She looks at herself in the mirror. And she is surprised to find that she is still tiny not an inch over four feet and eleven-ish inches. She looks at herself and wonders if she is self-obsessed. She looks at herself and wonders if change will engrave itself in pits of her skin. She wonders whether the change will fill the imperfections and allow room for something more pleasant.
It was one of those game periods – where giggly girls sit in groups and gossip. A bright sunny winter morning, ironically didn’t inspire them to pick up rackets in their hands for a bout of badminton or go fetch the orange ball and dribble it on the limestone court. They sat their on the patch of grass growing in the uneven ground of the school campus and chit-chatted. They talked of everything aspirations, travel, food, life ahead and their expectations. Somehow the talk went off tangent, and diverted to the first episode of Satyamev Jayate. The show had gone off air for about more that six months. But then too the girls sat and gave their opinions. She listened as she always did, putting forth ideas as a wise lady of barely seventeen. Ideas and suggestions and opinions – each person had. How it wasn’t suitable that there should be prejudice based on gender.
‘Really, do you think a first-born baby being a girl is welcomed into the family with the same happiness as much as a boy?’ Vedika spoke aloud. She was a pretty girl of eighteen with dusky complexion and sharp features. The previous year, she had been the school captain and before that the class leader. Her word was listened to – always and adhered most of the time. I concede I was not as fond of her as others but she was likeable when I was in the mood. I looked up from tearing the blade of grass into minute pieces and stared at her like others, willing her to continue. ‘I can say without any convictions that my family wasn’t happy when I was born – especially not my papa. He didn’t even hold me in his arms for the first six months because he couldn’t return for the birth of a mere daughter. And my mother affirms that her life would be easier if her first born was a boy.’ Almost everyone had a piteous face for the lovely girl who hadn’t been appreciated. Nishita was one of Vedika’s – for the lack of decent phrase – close friend. She bobbed her head at every command, the leader issued and marched as she was told to. ‘Oh, a few orthodox families do feel that way, Vedu! But not all. Every one has modernised. My family didn’t mind me being born before my bhai,’ she tried to soothe the aggrieved friend. ‘As long as there was you bhai,’ Vedika spoke curtly. ‘And really, it’s true. Sons are more important than daughters. They’ll provide the finance for the upkeep of their parents. They can’t expect me to leave my household and look after them.’ She added to the unpleasantness of the pleasant day. I wanted to speak. I did open my mouth but was shut up by Kay’s nails digging into my palm. She understood, it wasn’t a place for aggression and I would do nothing but add to the upsetting mood.
If twelve years of education in an all girls school still teaches one nothing but that sons are more important for the upkeep or that to be happy about a girl being born is ‘modernisation.’ Where do we go? In front of the mirror. And for what? To put on some more make-up or a facade of pretentiousness or to look at the blemished face, see the pits and dark patches and try to heal them.
She’ll always remain 4-11-ish. She can either always wear high heels and learn to walk and accept or she can pretend she’ll grow up. She will always have a small mirror in her bag. She can correct the make-up at times but she needs to remember, it’s only that – make up not her.
The present situation inspires truthfulness in all its glory and ugliness. The unblemished surfaces need polishing and the dark corner – a hint of sunlight. What it doesn’t need is unwanted unhappiness and a hollow mass of greeting and nodding of heads when there is nothing within those gray cells.