I want to be a supermodel – wrote Dheuva – in her assessment sheet. Then cancelled it out again, when she thought of her 5ft 3 built, coffee brown colored, and box shaped frame. Sure she had almond shaped eyes that changed color from a dark brown to a hazel everytime they lit up, and a smile that was dangerously contagious, but considering herself suitable for professional modeling was pushing it too far. As she walked back home after lectures, she had long forgotten about the cancellation on the assessment sheet.
Blue tiles with lavender flowers drawn on them nod in consent. The white floor meets her step as she graces her audience with a smile. They seem to be smiling back. Even the blue basin which stands at the other end seems to beckon. The faucets, the soap dish, the buckets, all look upbeat, glistening and awake. She starts the tap to shut out the noise of the daily soap programme that’s on full volume outside. In her one room kitchen flat, where she lives with her parents, this was her space, her domain. It doesn’t matter much to her that the time she gets here is brief, because in the world that she knows, a world where gardens are grown on a one-foot window ledge, privacy has not yet been discovered. The water on the floor begins creating myriad patterns of curves and ‘ess-es’ with the strewn strands of hair, and the heat from the bucket rises to create a fog between the four walls of her stage. Today she’s a famous model, a face that the fair-skinned envy and others desire. She flutters her eyes at the reflection, tilts her head back and pouts for the camera. Then she nudges her head lower till her dark brown tresses partially cover her face. She holds that pose till the camera clicks away. It’s a perfect shot. And then the bucket overflows.
Dheuva and her sweetheart met on a social networking site. She casually accepted his random friend request and before long they discovered a comfort zone with each other. On their first date she thought him talkative, yet quite interesting, and constantly blushed in response to his stream of flowery compliments. It might have been their fifth or sixth date, and Dheuva was officially smitten. Though, she still didn’t know how many siblings he had or even where his parents stayed, she thought these details were petty to fuss about; she would deal with it later. He made her feel like a queen and she was blissfully blinded to every thing else.
The lavender flowers are more greyish today. Outside the single window, the rain pours incessantly. Inside the blue walls her tears taste like salt. The thunder muffles the cries of her broken heart. The vapor forms clouds in front of her gaze, and she sees her lover with another woman. She holds on to the razor, poised at a right angle to her wrist, while they make out in the back seat of the taxi riding right past her.
The corporate jungle with its snares is not a place for the weak willed. Had someone told Dheuva that earlier, she might have heeded her mother’s advice and applied for a teaching job, instead of subjecting herself to the daily turmoil of the corporate class. Her desk was located at the far end of the office with no view of the world outside. She saw the sky only twice a day; it was a bright blue on her way to work and a dark indigo on her way back home. Her job involved entering information; sorting it into understandable rows and columns – just the way errant school children are grouped into straight lines according to their standards and classes. Well, she was similar to a teacher in that sense.
She’s not much of a singer, yet today she sings while she dances like Santa on Prozac. The shower faucets are her dancing partners. They’re somewhat rigid but they support her well as she twirls on her toes, and arches backwards. She straightens up and clears her throat for her address to the board of directors. She dismisses their silent questions with an air of arrogance. She moves around the wet floor mimicking moves she has observed from her seniors, while they made their presentations. All the while her visiting card peeps from the pocket of her just worn trouser, her designation – Executive – edited with a scribbled – Senior. Her first promotion at work.
Her forehead is marked with vermillion, and a string of black and gold beads is hung around her neck. Her wedding vows were exchanged years ago, and the essence of marriage eventually faded into indifference, yet Dheuva was still Mrs. Bannerjee – a title she wore with every symbol of a wedded woman. At every party, her husband’s colleagues credited her with his success as a reputed criminal lawyer – the woman behind the successful man – they said. Dheuva smiled like the obedient wife that she had been modeled into and proceeded to serve her husband’s dinner. She was no success charm, just an insignificant homemaker.
She has left the lavender flowers behind and now the walls are covered with abstract designs of black and red – dizzying circles that merge into jagged edges. The room is different but its no longer a stranger, it remains her preferred hideaway. The bathroom is bigger now. The glass shelves placed on either side of the full length mirror hold their toothbrushes, his shaving kit and her hair care potions. She starts the shower and lets the water flow through her being. Tiny rivulets that find their way into intimate nooks and corners, caressing her, calming and yet arousing her in a way that’s seems almost forbidden. She’s not a wife here; she’s never been a mother. She is only a woman, a creator of images that live in her mind. She rehearses the lines of her upcoming already houseful show – “I will not live in your shadows; I am me, a person, a life, a living beyond an existence. I will shine through, like the light that creates you.” The candles flicker and the rain stops.
A garland of sandalwood flowers adorned Mr.Bannerjee’s photograph. Dheuva emptied out his wardrobe to the household-helps, a parting gift to them all. For the first time in 30 years she had time to think about something other than her husband’s needs, wants, expectations. But yet, partly out of habit and partly due to fatigue she simply found it difficult to focus on any thing in particular.
Reclining on her armchair in the comforting warmth of the winter dusk, she looks at the stretch of grass before her. The unkept, wild, free grass. She would tend to it in her younger days, now she lacks the spirit. She is not the woman that she could be, nor one that she wanted to be. Her stage is no longer confined to the walls of the bathroom – the only room that shut the world out. Her world now doubles up as the stage. The entire house – 2 bedrooms, a kitchen, a living area, and a study – all hers. She misses an audience sometimes, but then again, she never has had a live one. As the evening sun turns a hue redder, she sees through the neglected blades of grass, a tiny, virtually insignificant new bud erupting from the heart of the earth. And in that last ray of light she spots the spark that moves her towards the dawn – Hope!
Dheuva has an important meeting today. She picks her favourite saree: guava pink with a cream border. She ties her hair into a sophisticated bun. It has been a while since she took the effort to dress up, and she struggles with lining her eyes with dark kohl. She purses her lips together to smooth out the lip balm, and reaches out for her pearl set. She looks at herself with approval and prepares to begin her meeting. She reaches out towards the mirror, smiles and says – ‘Hi, I’m Dheuva. Pleased to meet with you.’