I wake up, go to the bathroom and look at the mirror
SHUCKS! what the hell is this
“Mom” I scream “MOM!” “MOOOOOMMMM!!!!!” mom peeps into the room. “What’s it beta?” “Why are you shouting?”
“I have a pimple” – I say
I am 17 and the pimple seems like a death sentence.
“Try applying some toothpaste, I have heard that works ” mom says
“Toothpaste? come on ma! How silly can you get?”
“Maybe you should buy some of that pimple medicine, they show on TV” she says.
“Mom! What will the medicine do in a day? You know I have the party tomorrow” I snap back angrily. I am referring to the school farewell party. It is the single biggest event of the school calendar and I have been planning for it since months.
“I am just trying to help” she says
” Don’t!” I snap back angrily. “You don’t know anything about looking good anyways” I retort
” Maybe I don’t know much about looking good but I know about the more important things in life and hopefully some day you will too” ” Anyway a pimple won’t kill you!” She said as she left the room.
Mom is hurt. It is not the first time I have referred to her unkempt appearance. Since my dad’s death ten years back ma has been working full time. Between going to office for her clerical job and taking care of us and the home she doesn’t have much time to take care of herself. But that doesn’t keep me from criticizing her. My best friend Seema’s mother is always perfectly groomed. Perfectly cut nails, well draped sarees and hair always in place. Whenever Seema comes home, and ma is working in the kitchen or just returned from office. I can’t help looking at her through Seema’s eyes and I am always embarrassed by the shabbiness of what I see.
How mean I had been. How utterly despicable. But at 17 I guess that is how I was. At 17 my life was all about me – me , my friends, my parties, my studies, my plans!
I look down at the photograph of me in my lap. A young girl in a deep blue saree, her face framed in carefully arranged curls stares back at me, somewhat impatiently. The photograph was taken on the day of the farewell party. I had spent hours curling my hair and putting on my makeup. I had driven ma crazy getting my saree right. The saree that I had made her spend two thousand hard earned rupees for. “Its turned out from there!”, “I look fat in those pleats”. She had spent an hour pleating and re-pleating the saree till I was satisfied. And then I was ready to go!
” You look so nice, let me get a photograph” Ma had said.
“No ma, I am late, I better leave now”.
“Wait beta it will just take a minute” And ma had gone to get the camera from papa’s old cupboard. I had barely stopped to smile at the camera! How impatient I had been. Impatient to get out of the house. Impatient to be with my friends. Impatient to get away from ma. Even the fake model smile I put on for the camera couldn’t hide my impatience.
Impatient, self centered and obsessed by my youth. A girl whose life could be ruffled by a pimple.
The girl I had been at 17 is long gone by.
Today, the face that looks back at me from the mirror bears little resemblance to the young impatient girl in the photograph. Grey hair carelessly tied in a bun. Sun spots and dark patches. A face creased with wrinkles and laugh lines, hard earned from years of living.
What would she say? the girl in the photograph, if she saw me today?
Turn her nose up and walk away disdainfully, most probably!
But I wouldn’t be hurt. I wouldn’t be hurt because after so many years I now know that life is much more than looking nice and being with friends. It goes beyond partying and making plans. Life is about repeatedly losing and still trying again. It’s about laughter but even more about pain. It’s about fun, but also about immense responsibilities. It’s about squaring up your shoulders and lifting the heavy weights. More than ‘me’, life’s about those I love and care for. Life’s about dealing with hurts and much -much more.
Its taken me many heart breaks, death of a spouse, two children who are as impatient with their ma as I once was, and thirty long years to learn the lessons of life. And today I know what ma had meant. When she had said, “It’s just a pimple and pimples don’t kill”