Being Women

Bihu Gift

Navya’s excited face turned into a confused one! Amidst all the vibrant ethnic masterpieces, that pink cotton chadar-mekhela set with machine embroidery looked so mismatched!

“My parents taught me to respect everyone around us and adhere to polite behaviour at all times. No work is big or small and we should not judge people based on their economic situations. ‘Equality for all’ is our family motto.”

Purobi let out a sigh of contentment as she finished reading the concluding lines of her 12-year-old daughter Navya’s short essay on human equality. Navya was quite matured for her age and her compassionate nature reassures Purobi of raising her kids right.

Navya refused to have any party for her 12th birthday two months ago and requested her parents to buy woollens for the orphanage kids using that money. She had seen them wearing worn out clothes and wanted to help them during the chilly winter nights.

“You have written a beautiful essay, my princess. I am so proud of you, Navya”, Purobi caressed her loving daughter’s curly hair. A sweet fragrance of Parachute coconut oil enwrapped her fingers.

“Just had a great head massage from Aaita”, Navya giggled.

Purobi enjoys the adorable bonding Navya shares with her grandmother. Their endless talks, story-telling competitions and sweet teasings energised the whole atmosphere!

“You took three long hours for today’s shopping, Maa. Let us see what lovely dresses you have brought for everyone”, Navya had a naughty smile this time!

“Women’s clothing is the most difficult thing to shop, my dear. It’s Bihu after all. You get carried away amongst all the amazing looking chadar-mekhelas, you see”, Purobi smiled too.

She took out the first pair of clothes.

“This is for your Aaita(grandmother) dearest. Paat silk mekhela and raw silk chadar in milky white shade with green and golden motifs.”

“These two are Nuni Cotton sets for your paternal aunts. Peach coloured one for Dangor Pehi(elder Bua) and teal blue one for Soru Pehi(younger Bua).”

“Those are their favourite colours, Maa. How sweet of you to remember that!”

“I know their taste in clothes. Now these three Padmini Cotton Mising handloom sets are for your Borma(Tai Ji), Mahi(Maasi) and Mami.”

“Wow, Maa. Such lovely colours!” Navya was amazed to see such variety of colours and designs in their own ethnic clothing.

“This bright yellow Paat silk saree has been specially bought for your father’s best friend who will be visiting us in Bihu. She is from Jaipur and extremely fond of Assamese culture.”

“Poonam aunty drools over our humble Aloo pitika(Mashed potato) too, Maa”, Navya recalled.

“And these two pastel-hued Ghisa sets are for your Aaita’s sisters. We will visit them after the Bihu day”, Purobi started folding the sets.

Her mother-in-law’s face brightened up hearing those words. She loved meeting her younger sisters and getting nostalgic talking about their childhood times!

“You did not open this packet, Maa. What is in there?”

“Leave it, Navya. That is for Neela Mahi”.

“Neela Mahi will be so happy to get a Bihu gift from us, Maa. Let me see it”, Navya excitedly opened the packet.

Neela has been working in their house as a domestic help since the last six months. Her neat work and smiling face are appreciated by everyone. Purobi treats her well and gives a good salary too.

Navya’s excited face turned into a confused one! Amidst all the vibrant ethnic masterpieces, that pink cotton chadar-mekhela set with machine embroidery looked so mismatched!

“You got Neela’s dress under 1k,na?” Navya’s grandmother asked.

“Yes, Maa. I got it for Rs 700 only.”

Navya was calculating something within her mind.

“Why did not you buy something of superior quality for Neela Mahi, Maa?”

Purobi’s heart sank a little. She was not at all expecting such a harsh question from her darling daughter!

“What do you mean, Navya? It’s a nice set.”

“But not at par with the other sets you have bought, Maa! It’s not equal in any manner”, Navya’s voice trembled a bit.

“All of my aunts already adorn great clothing and you are gifting them as per their taste. But Neela Mahi cannot afford any of them. You should not have discriminated against the Bihu gifts based on economic standings, Maa.”

Purobi and her mother-in-law were left stunned by those words. They just followed the popular practice of gifting the helpers according to their stature all these years! They never realised that it is indeed an act of social discrimination rooted in our social norms! Purobi felt ashamed of her insensitive actions though unintentional.  Her observant daughter just opened a can full of myriad questions about the day-to-day discriminating practices we all have been a part of. A little change in the mindset of the stronger section of people in the society will lead to a much more compassionate environment for those around us who are less fortunate economically.

“I am so sorry, Navya. I failed miserably in maintaining the essence of equality you are proud of. But I promise I will be watchful of not repeating these mistakes.”

Purobi’s teary-eyed face compelled Navya to run to her mother and embrace her tightly.

“Will you go with me tomorrow and buy a new dress for Neela as per your choice?” 

“That’s like my sweet mother! We”ll buy a Padmini set with Gos Buta(tree motifs). Neela colour for Neela Mahi. “ Navya’s happiness knew no bounds.

“Get a matching petticoat too”, Aaita also joined the conversation.

“Your parents have named you just right, ‘Navya- the new’. You have added a new perspective and as a result of that, a new positive change is here to stay from now on. Equality begins at home, they say.” The septuagenarian’s words echoed in the ivory-hued living room and the ecstatic voice of the singing Cuckoo announced the onset of the Bihu festivities exactly then.

By Anuja Lopamudra Das

Hailing from a small town, Nagaon in Assam, Anuja’s love for writing bloomed mostly during her college days. With two super energetic kids and a busy household by her side, she follows her passion for writing and singing without fail and it keeps her going with full zeal. Blogging, cooking, and lots of reading are her besties and she promises herself not to part ways with them ever, no matter what. She can be contacted at

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