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“Have you checked your size? You can’t even move from this room to the other without wobbling and you’re gonna play Kaikottikali in front of that huge audience? Unbelievable!”
Here is the fourth winner of our November 2017 Muse of the Month contest, Sheena Lakshmi.
The cue for this month was from the movie Dum Laga Ke Haisha. The woman who stands up to fat shaming. The protagonist is humiliated by her husband in front of his friends. She slaps him, packs her bag, leaves him, and goes to her parents’ home. They try to convince her to go back, saying that he must not have meant it, and should have kept quiet – to which she counters, “He insulted me and you want me to be quiet?”
Maa, please don’t embarrass me in front of my friends, yelled Ananya grinding her teeth and thumping the tumbler on the table. Have you checked your size? You can’t even move from this room to the other without wobbling and you’re gonna play Kaikottikali in front of that huge audience? Unbelievable!
These remarks did not dampen Meena’s spirits and she continued to be glued on to the laptop screen watching the beautiful and artistic moves of the ladies robed in graceful set mundus. Their hair tied up in a high bun with a thick string of Jasmine flower running around the tucked in hair. The huge round maroon bindis and the sandalwood paste on their forehead accentuated the beauty of their glowing smiling faces. With every move their eyes meandered to the left or right and their eyebrows followed suit. Being seated in aramandalam, in a circle, they swayed their bodies in the most graceful moves with so much ease that Meena involuntarily imitated their moves by moving her torso and shaking her head to the taal of the song Parvanenthu Mukhil Parvathi Maheswarante….
Meena was woken up from this magical world when the door closed with a loud thud behind Ananya as she darted out of the house in unjustified wrath. Meena gently wiped the tears that found way to her cheeks and diminished along her neck. She picked up the phone and dialed Parvathy’s number.
Hey Parvathy, I don’t think I can make it to the practice. And I doubt if I will be able to perform also.
Come again!!, what did you just say? Remarked Parvathy
Do you know how many days we’ve spent gathering folks and deciding on everything right from the song to the costume? What the hell just happened? You were fine until last Sunday.
I don’t know, but I don’t feel like participating. And have you seen my size? People will laugh at me. I don’t want to embarrass my daughter also.
Hey, hey… hang on.. I’ll be at your place in an hour after I drop Darnesh. Until then, don’t let your mind go wild. Relax. I’ll be right there. Take care, muaaaah!!
Meena walked up to the attic and pulled out a VIP suitcase, almost spraining her arm. She gagged herself to prevent the dust from entering her respiratory system. She can handle anything but not the occasional bouts of wheezing. Taking a deep breath, she unzipped the suitcase and dug down to the bottom. She fished out an antique looking album and placed it on the study table.
She flipped the leaves one after the other and froze on a page. A puny figure was seen hoisting a trophy. A rolling trophy for an overall championship at the Youth Festival. She ruminated about those days, when she was asked to stay backstage so that she didn’t have to climb the stairs up to the stage to collect the trophies one after the other. First price for classical music, Bharatanatyam, Mohiniattam, folk dance, oppanakkali. Without Meena, her troupe never performed. And she always stole the show wherever she went, be it at the district level, state level or the nationals.
Just then the bell rang. Meena toddled up to the door. She opened the door and gave Parvathy a tight hug, wailing inconsolably.
Easy girl, what happened. Why you crying?
I want to dance Paru, and I am confident, I can do it.
Then who’s stopping you? Now that Mohan is no longer in your life, you don’t have the excuse of being beaten up. Be a sport, tell me what happened.
Nothing, Ananya found out that I have been practicing for the upcoming competition and since then she’s been passing sarcastic remarks and trying to dissuade me from participating. She thinks I will embarrass her in front of her friends and that I should just sit at home and not venture into things that I am incapable of. I did not feel so low even when Mohan abandoned us for that lady who was “in shape”.
What the … !!! You want to set aside your long-time dream of getting back to dancing just because of an immature and unreasonable demand of a teenager, who thinks that she rules the world and of course, her mom, now? Does she even realize that she is the reason behind your current state? Have you shown her how you looked before she was born and after?
How much more will you live in fear Meena, as a child you dreaded your father, as a wife, your husband, and now as a mom, your daughter? Why do you have to put up with such nonsense? Don’t you have a mind of your own, that can think and make decisions?
I do, I do, but not at the cost of peace at home.
