In our new flat which was in the posh area of the city, most of the thing were new, tailor made and as per advice of interior decorator. While shifting from our parental house to this small and sleek flat in the multistory apartment I had to leave behind many such household goods which were there for many years with us but was of no or little use in the present scenario. We distributed freely many such things to our house maids, charities and sold many other things as scrap. I had nostalgic feeling for most of the things which I was not able to take to my new place.
One of such article was a big steel trunk which was with us from time immemorial. This trunk was basically used during summer months to store quilts, extra mattress, winter clothing, spare and out of use clothes. During winter these quilts etc was taken out for our use in night but during day time those were heaped at the top of that trunk. The trunk was very rarely opened but when opened it was virtually a treasure house where we could find some clothes which we used when we were just few months old or some over coat etc. of our grandfather with brass buttons and all that. Old army uniform of my father was also kept there.
The trunk was so big that when we were small kids we use to have small nap on it on the top of quilts, mattresses and pillows stored at the top of it.For many years, when our cousins from Calcutta and Lucknow used to visit and stay with us during vacations, this steel trunk used to be our favorite indoor play area. Sitting at the top of all those mattresses we used to feel like living in some high and formidable fort or sitting at the top of a giant elephant. We used to play ludo, game of cards and some time we used to carry our small Carom board also at ‘such a height’ and sometimes that became our ‘house’ as we played house owner adults. But with a passage of time that Big box did not remain so big, although still it was serving the purpose of storing extra goods.
While I was shifting to my new flat I opened the steel trunk. All the heavy items like extra bedding, old clothes etc were of no use to us. Many woolen items were damaged due to neglect. I freely distributed most of these items to my maid servants, other known poor people and charitable organizations. I brought only few light blankets with us that too perhaps I was tired of free distribution of so many things. Yes when you have to dole out many articles, finding a worthy recipient is also a problem.
In that box there was a blanket which my father had purchased straight from a weaver of the hilly area of Rishikesh. This ethnic blanket was known as ‘Thulma’. It was made up of natural wool of mountain goat and was exceptionally warm and soft although a bit heavy. It was lying in the box since last thirty years or so. Since it was so dear to my departed father and was almost unused I brought it also along with my goods to my new flat.
That year winter was exceptionally cold. One late night when I came back to my apartment I noticed night guard of my building, who opened the main gate of building for me was shivering with cold. After parking my car, I asked the guard did he have blanket etc to save him from chilly cold as temperature fell down drastically after mid night. The guard showed a tattered blanket which was not enough for a chilly night. I promised to give him a warm blanket the next day. While promising so I had in mind one of those blankets which I had brought from that steel trunk.
Next day when I checked I could not find any such blanket. I asked my wife where those blankets had gone. She informed as there was no use of those old blankets few days ago she had donated all those except that Thulma to maid servant of our new house. As Thulma was a specialty item donating that was out of question. I told my wife about my promise to the night guard last night. She suggested that as there was no old blanket to be given to the guard why not to purchase a new blanket and donate that to the guard. The idea suited me in the changed scenario.
Next night also when I came back to my apartment again it was quite late. The same guard opened the gate. While I was parking my car he came near to me. That night was even colder than last night. Suddenly I realized that although in the morning I had made a decision to go to market for purchasing a blanket for the guard but due to pressure of work I forgot to do so. I noticed smiling and expectant look on face of the guard. Then another car approached the gate and he rushed to open the gate.
As it was exceptionally cold that night I was feeling guilty forgetting to purchase a blanket. Engrossed in thought I reached my flat and while I was changing there was sound of door bell. My wife informed that the night guard was on the door and he wanted to see me. He gave me a big salute and said that he thought it proper to come himself and collect the blanket. He proudly said that today he had not brought with him his own tattered blanket as he thought it better to leave the same at home for use of his children. He said that he had already informed to his children that today he would be getting a better blanket from me. I looked at the face of my wife, and then I told her to bring that ‘Thulma’. She was surprised but happily brought and gave that to the guard. The guard was visibly happy and gave another salute and rushed back to attend his duty.
During recent past while shifting house I had doled out many valuable things but this sudden act of giving away that blanket left a sense of loss in me. My father’s memory was so much associated with the Thulma that I never thought of giving that away although it was never used by us. What father would be thinking of my foolish act?
Many days passed after that and I did not meet the night guard. One night when we came back from a late night dinner the same guard opened the gate. While I was parking the car he came rushing to us, he appeared very happy. He said that the blanked we gave to him was very good, exceptionally warm and he was using that regularly in night. He said that he has displayed that to other guards of the building. Then in requesting tone he asked for my permission to let that blanket to be taken to his home as now arrangement of heater has been made for him by the apartment society and his children were more in need of such a warm blanket. I readily agreed to his proposal.
I was very happy to know that my father’s Thulma was being put to best use. Now I had no doubt in my mind as to what he must be thinking of my act of donating his proud possession to a needy man.
The author of this story Tarun Banerji goes down the memory lane in reminiscing many things from his childhood. Of them most importantly the Thulma, a blanket that belonged to his father. Children hold to our acts and possessions into their tomorrow as a legacy. They build sentiments and grow attachments towards it. In this story it is not about the Thulma, the author is reflecting on those sentiments and attachments.
Every little bit that you leave for your children remains with them as a sign of your love and legacy.