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Clearly the uncle hadn't anticipated such an answer. Nobody had ever questioned him nor his beliefs. But to have it presented before him in a room full of people might have really embarrassed him.
I’ve always been very conscious about my upper, slightly protruded front teeth. It was worse in my teenage years. Obesity coupled with the raging hormones in the form of acnes only made matters worse. Who wanted a dracula teeth to go along with it?
Surely I didn’t! And thus started the charades.
I would open my mouth just about the aperture it required to get the syllables sound quite and clear. Laughing was a different matter though. You see, I would just make do with a small chuckle even though my stomach would be aching to burst with mirth. And photographs! Oh, you won’t find a single picture in my childhood album when I’m even remotely smiling. Which is what made it further worse. A grumpy bear is what I looked in them.
And the matter of the fact was that nobody told me otherwise! People including my own parents always asked me to hide my front teeth!
It became my belief system until I met my husband. I remember it was our first meeting after the wedding was fixed. Strolling through the lush green lawns of Victoria memorial, he suddenly asked me to pose in front of the monument. I obliged readily.
Wait. Something is missing. Where’s your smile?
No you aren’t. Can’t see your teeth.
Why do you want to see my ugly teeth?
Because when you smile with your teeth wide open, you look beautiful!
I almost did a double take. Did I hear him right? All my life I had been advised not to show my teeth because they made me look ugly. And here is one telling me just the opposite! Who should I trust?
My heart instantly lurched in favour of this man who was showing me a different mirror. The way he said it so simply added an extra flavour of truth.
Later when he mailed me those pictures, I was stunned. Indeed I looked better if not pretty. The transformation was magical, even to me.
After that it became a tagline between us. Every time he clicked a picture of me, he would gesture with his hands. Extending his thumb and forefinger across his lips, he would ask me to open my mouth wide to smile for the camera. The twinkle in his eyes and that special smile hovering on his lips would do rest of the job.
They say that a good partner brings out the best in you. And so true too. He instilled a confidence in me which was hereto absent.
I thought I had mastered my embarrassment until a few years afterwards another incident happened that nearly shook me to the core. It was my brother’s wedding and all of us were busy clicking shutters in our finery.
I was posing alongwith one of my cousin with hubby dear behind the lens as usual.
“Don’t open your mouth M. Those ugly teeth of yours can be seen,” said one of the elderly uncles.
For a moment, I stood shocked still. After all it had been ages since I was hearing this old advice.
Before I could recover, my husband said lightly, “Yes, it can be seen and let her show them to the world. Let her smile wholeheartedly. After all, it’s her brother’s wedding today, isn’t it?”
Clearly the uncle hadn’t anticipated such an answer. Actually, no answer at all. Nobody had ever questioned him nor his beliefs. But to have it presented before him in a room full of people might have really embarrassed him.
Clearing his throat, he mumbled, “Well, I was only thinking about her…don’t want people making fun of the groom’s sister.”
“Arey uncle ji, we all are imperfect,” said my husband polite but firmly. (Later he had told me that the uncle’s remark had irked him a lot). “But beauty lies in owning it. Not hiding it or feeling ashamed because of it. Infact I think the more you accept your ‘not so perfect’ attributes, the more you’ll be at ease. And then even people won’t find anything amiss.”
Needless to say, the uncle had wisely fallen silent after this. Surely it wouldn’t do good to give your son in law a piece of your mind, ha?
“So, ready? Say cheeeeeeseee!” exclaimed my husband exuberantly.
“Cheeeeeeseee!” we shouted with equal excitement.
I smiled widely and confidently, baring my portruding front teeth at all the naysayers trying to bring me down. But more than ever, I smiled for the man I had married. The man who stood up for me in front of my own clan only to reveal what he truly appreciated and believed in.
That day I fell in love with him a bit more. But most importantly, I thanked these crooked teeth of mine for showing that love is boundless and true happiness lies in owning both.
Perfection and imperfections included!
Image source: a still from the film Chhalaang
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