And what about inner peace, don’t you deserve it? Now cut the crap and listen to me. Ananya is a kid and she doesn’t know how beautiful her mother is from the inside and outside. Its your chance to show her who you are and what you are capable of. Trust me, she will fall at your feet and apologize for all her mean ways.
Meena had cooked pepper prawns, sambar and kootucurry. Parvathy watched as Meena served food with a love she’s seen only in her mother. The flavours in the meal attested the dedication and passion Meena had in whatever she undertook. They were batchmates in their graduation days and it was only two years back that they got to know through a common friend that they lived around the same place and since then they’ve been through each other’s thick and thin. They weren’t as close they are now, in college. But familial responsibilities and boredom in marriage brought them closer.
Have you noticed, that you’ve actually lost a couple of pounds?
No, I don’t think so, and I don’t think I ever will.
Alright, let it be. How does it even matter. You don’t have to prove anything to Ananya. She should not complain as long as her needs are taken care of. She gets delicious meals thrice a day and also gets to study in one of the prestigious colleges here. She has a home of her own, what more can she ask for? You’ve toiled enough for your family. Now it’s your turn to live your life. When you get back to work after this sabbatical I want you to be the Meena who I knew from college. Someone who every girl wanted to be like, and someone who every boy desired to take home.
Meena grinned and promised that she will try her best.
Let’s rock, we got to practice really hard, as we are competing against the girls, which includes Ananya too, winked Parvathy.
For over two weeks, Ananya and Meena lived like strangers under the same roof. Ananya got her meals regularly and Meena in turn lost her appetite. The only time they came together was around dusk when they folded their hands in prayer and chanted the Sandhya vandanam in front of the mini sanctorum set up in their elaborate pooja room.
On the eve of the competition, Ananya stayed back at her friend’s place saying that her entire team was stationed there.
Meena took an elaborate bath and drove to Parvathy’s house on the day of the event. From there, they were supposed to assemble at the master’s place, where the makeup artists from Thrissur would paint the ladies pretty.
As they got dropped off at the School, and walked past the other contestants, Meena could feel the reverberations of her heart beat against her temple. She was sweating profusely. The registrations were complete and the chest numbers handed over.
As she pinned her number, she closed her eyes. She could see Ananya seated all alone in the auditorium with her hands cupped against her face, in an attempt not to see her mother perform. Gradually, the canvas melted into another where there was a loud group cheering for Meena. The faces were familiar and the venue too… this was where she performed her last rendition.
The different chest numbers were being called out and performances being rendered. But Meena was oblivious of what was happening around her. As if she was frozen in time, way back in the 90s.
Chest Number 54, announced the organizer.
There was a sudden adrenaline rush and all Meena could see was the ceremonial lamp set at the center of the stage. As they stepped up to the stage and formed a circle, the music began and so did the magical performance. This ended with the performers seated in muzhumandala and offering vandanam to mother earth. Meena’s eyes looked for Ananya when they turned towards the audience and bowed down in response to the standing ovation. At that moment, all she could remember was a tiny hand reaching out to hers and the warmth of a little figure tucked to her bosom.
As they walked to the green room, a group of women came running to them.
You guys were too good, are you professional dancers? Your moves were so authentic and even your costume. Do you offer dance classes?
The group laughed and conveyed that they are not professional dancers and that they practiced really hard. Just then a voice emerged from the din of the excitement.
I am a trained classical dancer and am thinking of conducting classes for kids. Here’s my number, you can call me any time after 5 am and before 10 pm.
Parvathy clenched Meena’s hands in an attempt to reinforce her resolve. They were later called on the stage to hand over the consolation prize and special mention for originality. Meena could still not spot Ananya. She started getting worried and dialed her number. There was no answer. She went to the green room and started to remove her make up.
Maa…, Meena felt a pair of arms crawl around her waist from behind, and a tight clutch.
You made me proud today, and thank you for that. I…. I am…. I don’t know….
Meena turned around and placed her finger on Ananya’s lips.
Shhhhh…. Its ok. I am your mother and nobody understands a child like a mother does…. So you do not have to justify…I am glad that I made you proud today.
Parvathy watched as the duo, held hands and walked up to the parking lot; they looked adorable. She waved at them and sighed in relief!!
Sheena Lakshmi wins a Rs 250 Amazon voucher, as well as a chance to be picked one among the top winners at the end of 2017. Congratulations!
Image source: By Arunanand T A (Own work by the original uploader) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons, for representational purposes only.