Passing my fingers through an open display of cheap and cheerful watches on the sidewalks of Pataya, teleported me to Wijesiri Stores, the only fancy electronic shop along the Main Street in Panadura.
Forty years ago, at Wijesiri Stores, I was doing the same thing… looking at the display of watches. The difference was those watches were inside a glass cabinet and padlocked, out of bounds and out of reach for a ten year old girl. I couldn’t touch them nor could i buy. I could only admire them with my face squashed against the glass.
‘Same Same’ but different circumstances!
Standing in front of the display in Pataya, I didn’t have to think twice about buying, not just one watch but a couple if I felt like it. But not at Wijesiri Stores when I was a little girl who didn’t understand family priorities.
Times were very different then. Watches were more or less a once in a life time buy. Kids were not bought multi coloured, ‘break if you like’ watches like today. It was a luxury item then! It definitely was for me, with a price tag of hundred rupees.
I wanted to own this watch so badly and I also knew it was very very expensive. After many days of agonizing, I remember whispering to my grand mother about my dream of owning a watch. She was our every day family Santa Claus in disguise.
At meal time, when the family gathered, she broached the subject of my fancy desire. I noticed the nervous glances exchanged between my parents. My father was smart. He promptly threw in a challenge instead of making an excuse. ‘You come first in class and I shall buy you that watch’. Little did I realize that this was his way of convincing himself that he didn’t have to agonize over finding the money to spend on a hundred rupee watch, when his monthly salary was less than seven hundred rupees as an engineer. This I learned much later in life which craeted an unexplainable guilt that I carry with me to date. However at that time my father’s proposition was as good as getting the watch.
Days passed and the subject of the watch was never discussed at home again as it was not worth talking about. I was never going to come first in class. At least this was my father’s conviction. But not mine!
My time in the fifth grade came to a happy ending with my bringing home the great news of coming first in class. I was elated. But was my father? Where was he going to find hundred rupees to buy the watch that was promised? To date I wouldn’t know how my parents managed, but they showed absolute joy in my achievement and took me straight to Wijesiri Stores to my greatest delight.
This time, I could actually touch and feel the watch. My first expensive possession…it was a silver square with a black fake leather strap. I can almost feel it on my wrist even now.
Each frame of this experience unfolded infront of me in vivid detail as I stood looking at the watches on display in front of me.
I choked when I thought of the financial burden I would have placed on my parents without any feeling of guilt.I almost wanted to buy a watch for my father from Pataya to clear my conscience.
But realized that a fake watch wouldn’t do for all the sacrifices he would have made to meet our multitude of childhood demands.
I wondered off thinking of me and my kids, telling myself that kids will continue to demand and us Parents will somehow find ways to oblige.
Same Same – but NOT different!