In most of my pictures from Kashmir, you’ll find me dressed in a four hundred rupee phiran, with a cap on my head and filthy shoes. The girl in dirty shoes was produced by this beautiful, stylish, woman is hard to believe. The epitome of elegance.
I rejected my femininity, quite forcefully, after a certain age. I most definitely rejected the clothes, my mom made me wear. I went from wearing the shortest clothes, to wearing anything that made me blend in, it made life easier and with time the job too. This was all to my mother’s dismay. She liked nothing better than seeing me, all dolled up.
After I think the age of seven or eight, my relationship with my Mum became strained. I’d grown up, I could figure out what was happening around me and she was beginning to fall ill. The colour of my skin, also became quite troublesome for her as I grew older.
Hailing from a Sikh family, I was expected to be white, as milk and my skin and hair, have a life and mood of their own. Girgit ki tarha rang badalta he. Depending on how long I have been out in the sun, whether my eyebrows are done or not ( unlike my mother, I hate going to the salon) and if I’ve gotten enough sleep or not, I turn from wheatish to chocolate brown. So from 7-8 to 15-16, I was a chocolate brown colour, to my poor mother’s horror. She had to hear plenty from her family and I had to hear plenty from my brother and mum, ‘kali, Kali’ they would chant.
It’s only when I grew up, that I realised she didn’t know any better. I still have more than enough relatives, even friends, who look at their white skin, the way my mum would look at hers and think it’s an achievement. Thankfully, I didn’t grow up with a complex about it but I wish it wasn’t an issue. I wish we won’t have wasted time on so many trivial things.
Like I have SB and SC, two extremely stark personalities, my mum too, had many, many shades. Though, her darkness was all encompassing- with suicide attempts, violent behaviour and addictions always at the fore, her brighter side- the upswing, was what most people remember her by.
That’s a successful life, to not be flawless, to be quite imperfect actually but to love, so cheerfully and fully that the flaws seem inconsequential. If you ever want to know, how it feels to be loved wholeheartedly, obsessively and imperfectly, you had to be loved by my mum. Her love was full of sunshine and rainbows, with little dances and lots of kisses. If she loved you once, she would love you always!
There’s a song by Sheryl Crow, ‘are you strong enough to be my man?’. At the worst times of my life, I have listened to that on repeat (yeah, yeah, I kept believing in Prince Charming till I turned 35. Someone said something about finding a soul mate today and I said-‘ Mine’s committed suicide. He took one look at me and thought, ‘God, am I going to be stuck with this?’ Trust me on an incorrigible romantic fed on story after after story of family members, eloping, that’s the only thought that works) an umpteen number of times.
I suddenly remembered that song, today, when I was looking at mum’s pictures. It takes a special kind of man, to deal with a woman so full of spunk. I wish her companion would have been that for her but we all have our limitations. What she really needed she never got but surprisingly though it diminished her, it never did mitigate her love.