It was a sunny morning in the month of February. The mall was deserted. The isolation splendid. A perfect morning for a broody walk. She stepped out of the hotel. Not too certain of her direction. Taking small careful steps she walked up the mall. Something was bothering her. She couldn’t quite place it. Her hands tugged at her sides voluntarily. Then it struck her. The Jumper.
The ends were sliding down her slender waist. It restricted her walk. She pulled at the corners, rolled them up now and then. The rhythm of her movements was back in tandem. After a while she felt the loose ends, again. It made her feel caged and irritated. For the first time she wondered if the Jumper really was her favorite. If she wore it to accentuate herself or to just cover herself, even from her own being. Yet she walked, oblivious of the world around her.
For her it was The Jumper. It had shades of black, grey, red and white. When she wore it, it engulfed her. The contours of her 14-year-old body remained well concealed in its folds. She felt secure and protected. Not in its warmth. But in the inscrutability and unfathomable depths her baggy jumper provided; to her and everyone else.
In her 14 years, she had not thought much about her clothes. Her strange apathy for shopping belied her usual enthusiasm for even the smallest things associated with self expression. Mother bought her things and she usually liked them. They were always oversized, boyish and bright. She hated girly stuff anyway.
There was a particular store on a particular street. All her Ts distinctly reeked of that one store: her red Sylvester & Tweety V-neck, the round-necked Fighter Jet one, the one with the Red-Indian chief wearing the most colourful head-gear she’d ever seen, the one which said ‘Energy 2K’ and many more. At times she would grudgingly wear skirts and tunics. Jeans and trousers were her favoured lower wear.
Mother bought her The Jumper on a trip to the hills. A bright, oversized jumper. It was one of her prized possessions. She couldn’t bear the thought of parting with it. Once she reluctantly gave it her brother. How swell he looked; she envied him for a moment. The next moment she was glad that he won’t have it forever.
But today it incarcerated her. She longed to get out of it. Had it not been for the light breeze she would have tied it around her shoulders. Feeling irritated, she retraced her steps.
A few years later she was on another trip to the hills . The Jumper still fascinated her notwithstanding its monstrosity. She had decided it was her discomfort in mind and not in body. The ends hung by her hips but she made no efforts to roll them up. Her walk was stifled, her stance uncertain. The Jumper began to elude her again and she looked askance to see if someone could feel her uneasiness. None seemed to bother. Suddenly she could no more be oblivious.
As she took laborious steps up the steep slope, the misty hills turned into a buzzing market. Still not much of shopper, she looked about the place reluctantly. All of a sudden, she saw it. The Pullover. A striped one. It hung against a grimy cold wall. There was nothing bright about its countenance. It was grey to start with. The fibers of the thin wool stood out like the limbs of a dead grasshopper. Cheap export reject, perhaps, she thought. It had a round neck to the V of her fine angora jumper. But it was her size. Not an inch long or short. The sleeves covered her wrists smugly. The angora’s always slipped down to her fingers. Folding it carefully, she asked the old Bhutia man to put it in a bag. It was her first personal wear.
She was overjoyed. Yet for the most part she wore her jumper.
The winter chill had just set in. The familiar environs of the room encapsulated her. The light pink walls, the rickety lamp on the wooden table, the low bed with the hard mattress and the careful anarchy of books, CDs and clothes. Yes Clothes; clothes that she bought. Something that was so secondary to her even a year back was perhaps an extension of her being today. She had her own preferences, her distinct choices. The particular store was a wispy memory. She had discovered new places.
She changed into her favorite blue jeans and fished for a fresh top from the heap before her. Then she walked towards the cupboard. Neatly stacked one above the other were her sweaters, cardigans and jackets. The Jumper was missing. She delicately pulled out The Pullover and ran her fingers over it. A couple of washes had softened the fibers. She went near the mirror and pulled it down her head. It hugged her body, stopping just below the slim waist, making each curve distinct. The warmth of the cheap wool felt nice. She looked at her reflection, reveling in what she had avoided, did not want to acknowledge.
No longer did she want to conceal. She stepped out of the house, a little conscious, a little fidgety yet not demure. The world around her was oblivion and contagion at the same time. She basked in its glory. All her apathy had left her. As she made her way on her bicycle, she smiled at the thought of all the noise and friends awaiting her.
She was glad for there was a light breeze. The Pullover kept her cozy and warm.