Going from Brown to Red

Swapna Narayanan

When I was younger, a common Hindi devotional song (bhajan) used to be sung frequently at home that basically said:

तू ही सागर है,  तू ही किनारा

ढूंढता है तू किस का सहारा…

Loosely translated, it questioned us and asked:

Why are you on lookout for an anchor,

When you are an ocean as well as a shore within yourself.

A deep thought that left an impact and pushed us siblings to find solutions on our own, and rely on our own judgment.

On similar lines, another song that deeply appealed to me in the recent times was from a Bollywood movie – Queen:

गर माझी सारे साथ में

गैर हो भी जायें

तो खुद ही तो पतवार बन

पार होंगे हम

जो छोटी सी हर इक नहर

सागर बन भी जाये

कोई तिनका लेके हाथ में

ढूंढ लेंगे हम किनारे

किनारे, किनारे.

Loosely translated, this song pushes us to rely on our own selves:

Even if the boatmen desert us, I will take up the oars and cross over,

Even if I am thrown into a wide ocean, while floating through a small stream, I will hang on to a log and still find my shore…

And the song, along with the movie, is etched in the memories of many strong girls of our country.

Along with these songs, recently I read a book that has also joined my list of the timeless classic.

There are good books. There are interesting books. And then there are some books that make an imprint in your heart and mind with its simple yet strong story-line and become timeless like Ladies of Missalonghi by Colleen McCullough.


The book is about a young single woman in her thirties, Missy Wright, who lived with her widowed mother and spinster aunt. Coming from a modest and poor background, in contrast to some of her other uncles and aunts, these ladies have strict routine and tight budgets around the house. They work together like clockwork with nothing much exciting happening in their lives till the wedding ceremony of one of their rich cousins. The preparations are on and they decide to get some new dresses stitched for themselves. Missy longs to wear some colour other than brown, but her mother and aunt insist that being an ineligible, plain looking spinster with a modest background, the only colour suitable for her was brown, as the colour suits everyone, doesn’t show dirt and doesn’t attract much attention.

She unwillingly relents.

And then, one day, a rich stranger comes to town and sets up a business.

Horrified yet intrigued by his personality, Missy ends up getting attracted to him. And as the stranger goes about his business, Missy gets to know about the innumerable atrocities that was done by her rich uncles.

Daring, and dreaming, the novel shows how Missy breaks all stereotypes, does not care about wagging tongues and fearlessly marches on to achieve her goal.

Set in the years before World War I, this book seems a bit outdated in the current context in certain places. However, even in that setting, Missy manages to do what women even today are sometimes afraid of doing. The inspirational journey of Missy Wright surely teaches us how to bring colour into our ‘drab’ lives and go confidently after our goals without being afraid of what people would say.

And yes – she does get a nice red dress to wear!

Here’s to going from Brown to Red!

*All images used in this article are either Eyra’s own design or widely and freely available on the internet.*

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