Goodbye 2020: Will Not Miss You!

The world will be screaming Happy New Year in two days. 2020 was horrible. It was merciless.  People died. Lots of people.  Let us just accept how bad it was.  And just when we got hopes of a vaccine,  there was news of a deadlier strain coming up…

Really what is so ‘Happy’ about this coming year? 2020 has changed me I am sure the way it has changed so many of us.  For people whose loved ones were snatched away, they will never be the same again.   In that way, the rest of us who did not get the virus, did not lose anyone close must be the lucky and grateful ones who can complain about  anxiety, loneliness, boredom and isolation.  While a personal tragedy changes one forever,  a pandemic reminds us that it is not just life that is uncertain, but the entire world could crumple anytime.

I think this year has caused permanent damage to the way I see things.  I feel we are all just surviving that’s it.  That is what we were always meant to do.  And that is the best we will ever do.. 

Speaking of survival….

Roti: Most important thing

I pretty much cooked since March. My husband and I decided not to call the cook even after things got better. Cooking definitely takes up a lot of time. It is also never ending.  But still, food is something that can give instant happiness.  These thoughts inspired me to write my book, ‘Marriages are made in kitchen’. I think my highlights of this year have been the times I have ordered chilly chicken, chowmein pizza and momos at home!

Kapda: Why do we have all this stuff!

I started watching a show, ‘Minimalism’ on Netflix. I have been busy so I could barely get past the first episode. However, when I look at my two bedrooms full of clothes, makeup and accessories, untouched for 9.5 months of the year, I think why do we buy so much stuff!!! Do we need it?  I have a habit of buying new clothes before every vacation. Those dresses get worn once or twice.   I don’t even want to get into saris, and heavy salwar suits and how rarely we get to wear them! Of course, the only winner in 2020 was pajamas and track pants!

Aur Makaan: Where do you stay?

I moved house recently. I went from a bigger house in a small society to a smaller house in a big society. In this house hunt, I met people who vacated their houses on rent and left for their hometowns.

‘When will you come back to the city?’ I asked a lady. ‘Once my son’s school opens, or my office calls me whichever is earlier.’ She replied.

I also met a man who is selling his house because he has got permanent work from home now.

‘I will go back to my native (hometown) or go to Australia!’ He said.  And then I thought to myself, what would happen if this continues?  What will be the deciding factor where one would live when there is no office and no school?  You could be anywhere but anywhere is a scary place to be….

I read something on Christmas, ‘The things I want, cannot be bought!’ How true is that! Could it be any truer? (Read ‘be’ Chandler style)!

Magar mujhko lauta do mera woh bachpan, wok kagaz ki kashti who barish ka pani!

Let me tell you what I want. I want to go back to the time when six people lived happily in a two bedroom house where 10 people would visit for weddings and  holidays.  The time when our rooms were full of people, laughter, chats instead of stuff! I want to go back to the time when we would share a room with a cousin and talk all night.   Make Maggi at 3 am, and swear to sleep only to keep talking again. Wake up late, and have elders say how much we sleep. We would explain, You see, we slept only after 5…

Khairiyat poocho kabhi to kairiyat poocho..

There was a time we had landlines, which were mostly placed in the living rooms. People called and introduced themselves. No privacy.   Yet, friends who spent the whole day together in school called each other up every day and talked for long.

Tumlog ko itna kya baat karna hai? School mein to mile hi the!

Family members would say. And these calls were not free! Yet it was a price worth paying. Then came mobile phones. SMS.  Call charges were still high though. Initially I hated SMS. I would call people to respond to their message.  ‘It is annoying to type,’ I would say.  Then came Skype and WhatsApp.  There was no concept of call charges anymore.  From being the kind of person who didn’t like typing, I became the kind of person who didn’t like surprise calls.   I started texting people to check if I could call them.  They returned the courtesy.   It became a norm..

How many people can we pick up the phone and just call? How many people call  us  regularly just to ask ‘Aur kya chal raha hai?’

 

Muskuraye to muskurane ke karz utarne hoge

As kids we loved families. We loved to draw those stick figures with a round head. Shirt pant for Papa. Sari for Mumma. Girl child in skirt. Boy child in shorts.  But little did we know that families come at a cost. Marriage comes at a cost. And one person always pays the higher price.  The ones who chose self-respect often have to give up companionship.  The ones who chose the relationship have to compromise on their dignity. All for that occasional smile.   Sometimes that smile is not even for you, but for someone else.  What do you get in return?

