A Short Story About Acceptance: Mirror On The Wall

The floral-leafy pattern in brown polished wood made the mirror look delicate and inviting. The fact that it could easily be carried around really irked Maa.

Kiran stood for several minutes looking at the tailored suit piece. The mirror stared back at them, with a stoned silence to match. Kiran observed the buttons on the crisp white shirt. Tacky and lousy.

Trust Jagdeep Chacha to ruin a good shirt with the tackiest buttons, thought Kiran. They were not a huge fan of the prehistorically outdated local Men’s Tailoring Shop run by Jagdeep Chacha. Even the blazer did not compliment their body at all!

And what was this obsession that Maa had with shining silver fabric for men’s suits? Why had Kiran always seen a dozen men at Indian weddings always sport that shiny, un-complimenting fabric?

When it came to good fabric, fits, accessories and colours, Kiran certainly trusted their own taste. But this cousin’s wedding was a formality they had to complete, and Maa had insisted on being the sole wardrobe manager!

Kiran looked down at the suffocating trousers and almost choked at the wrinkles and creased-up areas the pant seemed to create! They shuddered at the thought of having to wear these hideous costumes to cousin Shyam’s wedding.

That afternoon, stealing a moment for themselves from the present, Kiran indulged in their fantasies.

A sharp ray of light pierced through the square framed glass window and hit the mirror. It refracted and playfully teased Kiran. They turned almost seductively to the left side, and let their hips curve out, like the rising sun; slowly.

Then they unbuttoned the shirt buttons and revealed the imaginary cleavage. The warm glow of the sun and the elegance of the side profile filled their heart up with joy. At that very moment, Maa entered the hotel room, clearly irritated with the sight that met her eyes.

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A familiar old cloud of doom befell upon Maa’s entire being. She had, after all, prayed fervently for Kiran’s ‘impure thoughts’ to be ‘cured’. She had tried everything within her might, to get Kiran to behave like a pure-bred male species.

Not only that, but she hid all of Kiran’s dolls when they were a child. She banished colours from the wardrobe that were commonly associated to be feminine. She admonished them every time they spent hours posing before that blessed mirror!

For cousin Shyam’s wedding, Maa had gone out of her way to bring an expensive silver fabric and ensured that Jagdeep Chacha’s team of tailors used sharp, manly cuts in the patterns.

After all, the best way to compensate for Kiran’s lack of masculine inclinations was to offset it all with a suit piece that screamed; eligible bachelor! Marriage would surely bring out the alpha-male hidden inside of her son.

But right now, at this moment, Maa knew that she was fighting a battle that she never had a chance at winning.

Throughout Kiran’s growing-up years, Maa had left no stone unturned in trying to change Kiran’s interests and sexual orientations. As a result, Kiran had grown up to be pretty close to the mirror, instead of their mother.

Maa looked at the wooden frame of Kiran’s mirror. The floral-leafy pattern in brown polished wood made the mirror look delicate and inviting. The fact that it could easily be carried around really irked Maa. After all, it was this stupid mirror that captured Kiran’s attention for the most part of their life.

She remembered being constantly annoyed when Kiran would preen, pout and pose effeminately before the mirror. Maa would imagine that evil mirror to be her son’s accomplice.

It was this conniving reflective surface that spoke the language of her one and only son’s mind. A language that Maa had wanted to completely destroy and abolish from the surface of the earth. The world is not filled with reassuring mirrors!

In the real world, people around Kiran would probably break their spirit and shatter it into a thousand broken glass pieces. Yet somehow, Maa never took the mirror away from Kiran. Despite her hatred for it, she knew it would shatter Kiran to lose the one constant companion they ever had.

Kiran had grown up on a diet of non-confrontation, submissiveness, and obedience. They were attuned to listening to Maa, who they loved a lot. Kiran had promised Maa that they would wear her choice of clothing at cousin Shyam’s wedding. And that they would not behave ‘even remotely feminine’ during the days of the wedding.

Beacuse they knew that this would mean a lot to Maa, who somehow felt the need to ‘save face’ at social gatherings.

