The Girl In Dirty Shoes

The other day I woke up startled at some Godforsaken hour in Srinagar. The white light from the compact fluorescent lamp woke me up from my slumber or maybe it was the floods. The sound of grown men howling in hotel corridors, people pleading for food and water or just yelling out to be rescued…for the first being alone in Kashmir scared the living day lights out of me.

I fumbled out of bed and went towards the mirror. This had become a habit since I’d started wearing lenses. Through my half blind, -8 eyes I peered at myself. The skin had become two shades darker and the hair was as unruly as ever. I smiled sardonically. I was miserably failing to meet the boyish standard of beauty- untamable  hair, dark skin, crooked nose. The events of the past year had shattered my self image, claimed many. They were now known as ‘many’. I no longer addressed people as friends or family- In my head everyone was now neatly labelled as acquaintances, people I knew and people I was related to.

I put on my lenses and the image in the mirror was no longer a blurred outline of a person but an actual reflection.Over the years I had been described as fragile, mad, eccentric, bitchy, egoistic, child, woman…hell, once a poem was written on my contradictory qualities. Nothing ever seemed like a perfect fit.

In the corner of my room were a pair of shoes that had gotten dirty while working in Bemina. That night, when I saw those shoes- for the first time I truly saw myself. ‘Some women are smart, some are beautiful. Some please your friends others please your family. I would always be just the girl in the dirty shoes…going everywhere she shouldn’t… doing everything you wouldn’t!’.

From The Srinagar Airport On The Way Back To New Delhi.