Dil dhoondta hai phir wahi fursat ke raat din

I used to think that if I am home all day (despite work from home) I would probably read a lot and  watch a lot of movies. But fursat is good only when you are stress-free.  Otherwise, fursat can become your worst enemy.

In the middle of this year I thought, when will this end, when will I get  to go to restaurants, movies beaches and vacations!  But now I feel it may not change anything. What if the emptiness of this year is permanent? What if the hollow feeling is within?

What if everything we think makes us happy in life is just a way of escape?

Even though I am feeling very low about next year, I wish everyone a happy and safe year ahead. Do share with me in the comments the songs that best capture your feelings of 2020.

 

 

 

 

Lockdown Post 4: How Is The Eye Brows, Hair and Housework Growing Oops Going!

When I was 18-19, I used to be very conscious about my looks.   I would get my eyebrows threaded every 15 days. ‘Only extras’, I used to instruct the beautician.  I would add, ‘Patla nahi karna!!‘  My eyebrows were never thick or even dark to begin with, so this was a doomed request.   Every time the beautician would say, ‘Do-teen maheene tak  bilkul chhod dijiye, tab hi full growth hoga!”

And I used to wonder, ‘Where will I hide myself for three months!!’

As I got into late 20s, the frequency of getting threading changed to once in a couple of months.  In between there were home beauticians.  But in the past two years everybody rejected me saying ‘Minimum 500 or 1,000’.  Hence, back to salons! It was irritating because the choice of parlour unfortunately depended on the availability of parking, and not on the service.  The actual threading would take 10 minutes, but the waiting time would be longer. I was never a parlour person.  Eye brows was the only thing I got done. And every beautician who looks at my eye brows always gasps in horror, ‘Kharab ho gaye hain. Last time kahan se karaya tha.’  And my answer invariably is Aapke yaha se hi karaya tha!’

To get rid of this pain, I bought a trimmer last year and stopped going to the parlour completely. It was a big relief. I have not even bothered to use the groomer for the past four and a half months!!  I am sure this is beyond the ‘full growth’ any beautician would dream of!

My hair also has to be compulsorily smoothened ever year. Otherwise, it gets wavy and curly from the roots, and straight from the bottom!  I would tell the stylist, ‘I want my curls to come back’ and she would say, ‘Then you have to leave it for a year or so!’

And I would think, ‘How can I go to office looking so untidy and messy for one year!’

The curls are 60 -70 percent back! I think by the end of 2020 it will all be back! The contact lens which I abruptly stopped using in March turned into a stone! I have not ordered a new pair since then!

I guess it is somewhat liberating to not have to worry about looks!!

And even though I hate doing all the housework and cooking by myself, there is a certain amount of peace in not having to depend on anyone. The calling, the waiting, the not showing up without any communication, I don’t’ think I miss it!

So my question is are we getting comfortable with this new normal?

P.S.

Actually, I should call it, ‘Unlock Post’ since there is no lockdown currently in my city. But you know what I mean….

 

There Was A Time..

There was a time…

She would wait for dad to come back from office. He would get cream rolls.. She would jump and cling to him like a monkey. She would snatch the cream rolls from him and giggle. She would finish it all too soon, white cream on her teeth and her mouth.  He made her day.. What more could she ask for..

There was a time..

She had a dog… She loved to play ‘Fetch’ with him. She would throw the ball. He would run to get it. Sometimes she would run. Without the ball. He would just run behind her.  She had no idea why she was running. He had no idea why he was running. She would suddenly stop. He would stop too. He would pant, his tongue sticking out, hoping something would happen now. But there was nothing more. This was the game.  The dog did not mind.  He was just happy. She was also just happy.. What more could she ask for…

There was a time..

It was her birthday. The day before she would have gone to the store to buy toffies. Her classmates would get two toffees. Some not so important would get only one. Eclairs or Melody?   She would call so many friends home for the party.  They would play in the whole house.  Parents would spend the whole day decorating the house with balloons. And write ‘Happy Birthday’ with crepe paper.  The excitement would not be over just because the guests were leaving. It would continue. She would open the presents. The pink, blue, green, golden wrapping paper.. The puzzles. The dolls. The games.  What more could she ask for.

