently touched the wooden figurine, frayed edges covering the face, like a bride’s veil. The jumble of Design books on the coffee table completed the look. They call it Hyggie, a setting that evokes the warm cosy feeling of love, safety, intimacy. It reminds me of Didi.
“Thanks, Riya, I am sure the feature will be a huge success. Readers would love a sneak peek into your house. The top Interior Designer in town. This will be a super hit!”
“Maybe. What you see here is not just décor. Some of those things are pieces of my heart, my past. I am scared to let anyone judge them.”
“I understand Riya. That frayed red scarf, I would love to know the story behind that one.”
“Those books were her gift. Interior Decoration was our muse, much before we knew it was an art, a profession in itself. We spent hours doing, redoing each room in the house, placing the plants, rugs, vintage pieces and sometimes even the useless discarded stuff. Kites, kerosene lamps, empty paint cans, broken furniture, glass bottles, anything. Much before recycling and refurbishing turned fashionable.
Didi was eight years older. Like any older sibling, she was my second parent, always protective of me, guiding and shielding me from the orthodox environment we were born in. I was still in school when Didi got admission to a design school in Mumbai but wasn’t allowed to stay alone in another city. She enrolled in an art course in our hometown.
One day when she came back from college, I heard Papa and uncle shouting aloud in the living room. Didi was crying. ‘’I don’t want to get married; I want to study and work. Rahul is just a friend, we were talking, there’s nothing more than that. Please don’t push me into hell, I don’t want to suffer like Indu and Maya.’’ Indu and Maya were our cousins, Uncle’s daughters, married off early into wealthy families, living a difficult domestic life.
A match was fixed and the wedding date was announced. Didi had to leave college midway. She gave in, she was not a rebel like me. I selected her beautiful wedding saree, a deep red with gold threads intertwined.
She left. Much later, I found these design books and her wedding jewellery hidden in her room, wrapped in a red scarf torn from her saree and a note. “Save yourself Riya. Before they handcuff you, run away.”
I fought hard to go to Design School, ran away and never looked back.
Somedays I picture her sitting on that couch, a blurred red, living this life, my life, the possibilities, of what could have been, but could never be.
I still see her hanging by that red saree from the ceiling, her lifeless form.
Every time I want to quit, the red scarf reminds me, to not give up. Ever.”
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