Beena couldn’t wait to get to the shop. She was going to get the best birthday present ever.
It was Beena’s birthday, and Mama was getting her the most wonderful present: glass bangles.
Beena loved bangles. She loved the way they twinkled and glittered in the moonlight. She loved the clinkety-clankety sound they made when she danced. She loved the smooth, cool feeling of sliding them over her fingers and onto her wrist. For years, she had borrowed bangles from her mother, sisters, or cousins. Now, for the first time, she would have her very own set.
Walking into the shop felt like stepping into a rainbow. The shelves were lined with boxes and boxes of colourful bangles speckled with silver and gold. Beena didn’t know where to begin.
“What about these red ones?” Mama asked. They looked just like the bangles Mama wore every day. Mama was always fighting for what was right. Beena thought about how her mother’s bangles jangled when she was signing petitions or taking the neighbourhood women to go and vote. Red bangles would always remind her to stand up for what was right.
But there were so many others to choose from. Beena didn’t want to make up her mind just yet.
“These orange ones are nice,” Mama said. Beena’s sister, Zainab, wore orange bangles. She was the best cricket player in the neighborhood. When she looked at these, Beena could hear the whoosh of Zainab’s fast ball, and the sound of Zainab’s high fives with her team mates. Orange bangles would remind Beena to keep moving.
“I like them,” Beena said. “But I’m still not sure.”
“How about these green ones?” Mama asked. Beena’s cousin Khadija wore green bangles. Khadija loved cars. Beena spent long afternoons watching Khadija overhauling engines, fixing radiators, and changing oil. Khadija’s wrists were constantly stained with grease, so she pushed her bangles up her arm when she worked. When Beena asked how she knew so much about cars, Khadija said she watched mechanics work and asked a lot of questions. Green bangles would remind Beena to be curious about the world.
“These are lovely,” Mama said.
“But so are these!” Beena said, trying on a blue set. Beena’s best friend Radha wore blue bangles. Radha was the president of the school, and a champion debater. She won the school essay contest three years in a row, and she never left home without reading the entire newspaper. Blue bangles would remind Beena to never be afraid to speak her mind.
“But what about these purple ones?” Mama asked.
Shahanaz Aunty wore purple bangles. She made money sewing lenghas and salwar kameez. Shahanaz Aunty also played the guitar, and she even wrote songs with funny lyrics about Beena and her cousins. Purple bangles would remind Beena to find beauty in everything.
“I love them all,” Beena said. “How will I decide?”
“Maybe you don’t have to,” Mama said.
She reached onto a shelf and pulled down a box of bangles that had all the colours of the rainbow. They were a perfect combination, each bangle a piece of the rainbow, more beautiful together than they could have been alone.