There was a time…

There was a family wedding. Mummy had dressed her up in a lehenga. She was even allowed to wear a lipstick. And a bindi. And bangles. And a matching hair clip. People said she looked so cute. There was no school the next day. She and her cousins were running around the whole hotel. Chuppa Chuppi it was. She would hide behind the big huge flower pot in the middle of reception.  Her cousin would also hide there. They would find each other. So easily. But still laugh. Such a hearty laugh… There were two flavours of ice-cream – vanilla and chocolate.  She had both. Elders were busy.  Nobody was monitoring them.  What more could she ask for…

There was a time…

She had gone on vacation with her family. The hotel room had a bath tub. She hated taking a bath but this was so cool. There was hot water coming from the tap. Unlike her house where they heated water with and immersion rod and she had to use a bucket and mug. Mummy had to ask her to get out of the bathroom.  But why should she? The foam in the water. The little bubbles… The cozy room of the hotel.  The sight seeing outside where she would wear a half pant. Eating in restaurants.  What more could she ask for.

There was a time..

There was so much less. But it was so much more. There were no regrets. There were no disappointments. There were no conflicts. Everything was just the way it was. Just the way it was meant to be…

Is that time over… Was that it.. Where is the joy…Will it ever come back..

She is scared to find the answer….

Image source

There Was A Time

There was a time…

She would wait for dad to come back from office. He would get cream rolls.. She would jump and cling to him like a monkey. She would snatch the cream rolls from him and giggle. She would finish it all too soon, white cream on her teeth and her mouth.  He made her day.. What more could she ask for..

There was a time..

She had a dog… She loved to play ‘Fetch’ with him. She would throw the ball. He would run to get it. Sometimes she would run. Without the ball. He would just run behind her.  She had no idea why she was running. He had no idea why he was running. She would suddenly stop. He would stop too. He would pant, his tongue sticking out, hoping something would happen now. But there was nothing more. This was the game.  The dog did not mind.  He was just happy. She was also just happy.. What more could she ask for…

There was a time..

It was her birthday. The day before she would have gone to the store to buy toffies. Her classmates would get two toffees. Some not so important would get only one. Eclairs or Melody?   She would call so many friends home for the party.  They would play in the whole house.  Parents would spend the whole day decorating the house with balloons. And write ‘Happy Birthday’ with crepe paper.  The excitement would not be over just because the guests were leaving. It would continue. She would open the presents. The pink, blue, green, golden wrapping paper.. The puzzles. The dolls. The games.  What more could she ask for.

There was a time…

There was a family wedding. Mummy had dressed her up in a lehenga. She was even allowed to wear a lipstick. And a bindi. And bangles. And a matching hair clip. People said she looked so cute. There was no school the next day. She and her cousins were running around the whole hotel. Chuppa Chuppi it was. She would hide behind the big huge flower pot in the middle of reception.  Her cousin would also hide there. They would find each other. So easily. But still laugh. Such a hearty laugh… There were two flavours of ice-cream – vanilla and chocolate.  She had both. Elders were busy.  Nobody was monitoring them.  What more could she ask for…

There was a time…

She had gone on vacation with her family. The hotel room had a bath tub. She hated taking a bath but this was so cool. There was hot water coming from the tap. Unlike her house where they heated water with and immersion rod and she had to use a bucket and mug. Mummy had to ask her to get out of the bathroom.  But why should she? The foam in the water. The little bubbles… The cozy room of the hotel.  The sight seeing outside where she would wear a half pant. Eating in restaurants.  What more could she ask for.

There was a time..

There was so much less. But it was so much more. There were no regrets. There were no disappointments. There were no conflicts. Everything was just the way it was. Just the way it was meant to be…

Is that time over… Was that it.. Where is the joy…Will it ever come back..

She is scared to find the answer….

Five Reasons Why You Should Get A Short Haircut Once In Your Lifetime

Sorry for this misleading title.   I do not have any reason for you to get a short haircut! I got one recently. So I wanted to blog about it.  I just thought this title was cool!

Actually let me start with a little background on my hair.

