The Trunk (A Short Story)

The trunk stood in the empty shed outside his house. His papa used to rear chicken in this shed , when he had his poultry farm, but now it was empty. It was a massive aluminum trunk, almost six feet long and four feet high. Bricks placed under it on its four sides elevated it off the ground, probably to try and safeguard it from the big rats that fearlessly roamed the shed at night. It had a huge latch, which would fall with a bang on the hook when you tried to lift the lid. You had to hold the latch up with a hand, as you pushed the trunk’s lid open. The aluminum lid was depressed in the middle and when it opened, you had to be sure to jam the lid right back; and you had to make sure that the levers that attached the lid to the base were taunt, else the lid would fall on your head, as you riffled around in trunk.

The trunk had always been there and he had no recollection of his papa purchasing it or bringing it home. It could have been purchased before his birth, or, which is more probable, could have been part of his mother’s dowry. Whatever the means of acquisition, it was always there, all through his childhood, through his adolescence, and right up to his college days. It was his personal Goodwill store, his own Salvation Army store. Whenever he had an occasion to dress up for, he would dip into the Trunk and pull out a shirt, a trouser, or even a dress suit . At a young age, he knew of brands like Harrods, Selfridges, Harvey Nichols, Morris Communications, J Sainsbury from the labels on the garments, for his rich relatives shopped mostly in London, at those stores.

That the oversized gaudy suit, with its massive lapels, or the double breasted blazer with its huge comic buttons, or the bell bottom trouser with its oversized flair was years out of date, he had no clue. And then, there was no one to tell him so. In his middle class friends circle, he, with his retrofitted trunk clothes, was probably more fashionable than them.

How the “branded” hand-me-downs made their way into the trunk, and how its quantity was periodically replenished, he did not know. He did not recall ever seeing the hand-me-downs actually coming into the house. It would have to be his maternal grandmother, his Nani, who was the courier. His maternal grandparents visited them from “abroad” [sic] every year. Their visits became even more frequent when he was in high school. That was the time his papa slipped in and out of sickness and they would spend many months with them at their home, in their small Indian town. Maybe his Nani gathered up all the discards of his rich relatives and brought them to his home and they found their way into the trunk?

The changing waistlines of his rich uncles could be traced in varying waist sizes of the trousers in the trunk. Fashions of all bygone years were represented here. There were trousers with the large bell bottom flares from the sixties; and drainpipe trousers from the Beatles era; and double breasted blazers with large lapels, with bronze sailor buttons that must have been fashionable in some decade.

The white suit that he wore at his college graduation came from this trunk. His friend and classmate at college, Mohit, borrowed his black blazer to wear at the graduation. That too was extracted from the trunk. In college he was thin like a stick, a scarecrow. The suit and the blazer belonged to his rich uncle who was huge. But that was no problem, for alteration of garments in those days was cheap. The brick red wool suit that he wore to a family wedding “abroad” [sic] also came from the trunk. It was altered to fit his lean frame by the old tailor, who sat under the tree opposite his house, on his vintage Singer machine. His rich relative recognized the suit he had discarded so long ago and commented that given the suits age, it still looked fine. But, watching the well heeled relatives in their expensive Tuxedos, he realized that an out of fashion brick red wool suit with large lapels was not really a suitable attire for a formal occasion like a wedding, especially in summer.

(To be continued…)