When Kiran looked at Maa, they slowed down and buttoned up the suffocating shirt once again. And pulled their chest in and stood upright, like a trained military soldier. Maa continued to stare. Kiran’s face broke into a warm smile and walked up to Maa and put their head in her lap.

“I’m sorry, Maa. I was just… I just got carried away for a moment. Hey look, I promise to behave just the way you asked me to, at the wedding. I won’t be myself at all. I won’t let you down at the wedding. Promise. Now smile, Maa. Please.”

Kiran buried  their face and the sadness into Maa’s comforting lap. How they wished to never had to pretend to be someone they weren’t. But, his feminine mannerisms seemed to draw ghastly reactions from the people around him.

It seemed easier to put up a pretence rather than being the oddball in society, of which even Maa is a part! They had learned, from a young age, to suppress the desires.

Maa had not uttered a word in return as yet. With Kiran’s face buried in her lap, she continued to stare at the mirror. Kiran had travelled to the wedding, with their loyal mirror in tow.

Maa had a profound thought — Kiran, my only child, seems to be closer to that lifeless wooden mirror than to me!

Her thoughts continued, my child found complete and total acceptance only from this mirror. It provided hours of unquestioning, non-judgmental support. It paused and silently admired while Kiran would drape my dupattas as sarees and modelled the curtains for hours.

She realized the mirror had watched with a keen eye when Kiran would apply my makeup and bindi, without making them feel lesser or different for doing so.

Her thoughts kept coming back to the mirror — that mirror has been so accepting of my own child. It is their escape route from a harsh reality — me! I am the one making this path difficult. I wish I had the honesty of that mirror. Then I could have seen and accepted the real Kiran.

She ran her gentle finger through Kiran’s soft hair. Once again, Maa looked towards the mirror. Finally, she felt included in the universe that Kiran shared with that mirror.

As if on cue, Kiran looked up at Maa and their eyes moistened up. Maa gently pulled away and stood up. Her eyes looked so beautiful, somehow. Her smile was wise. She walked up to her suitcase, in the corner of the room, and she started to empty the contents of the bag, eagerly looking for something.

What was it that Maa was looking for? Kiran was still on the floor, gazing at Maa from afar.

Kiran had hoped to spend some more time with their head in Maa’s warm lap. It had felt comforting. In the meanwhile, Maa seemed to have found what she was looking for. She walked up to Kiran with her fist clenched. A smile was spreading fast across her face.

She opened her fist and revealed a glistening set of jhumkas. The earrings had always been an object of fascination for Kiran since childhood. No chance to pretend-wear those jhumkas was ever lost, especially if Kiran was sporting one of Maa’s dupattas in the style of a saree.

Back then, Maa used to detest Kiran’s attachment to the jhumkas. Today was different though! Today, Maa offered the jhumkas to Kiran and asked if these would go well with the tailored-suit Kiran was wearing.

She looked Kiran straight in the eyes and asked the same question again. Kiran, too shocked to respond, could hardly believe what has just hit their ears. Maa and Kiran stared at each other for a few moments before their eyes were clouded by a sheet of hazy tears.

That evening at the wedding, Maa was the picture of joy and confidence. Now and then, she stole a glance at Kiran, and her face would brighten up with pride. She liked how Kiran had styled the jhumka beautifully with that suit.

I would have never thought of wearing just one jhumka, thought Maa. That evening, Maa and Kiran revelled in the company of curious relatives and friends, who could not believe Kiran’s loud accessory.

A bold statement was made that evening. Old masks came off, forced shame had vanished. Maa’s eyes spoke the unflinching truth.  As the evening sun prepared to set, the mirror on the wall caught a few breathtaking evening rays as they seamlessly merged into the night sky.

Image Source: Lusyaya, Gogosvm, and Jessicahyde via Getty Images, free on Canva Pro

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About the Author

Ilham Modi Bharmal

My passion in life lies in learning new things all the time. Emotional Intelligence is a way of life for me. I like to mix it with all my areas of interest that include - Psychology, read more...

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