I have had long hair since the time I have been 16.  My natural hair was thick and curly. Curly hair looks amazing when it wants to. If you take care daily.  Most of the times, it is a struggle to manage it.  At 22,  I got my hair straightened (temporarily) for the first time.  It was such a relief that my hair could just be. So effortless. No leave in conditioner. No mousse. No serum.  Ever since, I got temporary ironing / blow dry regularly.  I would consider smoothening. But my question to the stylist would be ‘Will my curls go away?’ The good stylists would respond in the range of ‘Yes’ to ‘Don’t know how the hair would respond’.  Greedy ones would say ‘Just go for it. Your hair is too damaged, lifeless, falling to keep as it is.’  (I have written about parlour bullies before in this article). Finally, three years ago I had the courage to get it smoothened the first time.

Now, once you get your hair smoothened, you have to keep doing it.   Every time the hair gets thinner.  But then if you don’t, it looks ugly.  So you have no choice.  It is a vicious cycle. Every time I got smoothening again, I pledged that I would wait for my natural curls to come back.

But they never did.  Actually, it becomes wavy form the top, and remains straight from the bottom!

So, I keep getting confused between waiting for curls to come back vs getting it smoothened again!

In the midst of this confusion, I thought of getting a hair cut to change my look before a recent vacation.  Husband said it would suit me a lot and I must get it really really short. I did not want really short. I just wanted some change.

Husband: Get hair like her:

Image

Me :  Wasn’t that haircut meant to punish her? And she was also made to walk naked! To humiliate her!

Husband: She kept that hairstyle for three seasons! Because it looked good! Boy cut hair will suit you!

Me: Boy cut! Haven’t heard that since school. I don’t think they call it that anymore!

Husband: Get short hair till chin. It will look very nice.

Me: Nah!

Husband: Try once! What is the worse that could happen!

Me: It could be awful! I would not be able to leave the house for 6 months! I could lose my job!

Husband: Don’t be dramatic!  It is just hair! It will grow back!

Me: Are you trying to do this so that I look ugly and nobody will ever look at me?

Husband: Haha. Just get short hair and see..  It will be the best.

I started searching for ‘short hairstyles for broad faces’.  The results were quite nice actually.  Pixie cut . Short blunts. It was an unexplored world out there…

I liked this one:

Image

Of course I am aware my face is nothing like hers! So I brushed the idea off.

But somehow the thought was stuck in my head.

I kept downloading apps that let you try on new haircuts.  The idea of something new is scary but thrilling.

I soon became obsessed.

My husband’s words along with DDLJ line made me take the plunge:

Kya aap mujhe meri apni zindagi se ek maheena bhi nahi de sakte?

Kya main mujhe meri apni zindagi se ek haircut bhi nahi de sakti?

What’s the harm in trying! It is hair! It will grow back!

So I went to the stylist.  My husband dropped me there while he went to office to finish the work. He explained to the stylist to make is really short.

I felt like I was a little kid when my mother used to cut my hair.   She would make it very short so that it was easy for her.

Once he left I pleaded the lady to not make it too short. As expected, she asked me to do an expensive cysteine treatment first. Now, I do not know if these parlours have trick mirrors but I was looking pretty that day!  My hair was also looking pretty.   The lady told me it is lifeless.  I think it had a life. But anyway, after thinking for 10 minutes, I said yes.

And so my hair was cut short. Really short from the back. And short from the front.  And the wash was the next day. So the following day, it was oily and looked very chipku. Short plus chipku. I was so conscious about it that for some time I thought of working from home!

It has been more than a week.   I bought the expensive shampoo and conditioner they make you buy after a treatment, the one which they threaten that if you don’t use it,  the treatment will go away. Now after spending so much money on the treatment, you obviously try to retain it.

The best part is the comments  you receive after you getting a haircut. Most people like to say:

You got a haircut!!

It is neither a comment nor a compliment. It acknowledges the fact that you did something and we noticed.

Some polite people accompany it with a nice at the end:

You got a haircut!! Nice!!

Others are clever and diplomatic:

It is different!

That is a safe thing to say. Can’t argue that it is not different. At the same time, they are not saying that it is good or bad.

The strangest thing about women getting a haircut is other women mourning the loss of your hair.

Why did you get a haircut!

You had such nice, long hair!

But why!

But your hair was so pretty!

This grief from others for your hair which will grow back is hard to understand!

