In response to Daily prompt:Singing in the blues
If you walk into our Nanded home, the first thing you will notice is my dad’s personal library. When I say personal library I may be underestimating it! It has nearly 600-700 books in it! Many of them are Marathi but there are considerable number of English, Russian classic novels as well. The most interesting thing is that all of these books are bought by him. Amazing, isn’t it? He loves reading… and he had made a pact in his youth that he will save money to buy one book at a time. This was the time when money was scarce and there were plenty of mouths to feed, leaving very little behind to save. Nevertheless, he managed to build this beautiful collection.
We have grown up around these books! My sisters are avid readers but I was a ‘light reader’. By light I mean weight of the book as well as content of the book :). Whenever my dad used to love a new book he would recommend it to us. There was this one book which is still on my mind. It was a Marathi translation of a famous novel called ‘Flowers for Mrs. Harris’ by Paul Gallico. I love dreamy fairy tales and this book, even though by conventional norm would not fall under fairy tales considering the fact that the main protagonist in this story was a 50 year old granny, was my all time favorite!
After falling in love with the Marathi version I longed for the English version for a long time. The possibility of getting the original novel became real when I met Neeraj, my husband! At that time he was in US and while we were chatting online I had talked to him about this book. He, being an internet buff made a quick search on internet and said that I was telling him the wrong name. I got confused because this one was my favorite books and I am really good at remembering things! So I insisted him to look for it again. It turned out that in UK, this book was published as ‘Flowers for Mrs Harris’ and in US it is published as ‘Mrs. Harris goes to Paris’! He did purchase a second hand copy of that book as a gift for me. 🙂
I loved the English version as well and even though I knew the whole story ( including how it ends!) I finished this one too in one sitting. This is a story of Ada Harris. Ada is a house maid in London. Because of her hardworking, caring nature she is favorite among her employers. She knows what Mr …. Likes and what Mrs. …. Doesn’t ! One day while cleaning one of her employer’s house Ada stumbles upon the most beautiful thing she has ever seen in her life. For a moment she completely forgets where she is. It was a dress, a Dior dress. The owner tells her that she had bought this dress from an expensive store in Paris. Till now Ada had been very good at keeping her life style and her employers life style separate . But it was first time that her heart was longing for something that her conscious will never allow. No matter what this dress doesn’t leave her mind for a second!
On one fine day Ada decides that she will go to Paris and buy herself a Dior dress. She checks her savings and finds out that if she saves money for a year or two she will be able to buy that dress. She denies herself every luxury! She walks to the work instead of taking bus, stops going to the movies which were her only entertainment. The luck also favors Mrs. Harris. She wins a fantasy football league and gets some money. Day by day, week by week she comes closer to her dream. Luckily while returning from work Ada finds a diamond clutch on the road. This clutch is at least 2-3 times of the money she is trying to save. This could be it! It could solve all her problems! But Ada is too principled! She doesn’t believe in taking shortcuts! She takes the clutch and returns it to the nearby police station. Her good deeds don’t go unnoticed! The owner of the clutch gives her money as a reward for her honesty!
Finally the day arrives when Ada is all set to go to Paris and get her dress. In Paris, a new set of problems are waiting for her. Till now She had always bought a dress from a cheap shop. Here in order to buy a customized Dior dress she had to stay in Paris for at least 2 weeks! Now what ? Mrs Harris really becomes sad and all her hopes to buy her dream dress suddenly crash. Then her good and helping nature and her sweetness helps her. Her best friend from London agrees to take care of her work responsibilities. By now everyone in the Dior had heard her story and are impressed by her determination. They all agree to help her. Mrs Harris too touches their lives with her kindness. Soon she buys her dress and returns to London.
Readers may think that the novel may end here. It’s a good place to stop… Happy ending! But life is not like this. The novel doesn’t end here and that is what I like about it. Ada comes to London and begins her work. One of her employers is an aspiring actress. She has been invited to a networking party and needs a new dress. Kindhearted Ada offers her dress to this actress. Unfortunately the dress does its job but gets destroyed because of the carelessness of this smug actress! Our Ada finds burned dress next day! At the end of this novel when Mrs. Harris is sitting in her home, disheartened because of the fate of her dress, the doorbell rings! Her friends from Paris had sent her letters telling her how much they had loved her. Each person tells her that she has made a huge difference in their lives! Each time I read this ending, tears roll down my chicks but those letters put a smile on my lips. Even though Mrs. Harris couldn’t enjoy the dress but in this journey she got some very good friends for life who care for her, value her for who she is not because of her money! This gives me a completely new perspective about the life. Makes me be thankful to the God for giving me few people who can bring smile on my face every time I feel alone or sad!
This novel has used flowers very interestingly. I loved the name of novel’s UK version. Mrs Harris loves flowers and even though she can’t purchase them regularly, she adores them whenever she get them from her employers. I love flowers too! In India near my school there was a green house. I had watched it from outside many times but once I entered in it I was in a different world altogether. The flowers were stemming from the ground in different colors and the place looked surreal. I had to choose 8-10 flowers and I had the most difficult time of my life. They were all beautiful. Here in Philadelphia I walk pass a flower shop almost everyday wishing one day I could buy a big bunch of flowers from that shop. During our summer evening walks, I used to pluck water lilies from the road side and put them in the vase with a penny in it, just like Mrs. Harris. At the end of novel, the biggest parcel from Paris are the boxes and boxes of flowers! And those beautiful flowers fill her tiny room and her big heart!
When I was writing this blog, a thought popped in to my mind. I had read this novel when I was very young, at 13 and now I was reading it as a 30 year old woman. Has my perceptive changed towards this book? Now I see that Dior dress as a symbol of human desires/dreams. I can clearly see around me many Mrs. Harris, trying to chase their ‘Dior dresses’. I find her in myself and my father, my husband …chasing our dreams…! When Lupita Nyong’o says no matter where you from your dreams are valid, reminds me of Mrs. Harris! This race is tiring for sure but every time I lose my focus or face a hindrance…I remember Mrs. Harris and her flowers. … And get up and run again!
Marathi version! https://mugdhapadalkar.wordpress.com/2013/10/22/%E0%A4%A4%E0%A5%8D%E0%A4%AF%E0%A4%BE-%E0%A4%AB%E0%A5%81%E0%A4%B2%E0%A4%BE%E0%A4%82%E0%A4%9A%E0%A5%8D%E0%A4%AF%E0%A4%BE-%E0%A4%97%E0%A4%82%E0%A4%A7%E0%A4%95%E0%A5%8B%E0%A4%B6%E0%A5%80/