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U3A Writing: String Of Pearls

Dahrini Parameshwaran tells of a family heirloom - a string of pearls.

My first traumatic experience occurred at the tender age of eleven when my grandma passed away. She had been holidaying in Europe with her son and his family and was expected back shortly, and I was so happy as Gran was my favourite person and she was to be back with us again. But it was not to be and I never saw that dear benign face again.

My earliest recollections of Grandma were of a gentle, kindly lady who dressed differently from my mother who always wore the saree, but Grandma wore printed silk full-length skirts with long sleeved lace blouses with scooped cut necklines, and what fascinated me was the beautiful string of pearls she wore around her neck.

Her kindly, round, dark-skinned face with her long slim neck showed off the finely graded pearls to perfection. The pearls were so creamy but when they caught the light there were other hues visible as well, which used to intrigue me. The pearls were perfect I thought, with her attire which I learnt later was a relic from our Portuguese connections when Portugal was the first European power to take over our country in the sixteenth century.

The Portuguese landed in the south of our country when their vessel was caught in a storm when en route to Goa, and was blown into the harbour at Galle, the southern part of Ceylon. Their presence is still in evidence in that area and Grandma who lived there, and other ladies of her vintage, continued to dress in that style.

Grandma was fifty-six and though to us at that time, it was a great age, we felt she should have been with us till we grew up. My two sisters and I loved to spend our vacations with her and she used to say that though we were well behaved and polite when we were with our parents, we behaved like three hooligans when we were in her charge. We were always free to let our hair down and run wild.

I forgot all about the pearls after Grandma's lifetime till on my twenty-first birthday, to my great surprise and delight, my mother presented me with a rectangular box and in it on a cushion of velvet nestled Grandma's beautiful pearls. With shaking hands I carefully took them out of the box and laid them against my neck. They were so smooth and cool to my touch and they soon brought tears to my eyes - tears of remorse for being so remiss not even to spare a few moments of my time to ponder over the eleven memorable years I had with my dear grandmother.

The string of pearls is my most priceless possession because it was my grandma's, and I in turn will leave it to my first granddaughter when she is mature enough to appreciate it.


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