First published in Gulf News Opinion
Image for illustrative purposes only. Source: google images
The monotony of life is sometimes broken by strange coincidences and we’ve all been witness, at one time or the other, to something completely out of the ordinary. Quite recently, I was in a mall, window shopping aimlessly inside a shoes-and-bags store when I observed something that I will remember for a while.
A woman who could have been no older than 25 entered the store and it wasn’t difficult to figure out the fact that she was trying to find a perfect gift for someone. She spoke fast and loudly too, and I couldn’t help but listen. “I don’t know what she’ll like. Oh! I am so confused! How much is this bag? 345 dirhams? No! Why is everything not on sale? No, I can’t afford that, though I do love that gorgeous brown!” She moved about the place with an enthusiasm and excitement impossible to ignore, and I wondered who she was buying a bag for. I would have left the store right then, but my daughter fell in love with a pair of shoes which she insisted I should at least try.
Waiting for the shoes of my size, I observed the young lady as inconspicuously as possible. Not that she would’ve noticed had I stared unabashedly — she was far too involved in trying to find the ideal handbag. After a thorough search of the shop, her face fell for she could not find anything that seemed right. Then she suddenly saw it — and let out a yelp of excitement for the whole store to hear. “There it is! I knew I’d find it! Oh please let it be on sale!” she squealed. The sales lady suppressed a laugh and graciously told the customer she would check the price. The bag was a big one, in chestnut brown with a dull gold buckle. “It’s 175 dirhams — the original price was 300, ma’am,” said the sales lady and the girl almost burst into tears of happiness. “Oh, she will love it!” she said animatedly and hugged the sales girl for good measure.
The sales lady multiplied her joy when she told her that this was the last piece in stock and that she was very lucky to have gotten it. The other shop assistant finally brought the shoes I was waiting for and I was pleasantly surprised when they looked beautiful and felt comfortable. I ended up buying the shoes and left the store and soon forgot about the girl and her bag.
Back home I realised that the shoes had been an unwise choice because I could barely walk in them. Wanting to return the impulsive purchase, I walked into the same store a few days later and almost ran into an intimidating middle-aged woman who was also requesting a refund at the cash counter. Imagine my surprise when she produced the all too familiar brown bag with a dull gold buckle. “This bag was bought by my daughter on Thursday. I would like a refund please. It still has all the tags,” she said in a grave, serious tone. The sales girl suddenly seemed to remember the exuberant young woman (for she was indeed hard to forget) and said little except a cautious, curious query as to why the woman did not like the bag. “I have my reasons, young lady. Now will you refund it or not? Young people nowadays don’t think twice before spending money on this frivolity,” she elucidated, as the sales girl completed the process for a refund.
A part of me wanted to tell her how sincerely (and expressively) the present had been picked but it’s outside the boundaries of proper decorum if you go around questioning the actions of a respectable middle-aged woman in a store. So I simply kept mum but was most certainly affected by the whole affair which I, in a strange twist of fate, had perceived. I left the store looking wistfully at the brown bag placed back on display and wondered if somewhere inside it, was a broken heart.