Saturday, 1 December 2012

The Lost Vermillion

This is an account of my imaginary friend Nidhi, who could be this woman that you may come across someday-because, you know what…she’s not completely imaginary. If you are reading this, you have to make a promise to me…promise me that you’ll do the same things that I did, if you ever meet her. Make a promise!

I stood outside her door, my hands trembled as they reached for the doorbell. I wasn’t sure of how I’d be received, wasn’t sure of how I’d be able to comfort her yet again, today, wasn’t sure of anything. Somehow, I mustered enough courage to press the doorbell.
How she looked to me pricked me very hard, the way it did every time I saw her. She was in the plainest clothes that I’ve ever seen, that anyone would have ever seen. The earrings pulled out of the ears, chapped lips, rough face, hair tied in plaits, bitten fingernails. No, that was not what Nidhi was about, Nidhi was about layers of makeup, dresses so bright and vivid that they’d hurt your eyes, about nail paint shades that would even make a teenager look old…yeah, that’s how she was-vibrant, colourful, flamboyant and full of life. She had started looking so different that if I wouldn’t have read her name in block letters on the nameplate, I couldn’t believe that it was her.
Even after three months of her husband’s death, she remained as miserable. It pained me to see her like this. I wanted her to get back normal again. I wanted her to embrace life again. I told her to stop doing this to herself, to stop wrapping herself in clothes and memories that radiate grief and gloom. She had a long life ahead of her, and I wanted her to live it not merely survive it.
I tried talking to her without unnecessary sympathies and ‘It-will-all-be-fine and I-am-always-there-for-you’ lines, that time. I told her that it was time she took charge. It was time she pulled up her socks and stood up strong. It was time to accept the past and learn to live with it.
I told her to open her dust-layered wardrobe, shut the mouths of the ‘Indian-Society’ which expects a widow to dress up with forced ‘demure’ and pick up her favourite dress and wear it, to throw away the pile of dull whites and creams from her wardrobe, to apply that kajal on eyes again, to wear those earrings that she loved again, to put those vibrant nail-paints again, I told her to LIVE again and most importantly to not feel guilty about it.
None of it happened all at once. I was slapped back with allegations of being heartless and selfish, ‘How can you expect me to dress up like old times. The kohl in my eyes, my lip gloss, the lovely dresses that I used to wear..they were all for him. My was for him, too. Because, you know what, I was his.’
I could see so many Indian women in her right then, whose lives are nothing but an extension of their husband’s. They live for them, and pretty similarly even kill a very huge part of themselves, after their death. I could understand what she was saying, not completely,but most of it. How losing someone who meant the world to you, could kill the meaning of your own life. And, justifiably so.
But, I could not let this happen to her. I made her promise me that she’d do exactly what I ask her to do for one week...just one week. She reluctantly agreed. That one week, I made her dress up in the loveliest dresses, took her out to her favourite restaurants, forced her to put on makeup-look beautiful, hung out with her like old times and did everything else that she didn’t even come close to during those three months-partly because she didn’t feel like and partly because widows weren’t supposed to!
I could see the change in her, I could see that she learnt to smile again…that she had started embracing life. She started reasserting her identity…started changing it from Mrs Nidhi Sahai Sharma to Mrs Nidhi Sahai. The next time she dressed up, she looked in the mirror and told herself, “This is for me, because I want to look beautiful for myself.”From looking beautiful for her to starting to live for herself to being happy for herself and not feeling guilty about it…it all happened gradually.
The void that the loss of some people leaves in our lives can never be filled. Their loss is irreparable and irrecoverable. But, we must understand that we should not completely lose ourselves in their loss. Because, above everybody else, we have this responsibility towards ourselves…the responsibility of making sure that we are happy. The responsibility of living for ourselves. This does not mean that we are selfish, it just means that we are treating ourselves the way the Lord wants us to be treated.