Also, I realized that people want to know why you got a haircut. You better have a reason.

Just like that!

For a change!

Something different!

Trying something new!

Nope. These replies will be rejected. There would be further probing. People think you can’t possibly be stupid enough to just cut your hair!

They want something like:

I was suffering from hair loss!

I am sick!

I got lice in my hair and had to chop it off!

Just when I thought I was was done with all the new hair comments, my mother’s maid said to me, ‘Didi!!! Baal kyun kataye!’

My father who has no idea that this is a common thing to say among women was surprised.  ‘Bolo Didi baal achcha lag raha hai!’ He corrected her.

‘Itna achha lamba baal tha, didi ka!’ She refused to stop mourning.

Went to meet Maa-in-law. I thought if she doesn’t like my new hair, I could get her to scold the husband.  But she said she liked it.  She told me history repeats.  My father-in-law had also made her cut her hair which was very thick, and long.  It reminded me that my father made my mother have a short hair cut for a very long time, something my sister and I didn’t like but she did keep it for the longest time. I have my theories of why husbands like their wives’ hair short but I will keep them to myself!

Recently, we had a festival, Teej.  I had put on maang teeka and nath.  I was a little worried about pulling it off with short hair, but it looked pretty good.

So this was my short hair story. I am enjoying the new look and it is definitely very easy to manage.  Another blogger friend had got her hair short recently and I loved her hair.  She also encouraged me to try short hair. If you have a short hair story, do share with me in the comments!

Featured image source

 

 

Some Thoughts On My First Anniversary

Last year this day my husband and I tied the knot.   I was 30.  He was a few years older.  We were not too young.  We were expected to be mature. Experienced. Wise. Both had lived alone. Both had managed a household before.  Both were comfortable professionally.

But we defied age.  We fought like little kids.   We fought for who does how much work in the house. We fought for sharing the cupboard space.  We fought about who never gets up to answer the door for the maid.  We fought about who sleeps more!

We were not the couple who would post ‘Aww! Sweetie, you complete me! How did I ever live without you!’

We were very much complete and alive before meeting each other!

We were not the couple who others looked at said,  ‘Oh my you two! You make us believe in love!’

We were the couple to whom people said, ‘Are fir se jhagda kar liya!’

What kind of a couple are we?

I guess… The real type!!

Fresh off The Other  Side

When you marry early, you have something to fear. It is the fear of ending up alone.  But when you marry late, you have already overcome that fear.  You have survived break-ups. You have learnt to live alone. You have fallen down, reached rock bottom and risen.  You have watched your friends post Hallmark photos with their spouses and toddlers.  Seeing their content faces, you have wished, ‘Why could I not have that!’  But then you see your life, happy and peaceful, and you have said to yourself ‘That would have been nice. But this is good too. It is nice actually!’

The one thing you teach yourself is that you do not need anyone.  You have made yourself so independent. You are better off alone.

How do you unlearn all of that? 

The man I married

Last year, probably a week away from today, my husband and I were on our honeymoon in Switzerland.   We were travelling in a train.  A lady (reasonably older) had got on with a lot of luggage.  She was struggling with it to get on.  With great difficulty she managed to find herself a spot to stand with her three suitcases.  The way she was struggling with them,  they seemed bulky and heavy. She had barely given a sigh of relief as people started getting down at the next stop and she spotted a sight to sit. The problem was to reach the seat she had to pass through the stairs.   She started dragging all her three suitcases  towards the empty seat up the stairs.  Other people were looking at her and trying to give her space to move.  My husband walked up to her and offered to move her luggage for her.  He did it for her. One by one while she looked at him gratefully. She said to my husband, “You are very kind, gentleman”. 

I was smiling in pride.

There are so many other things he has done.

When he was unwell, but he still volunteered to drop my sister to the airport.

When I was buying a doll for my niece in Paris, and looked at the price, and he told me not to think about it. And went ahead and paid.

When he gets chicken momos for me on his way back from office.

When he tells my Maa-in-law to get my favorite peda from our hometown!

When he makes Maggi with pyaaz on Sundays!

But the problem is when the daily grind gets to us, the atta, chawal, maid, loan instalments, we stop seeing the bigger picture. We forget the person we married. We forget the good in them.

