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The Case of the Missing Earrings

Do you know why we don’t find half the things we search for in life?

Because we are looking for the wrong things.

Often, in the wrong places.

Corona had laid siege to my clothes and jewellery closet for more than a year. There was nowhere to go and no reason to glam up. This long period of sartorial dormancy had made my pyjamas, shorts and faded tees establish themselves as the haute couture for the rest of the season. Accessories and jewellery were going through major existential crises and they languished like fossil rocks in a desert. And I myself had begun to look primitive with my over-grown locks and patches of sneaky grey.

One day, spurred by a sudden interest to add some zing to the listless life spent between the laptop and the stovetop, I decided to spruce myself up a bit. I got myself a chic haircut and tinted it a fine brown.

Some felicity of appearance having been restored, the attention shifted to the accessories, viz. the bangles and earrings that had begun to get vexed with my flippant attitude towards them. They had gathered so much grease and soap from prolonged use that they begged to be rinsed and retired from service. They looked like poor imitations of what they actually were.

‘All right, I relieve you of your current responsibilities. Go, huddle with your clan,’ I declared and after a quick wash-up, sent them away on superannuation.

I then decided it was time for a touch of sparkle on the earlobes. For some unknown reason, an old, favourite pair of bling flashed in my mind. It had been a while since they had got their due, and I felt obliged to justify their presence in my life by giving them a few days in the limelight.

I have a reputation in our family for being a ‘preservationist’ who puts away things in very strange places and fishes them out when required even from the remotest hidey-hole. I have saved the nerves of people many a times with my ability to ‘search and find’ things that hadn’t been spotted for long. A streak of Sherlock Holmes, you could say.

So, the earrings in question emerged in my memory as being kept in a small box sheathed in blue velvet from years ago. It had another pair of bling for company, I remembered.

Leaving the vegetable to boil, I began to dig into the modest cache of valuables expecting them to find the earrings in a jiffy and return to my remaining chore in the kitchen.

A,B,C…A,B,C…the little blue box I don’t see.

I went over the exercise of taking out all the stuff from the stash. The result was no different. Panic began to grip the edges of my body. My breathing shifted gear and became laboured puffs. My newly coloured hair started to soak in sweat as reality sank in.

Two pricey pairs of earrings were missing.

I widened the search location, from the farthest points in the house to the deepest burrows. All my investigative talents to ferret out things came a cropper as the morning wore off, yielding nothing. From boxes to pouches to purses to toolkits to the kitchen and shoe cabinets, everything was laid bare. Not because I was likely to find the earrings among screwdrivers and spanners, but when you search, no stone must be left unturned.

The intensity and extent of your hunt depends on what you are searching for and how valuable it is to you. How rattled you feel depends on what its loss means to you.

I refused to accept that it was lost. At the most, misplaced, I said to myself. But then, where? It was still within the confines of our home – of this I was certain. Unless, unless, in my last spring-cleaning spree, I had accidentally dumped it with the junk and thrown it in the garbage chute. I wiggled at the thought as if a cockroach had landed on my shoulder.

I pushed the air down with my palms and muttered. Relax. Relax. Relax.

In less than two minutes I started to rationalize. Even if I had thrown it with the rubbish by mistake, it wasn’t an earth-shattering tragedy. Was it? What I (God forbid) had lost was merely material. Something money could buy.

But money was what we were struggling to make in the wake of the pandemic. Now, more than ever before, every Dirham counted. We spent every minute in ceaseless toil. Is there a worse disservice I could do to my spouse at this point than announce to him that my carelessness had caused him a loss of X amount? And at a time like this?

But then again, functionally, how will I suffer if I had two pairs of diamonds less that I only wore occasionally? Should I worry myself to death over something so transient and temporal?

I oscillated between wisdom and incoherence. Between guilt and serenity. Between the thoughts that life was a lot more than possessions and life was also about the things we gather with sweat and blood.

We win, we lose and through it all we survive. Somehow or the other.

Meandering through the havoc in the head, as I began to put everything away, an overwhelming sense of calm began to come over me. It felt as if it rose unsolicited from a source that possessed me unawares.

Deep down my heart, I knew that what I was searching for was somewhere around. It was there. It hasn’t gone to the scrapheap.

It made me say, ‘Stop the search. If it is true that it isn’t lost, then it will appear from nowhere. Suddenly. Someday. When you aren’t looking.’

Prompted by the faith, I dropped the search instantaneously and started clearing the cot. I could list all the things that were strewn on it by heart for that’s the number of times I had rummaged through them. They were all restored to their places in the cupboard. In the end, a few empty jewellery pouches and boxes were left out, waiting to know their fate. I had hoarded them for long. I decided they had no more use and hence could be discarded.

I opened them one by one, once again, just to make sure they were empty and could be thrown. I tossed four aside after checking them quickly. I unzipped the fifth pouch and looked in it. What I saw inside knocked me for a six.

Four pieces of diamond earrings.

Not in a blue satin box as I had thought, but in a blue cotton pouch.

I sank to my knees and cried. What I had found in that incandescent moment weren't just the earrings. I had found the deepest secrets of existence.

Never lost. All the time there. In front of my eyes. Blinded by, I don’t know what.

In that glow of my sudden insight, I found myself again.

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