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A man who decided for her how she should dress and whether she should wear kohl or not, was not the right man for her. A short story.
Tara was getting dressed for a dinner date. She was fussing around, changing outfits, as clothes lay in a heap on the bed rejected by her own thoughts. “I look too fat in this, too short in that, arms are plump, can see a wee bit of my tummy when I sit,” her thoughts raged on as she critiqued each part of her body under a micro lens.
Finally Neha, her room mate walked in, saw the heap of clothes, and understood exactly what was going on. She sighed, and finally silenced the cruel voices in Tara’s head, by choosing an outfit that was just right.
Tara wasn’t sure but Neha seemed like she was in no mood for an argument. As she turned a full three sixty degrees in front of the mirror examining herself at varying degrees, trying to find a flaw, Neha distracted her by handing out her kohl stick.
“Here,” she said. Tara gawked at her. Tara was a sans-makeup person and her roomie knew it.
In spite of all that self critiquing, if one would really want to know what Tara looked like and what she was like from a neutral point of view, she had gorgeous clear skin, a happy sweet face and a beautiful personality to match, that won her many friends.
Empathy was one of her main features, the ability to identify with another’s feelings – and Tara did it to a fault sometimes. A good listener was hard to come by in the fast paced world that they lived in and so she was sought after, for a shoulder to cry on, for a cheerful line to pick them up and ton loads of non-judgmental encouragement for when they needed it the most.
She wouldn’t have won a beauty contest and there wouldn’t be many heads turning when she walked by but if one cared to sit down with her and have a chat, she definitely made a mark for the kind of person she was – simple, unassuming and intelligent.
Tara hesitantly held the kohl stick in her hand and with some more pushing and prodding by Neha, lined her eyes for a smooth, black, finish. She liked what she saw. Neha approved too and after some discussion and argument on the length of the heel of her shoe that she should be wearing, Tara was pushed out of the house.
As she made her way to the spot where she was supposed to meet her date, the voices in her head started getting nasty again. Without Neha around to silence them, Tara started to feel a little nervous.
The idea of arguing with Neha again put her off from making her way back to the house, and then she saw him. He was waiting for her, they smiled at each other, and she felt better. She made her way to him and as she got nearer, she felt his smile waver a bit and then he looked funny at her.
“What did you do?” he asked. She chuckled a little nervously and replied “Nothing. why?”
“You look different” He said. She paused, the voices in her head really loud at this point, saying “I told you so”.
He frowned and said, “No please go back, and take the kohl off. It doesn’t look nice!”
Her eyes were brimming with tears and she blinked them away. She did as she was told, washed the kohl away – not that it needed any washing, the tears had consumed it.
Neha watched in disbelief but stayed quiet, as Tara went on that date. After years of a not-so-happy relationship, he decided to walk out of it.
Tara thought it was her fault. She wallowed in self pity for a long time. The whole experience of a long term relationship with a narcissist had damaged her self confidence gravely. She felt the relationship failed because she wasn’t enough. Not beautiful enough, Not thin enough, Not smart enough. It was her fault, that he chose to leave, she decided.
Tara, despite her being so critical of herself, had her way with people. Even when she moved into a new city with a lot of trepidation, she attracted people to her like a magnet. She was easy to be around and she found herself being invited to a lot of social gatherings, movies, dinners and the likes. She also garnered a lot of male attention that she desperately avoided by offering a platonic hand in the relationships she had with them. She had affirmed to herself that she was not good enough, and all their advances, were simply a figment of her imagination.
Then one day, somebody came knocking on the door of her life. The intruder was handsome, almost to a fault. She shut the door tightly and tried to ward him off by silences, long and weary. But eventually she opened the door enough to peek in and see more.
He was as simple and unassuming as she was. They hit it off effortlessly, but all their conversations were over the phone and by emails. They knew what the other looked like, but Tara refused to meet in person. She enjoyed their conversations and was afraid that things would change when they meet. The feeling of being not enough ailed her whole being.
One day, in the sultry summer month of May, she got an offer letter from a company she was hoping to work at. She had worked hard for it, and when she held the offer letter in her hands, a few tears dampened the text. As ecstatic as she was, she knew that this could mean the end to something that couldn’t be labeled as a relationship yet important enough to make her ache to let go.
He heard her falter that evening as she spoke of her going away soon, and asked her out on a date. He had asked her umpteen times in the past, but her answer was always a no. This time, he told her, he was not taking a no for an answer. She agreed, knowing well enough, that they were anyways heading for an end and there wasn’t much left to fight for.
The morning sun peeped in on the day they were supposed to say their goodbyes. She groaned as she prepared to take the day head on. She picked out an outfit, worried some about her arms, and how they’d look in them. She showered quickly, slipped into the dress she had laid out , and brushed her hair, to let it fall sleekly on her shoulders. One final look at the mirror was accompanied by a deep sigh, and the voice in her head said ‘Let’s get this over with.’
She turned away and a reflection caught her eye in the mirror.It was the kohl stick from years ago that had managed to stay with her, in spite of never being used after that night. Tara picked it up and gazed at her reflection. Her eyes glinted with a certain madness as Tara lined them generously until a pair of smokey black eyes returned her gaze. She was ready.
When he saw her, he smiled. When she got closer, she could see that his eyes were smiling as well.
Seasons changed and a decade later, Tara’s daughter was watching her mother getting dressed for a business meeting. All of six, her mother was her hero and this was her favorite ritual.
“Amma, why do you line your eyes with the black pencil?” she asked.
Tara looked at her as she searched for an answer. She finally said, “It makes me feel good sweetie.”
“Amma it makes you also look good,” she giggled as Tara tickled her.
Tara watched her young daughter playfully run away, and she thought to herself, “When you are old enough, Amma will tell you why she always wears kohl in her eyes.”
The kohl had made its mark in much deeper ways than just merely sitting on the borders of her eyelids. It ceased to just be an instrument of decorative purposes. For her it was that line that told the world that she is enough. Good enough, smart enough, and alive enough.
Image source: kohl eye makeup by Shutterstock.
Book worm, herbivore, animal welfare volunteer,compulsive archivist of memories & an idea hamster.
Lovely story ! Intriguing use of the kohl pencil in the plot, to bring out so much underlying meaning !!
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