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There were hundreds of real humans who loved her, she glowed with confidence. She had long given up examining herself on the mirror, but of late, when she saw her reflection, her radiant self smiled back.
She draped the sari deftly. It was her first time, she felt special. Her long hair was braided, kajal and bindi in place. Casting a final glance at the mirror in the Ladies Common Room, she walked out to the auditorium, contented. She seated herself with her classmates, it was ‘Rose Day’ in college, a day she had heard of in movies, but was about to witness for the first time. There were balloons and festoons galore, and in a short while, the most awaited day commenced, with the anchor reading out the messages, calling out the ‘rose contributors’, and the respective acceptors.
After what seemed like an eternity, the ‘Day’ concluded, but her hands were empty. Many had ascended the decorated stage, many had been serenaded. Her best of friends had managed one rose at least, but she had ended up being the lone non-receiver.
Back home, she locked herself up in her room and wept. Wept for her plain appearance, her disbelief in make-up, her stocky built, her “ugliness”. It wasn’t as if her parents didn’t notice, her mother reprimanded her for sobbing about something so silly.
Her mother would often come up with the inner beauty sermon, how it was only a kind heart that mattered, and beauty was in the eyes of the beholder, but none of that appealed to her. All that was pure hogwash, created to comfort folks like her. The truth was, physical appearance counted and there was no love without looks.
It wasn’t as if she hadn’t been a victim of this discrimination before. Even in school, despite being a good dancer, she would never be placed at the front in the stage shows. Many a teachers preferred beautiful, fair complexioned girls as the face of the performance.
Rose Days came and Rose Days went, year after year. But all her enthusiasm had faded after the first. That day of the year, she would not attend college on purpose, she found the whole exercise of dressing up for Rose Day, futile.
A brilliant student, she had no difficulty graduating with flying colours, but her parents seemed to be in a perpetual hurry to get her married. She realised that her horoscope and photos were all over the matrimonial websites since long, but a suitable response was yet to arrive. The relatives played their part too. “She’s dark, she’s fat, hope she finds a good job. Her qualification is the only asset she has.”
She would shed copious tears in her pillow, she wouldn’t let anyone see her agony.
As far as the delay in her marriage was concerned, she wasn’t surprised, and for once she didn’t care. These websites had made a joke of arranged marriages anyways. Marry a person whose photograph and credentials looked the best and with zero knowledge about the person’s nature or character, spend an entire lifetime with him.
The world, in her eyes had turned awfully superficial, there was no place for people like her here. Beauty contests, fairness creams, beauty salons, friends, foes, family, media, all seemed to be shouting from roof tops, “Lose weight, get fair, apply make-up, look beautiful. On the outside, we might brag about inner beauty and such nonsense, but deep inside, all we care for, is your outer appearance.”
She was done trying to make others happy, she was smart, qualified and intelligent. The marriage market was ruthless, and she refused to be a part of the fiasco. A teaching job in a far away city was a blessing in disguise, she grabbed it at the very first opportunity.
A change of surroundings did her good, at least she had left the regular crowd of boring advisers behind. Plus, she somehow discovered, teaching was what she had wanted to do all this time. People often showed concern about a teacher’s salary and future prospects, if only she could tell them how much she enjoyed what she was doing. The school was one place where she wasn’t judged for her face and body. She was great with children, possessed excellent communication skills, she was impartial and caring. The love she spread was always reciprocated. Within months, she was their most favourite teacher, popular for her involvement in their activities, loved for her connect with parents.
Gone were her days of inner turmoil, she felt accepted and respected all the time. There were hundreds of real humans who loved her, she glowed with confidence. She had long given up examining herself on the mirror, but of late, when she saw her reflection, her radiant self smiled back.
Come Teachers’ Day and once the cultural activities ended, a few students approached her.
“Maam, here’s a gift for you.” They presented her a rose. Soon, some other classes walked in with their representatives, gifting her several roses.
Memories flooded her mind, she sat back, reminiscing about how a rose had been an object of utmost hate in her life, how a rose had ruined her adolescence forever.
Tears flowed unheeded down her cheeks as she held the roses in her hands now, she couldn’t express in words as to how important they were to her. They symbolized her students’ unconditional love, irrespective of her beauty, built or complexion.
This was HER ROSE DAY eventually, she realized, a day of true appreciation. She now wished to scream out loud from the rooftops too, she had her fair share of ‘Roses’. All other shallow forms of love could wait, she was capable of being respected and she was going to cherish this moment forever.
Editor’s note: This story was shortlisted for the June 2019 Muse of the Month contest.
Image source: pixabay
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