My Life Now

Few days ago, I had gone to the mall to shop for an upcoming vacation. My husband was also at the same mall but he had to buy electronics, so he was shopping separately.  I was searching for clothes, trying them out but I had no clue what I liked.  I would try on something, but without his approving nod and smile, I had no idea if I looked good. I bought nothing.

Another day,  I called him to ask what time he would be coming home. He said he would be late.  Disappointed, I ate alone.  I put on Netflix.   I felt tempted to watch the next episode of Delhi Crime.   But I ended up watching something else.   Something I do not care about. Not because I cannot watch it without him. But because what is the fun watching without us commenting on it together!

On my first anniversary

Marriage requires a lot of effort. And since it is such a life term project, it gets exhausting! What is good and what is bad? I guess it is like that day in the mall. Or the day alone at home.   The home and the outside world suddenly becomes weird without the one person you did not know until a couple of years back. And you feel lost. 

Some gyaan

To all those couples like me in a new marriage, hang in there!   Perfect couples are fictional! Remember the movie, Honeymoon Travels Pvt Ltd! Half of our problems exist because we feel that others have it easier.

Never ever feel put down or disheartened with rough patches.  It is all part and parcel of the package deal!

Remember, for better or for worse!

In sickness, and in health!

To love and to cherish!

And last but not the least, remember the person you married. 

Cheers to all the real couples out there!

Haste haste (Ladte Ladte) Kat Jayein Raste, Zindagi Yoon Hi Chalti Rahe,

Khushi mile ya ghum, badleinge na hum, duniya chahe badalti rahe!

 

 

 

What made you sad today?

Thursdays it was. Library period is what they called it.  They would remove their shoes outside.  The library was as small as a regular classroom. Yet, for her it was a fortune. Which book should she pick? She had all the options in the world! Aisle after aisle. Shelf after shelf. The smell of old books. Some bookmarks left as it is. Some pages torn.  Some drawings made.  The library card where she would put her name. And read the names of everyone else who checked it our before her. The Enid Blyton Books..

Then there would be the book sale, announced well in advance.  She was not supposed to carry any money to school. But for the book fair she would be allowed. She loved reading those abridged classics. The beautiful pictures on the covers. The blurb on the back.  The smell of new books.  It did not matter whether the book was old or new. Whether she borrowed from the library or bought from the fair.  The books unleashed a different world.  A world of dreams. A world of knowledge.

Today, it makes her sad that she will never smell those books again.

The rainy season would start. Monsoon as they would call it.  Her mother would pick her up from school. Sometimes, they would not find an auto or rickshaw. So they would have to walk home.   In the rain. And keechad.  Cars would pass by.  There would be a splash.  Mostly on the red skirt. But sometimes on the crisp, ironed white shirt too. The dirt on the road. The smell of the rain. She would love to make a puddle.   She would jump at each step as her mother would try to drag her to walk properly. Dogs, cows, people, cars, cycles all moved in the rain. 

Today, It makes her sad that she will never make that puddle again.

Summer vacation would start. Her cousins would arrive.  Her father had purchased a video game for her. It had two games. Shoot the duck with a gun. And Mario. They would take turns to play. How cool it was, that she was the only girl in the neighborhood who had the game. Would her Mario survive the dragons at the end of the fourth level?  Thank you Mario but our princess is in another castle – The screen would read.  Would her Mario find his princess at the end of the eighth world? Would she and her brother be able to play simultaneously as Mario and Luigi?

Today, It makes her sad that her Mario will never meet the Princess again.

Little joys were so simple to achieve then..  She thought when she grew up there would be something so much bigger. Better. Bigger happiness! Little did she know….

It was not until she became an adult that she realized:

Happiness comes at a very heavy price!

जीने के लिए सोचा ही नहीं
दर्द संभालने होंगे
मुस्कुराये तो मुस्कुराने के
क़र्ज़ उतारने होंगे

 

 

Beauty And The Beast Within

The cute child

“Bachche Chacha Nehru se pyaar karte the! Chacha Nehru khoobsurat the. Bachche har khoobsurat cheez se pyaar karte hain!”

I listened, admiring my beautiful Hindi teacher reading out a chapter on Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru.  The teacher was very fond of me. “You look like a doll!” She would say. I would blush.

