Gram's Shawl
Marjory J. Taylor
Hayward Fault Line Winner

Three thousand dollars! That's a lot of money. Gram would turn over in her grave if I parted with Old Mrs. Green's hand-loomed Indian shawl. Mrs. Green's husband, who captained a sailing ship, brought the shawl home after a voyage to the Far East. In later years, Mrs. Green gave the shawl to my grandmother who was then a young woman. Gram defended it against all comers before entrusting it to me more than sixty years ago.

How could the man in Calcutta know about my shawl? I reread the letter, If the shawl is the one I think it is, and in good condition, it belongs in our museum. I offer you $3,000. for it. You may email me at the address below if you are interested in selling.

I was not interested in selling, but I could be interested in $3,000.

Emails flew back and forth. Within a few days I reluctantly agreed to sell my family treasure. The man insisted it was too valuable to send by commercial carrier. He admonished me to package the shawl carefully, and hand carry it to Calcutta.

I wrote, I am not sure that I want to sell under these conditions. The cost of a round trip flight to Calcutta, a place I have no desire to visit, will eat up most of the $3,000. I have second thoughts about selling Gram's shawl. If I reconsider, I will contact you.

Two days later I received an email making a further offer. Bring the shawl. If it is the one I think it is, I will add your travel costs to the $3,000. payment. If this is acceptable, make your reservations and let me know when to expect you. I will meet you in the Arrivals lounge of Calcutta's airport at the appointed time. We can transact our business there, and you can take the next flight home. I have declared that shawl to Immigration and Customs officers in three different countries while changing planes en route to Calcutta. Now I am here.

There he is wearing a red, white, and blue turban, as he said he would do. He salutes me with his umbrella and beckons me to join him.

"You have it? It is in good condition? Let me see it."

I remove the wrappings and gently caress Gram's shawl for a last time.

The man speaks again, "This is not an Indian shawl. This was loomed by machine in a plain weave. Thousands of these were made in the textile mills of Paisley, Scotland, early in the nineteenth century. This is naught but a cheap imitation. It has little value."

First published: August, 2003