An attractive teacher talking about a charismatic personality.  A reasonably cute looking child listening intently.  The beautiful atmosphere was interrupted as a girl in shabby clothes and slippers walked in along with our class teacher.  Her hair was brown, with knots, lacking any kind of nourishment.  Her complexion was dull.  She looked dazed as if she woke up on another planet. Her skirt looked more like a lehenga reaching her calf, matched with a miserable, baggy, shirt. It must be her father’s, I thought.

“This is Champa. She would be joining your class today.” The teacher said hurriedly. “Let her sit next to the class monitor for few weeks till we assign her another place. Meghna, you sit next to Komal for now.  Tanvi, Champa will be sitting next to you.  Please help her with the books, uniform etc.”

I was horrified! Champa’s admission was part of a reach out program, wherein a child from a nearby slum would be selected for education free of cost.  Some of us had heard about this proposal. We had no idea it would be implemented. I had no idea it would affect me. Directly!

The next few days were difficult for me.  But how difficult was it for Champa to fit in? Kids made fun of her brutally.  They asked her if she ever showered.   There was an outbreak of lice soon after she joined. She was alleged to be the origin. Guilty until proven innocent. She bought chapati or chuda for lunch.  She ate alone. She was different.

I was conscious of my behavior at school. I was never mean to her. But deep down I found her repulsive. I hated sitting next to her.

One day, after lunch I was playing with friends. Tag. Then on the Merry Go Around. The first bell rang as an indication to us to go back to our classrooms. As I was running, I felt a weird sensation. Within a few seconds even before I realized, I had vomited. In front of everyone.

There was some vomit on my perfectly ironed white shirt. And probably some drool on my face.

One teacher commented, “Such a big girl! Cannot even control herself!! Don’t you know there is a toilet?”

Some kids laughed. Others said “Ewww” and moved away in disgust.

I had tears in my eyes.  As I made the walk of shame towards the washroom, someone held my hand.  I turned in surprise.

There she was. Champa.  As expressionless as ever.  But holding me tight and safe. She held my hand and helped me clean up. She did not say a word. But stayed with me throughout.

Few days later, she stopped coming to school.  She disappeared as abruptly as she had appeared. Some people said that parents had complained about the reach out program. Others said the management felt it was not working out. Some said her parents had decided that studies would not do her any good. Nobody knew for sure.  I never saw her again.

The ugly duckling

Few years later, my father got transferred to the United States. I was a teenager by now studying in a junior high school at New York City. One of the poshest cities in the world. With people from all over the world.  All races.  There were blonde beauties. And Hispanic beauties. And Asian beauties. Girls my age had voluptuous bodies.  My breasts had refused to show up. My buttocks were also equally flat. I wore glasses. And braces.  I had round chipmunk cheeks. I was one of the shortest people in the class.

Kids were at the age where they bully. My school was no exception.  Some desi kids like me who did not fit in were told ‘You stink’  to our faces.  Some would express reluctance to sit next to us. While walking home, there was this once particularly big guy from a senior grade who would scream at me every day, ‘You are UGLY!!!’  just in case I had forgotten.

For the first time in life I felt what it feels like to feel inferior. In every way. I felt like I was at the absolute lowest strata of society.  Being popular, being liked by the opposite sex, getting proposals on Valentine’s Day could only be a dream. I would be grateful if the day passed without any major humiliation.

Is this how Champa felt..?

I became quiet.  I was still a very good student. Being intelligent was my pride.  The few people who got to know me said I was a ‘very nice girl’.  I had few friends.  But they would all vouch for me.

A transformation

Another few years passed.  I was back in India.  I blossomed late. But I finally blossomed. I looked much better in college and in my 20’s. I was now on the better-looking side. This ‘above average’ spectrum had its own set of issues. Women felt jealous and made mean comments, totally unwarranted.  Random people thought that if a girl  is  into her looks and puts on makeup it means she is dumb and shallow. I got attention from boys who were not at all serious and I had to deal with their obnoxious attitude at feeling rejected.  Some people found me arrogant when it fact I was just an introvert.

Was this still better than being on the other side of beauty…?

I have been on different sides of ‘beauty’ at different phases of life. Here are my thoughts:

Lessons learnt

Beauty is never isolated. It is not just about the shape of your eyes or the symmetry of your face. It is about what is considered acceptable.  It is a combination of other related factors such as social, financial, racial privileges. Someone who has features from another part of the world may be different therefore considered not good looking. People who have more money have access to fashion and cosmetology and end up looking the best possible versions of themselves.

When you HATE what you see in the mirror, nothing else matters much.  Most of the times you do not see what is truly there, but what others have told you about yourself.  You see your insecurities. For someone it is a big nose.  For someone it could a dark skin-tone.  For someone it is the weight. And it takes years, and years to become comfortable with it.  I used to pray regularly as a child, having studied in a convent school. The last wish in my prayers (after well-being and health of parents and sibling) was ‘God, please make me pretty!’ Like most kids, my prayer was memorized.   Even today, at 31, when I am distressed and start praying, this ‘wish’ repeats in my mind involuntarily in the sequence.

 When a lot of people find many different ways of telling you that you do not look good, you give up on your looks completely. You deliberately decide not to put in any effort.  Loose clothes, pony tail, no make-up- Beauty becomes a game one that we choose not to play. You cannot lose when you are not playing, can you?

Champa’s face haunts me still

We may have been treated badly. But that is no excuse for how we treat others. A lesson I learnt from Champa.  A lesson I would like to convey to young people. Hang in there. There are people who will see you for your inner beauty.  But first you need to see it.  Be kind to others. And yourself.  The people we like to talk to, hold on to ultimately are the ones who are pleasant and positive. We also need to become that person first.

A happy face looks beautiful and is a culmination of peace with self and others.

Author’s Note

This article has been written for a contest organized by Women’s Web for the Naturals Salon.

I believe every woman has TRUE BEAUTY within her in all the roles she plays. For over 18 years across 650 plus salons across the country, Naturals has been helping the Beautiful Indian Woman get more Beautiful.

Today Naturals Salutes the Beautiful Indian Woman.

Presenting Naturals TRUE BEAUTY… http://bit.ly/naturalsOF 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When I Realised That The Festivities I Cribbed About Were About Celebration & Family

When I Realised That The Festivities I Cribbed About Were About Celebration & Family

When I was a kid I waited eagerly for festivals. More people in the house, pichkari, pathaka, new clothes, cousins, sweets, fun, laughter. What was not to like about it?

But as I grew up, I started hearing things which made me cringe..

Leave Everything And Vanish?

When I was about 14, I had watched a television series on Sony called Hubahu starring Sandhya Mridul. She played the role of identical twin sisters. One sister, Aditi lived in India. She was a homemaker married to a college professor with a son. She lived a boring, stable life. The other sister, Ananya was very glamourous. She lived in some foreign country. Wikipedia says Bangkok although I do not remember.. This sister is single, rich, has a luxurious lifestyle  and a wannabe boyfriend. The sister in India lives a stable live with her husband and kid. One day they both decide to switch places for a week. (They are identical).  Due to some unavoidable circumstances, they end up continuing in their switched lives for some more time. At the end, they realize they like their new life better. They end up continuing like that.

When I had watched this show at that age I had thought how could the woman with a family just leave everything. She had a husband! A kid! I had also found nothing with her life that was so bad that she just gave it up.  I was so judgmental…

Aditi used to wake up every morning with a jump as her alarm rang. She would rush to get her kid ready. The rest of the day would be lost in household work…Cribbing. Stressing. And cribbing some more. And stressing some more..

When I was studying in the U.S.,  in eighth grade or ninth grade, in one of the class discussions the teacher had asked what are some of the reasons for depression. One girl had raised her hand and said ‘monotony’.  No it was not those last few residual answers where all obvious answers such as loss of a loved one, loss of job, divorce, break-up was consumed. It was one of the first few answers.

“That’s right”, The teacher had replied. “Getting up every day, same time, same routine with nothing interesting to look forward to in life can be depressing for some people.”

I had found this very odd.  To me, it was not a valid cause. What else is everybody supposed to do every single day anyway, I had thought.  I guess I was too dumb…

I guess I wake up the same way as Aditi does.  Every morning with panic.  Thinking I have missed the alarm. I will be late to work.. I will get scolded…  The maid would have knocked on the door and left… I will have to do the work…I will be even more late to work…  And there is a deadline…Not only will I go to work late but leave from work late too… House work. And office work…

Maybe it is everybody’s fantasy to just leave our current life… Leave everything and vanish… Aditi just got the opportunity…

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