Sarvi smiled as she sat down. She slipped off her shoes and her feet positioned them into place under the cushioned chair that the café offered. She tossed her head back and started, her smile never leaving her face, “Do you know who I am?” she asked.
Her smile never leaving hers, she said, “Oh my Sarvi, should I take out my notepad and a pen before you start?”
“Am I the pullover of skin covering my bones; a not-flawed-in-my-eyes temporary covering made from dust? Am I the smooth lines that run along the inside of my dark brown hands? If you heed to the sense of your fingertip as it runs down my neck, you’ll trace the lines there too. But is that who I am? No. May I introduce myself to you; I just got to know her.”
“Sarvi, become a poet na,” Khush replied thoroughly enjoying her companion’s autobiography. The girls giggled.
Sarvi raised her hands to her head and ran them through the length of her hair. She brought the ends close to her cheeks and said, “My hair waves like the ocean waves but it starts calm and neat like the horizon of the sea. My fingers cut through it unbridled and gently like it does to the wind. Do you like my hair, Khush? Tell me how it looks?”
“It’s left open. It’s wavy and black and the right side is tucked behind your ear,” Khush said.
Sarvi nodded “That’s right. And look at me,” her arms crossed each other to hug herself, “Layers and layers give shape to my bones to make me and how can I detest any part of me?”
“Continue,” Khush said as she watched her every move and her ears caught nothing but Sarvi’s voice. She fell so silent that her body too stopped speaking, it only felt the description of Sarvi’s words.
Taking her chance, she spoke and filled her world with colours. Sarvi told Khush everything she already knew, again. She swiveled her chair and continued.
“Do you know, uncontrollably, I spend hours living the seconds inside my flesh but I don’t feel trapped. I feel the soft perky kisses of the wind on my lips. They swell with this acknowledgment as if reveling in the attention and liking it.
“I am inside my flesh, inside the stretched covering of skin over the length of my body. I am not my body, I am more. But how I love it. Over and over, I enlighten the touch and stretch my lips.
“My ears greedily curve and widen to catch every draw of breath I take captive for small seconds and at its release my lips curl with the warmth of labored air. It’s like my soul telling me my own secrets.
Khush knew no one else but Sarvi who could notice things like these. She herself couldn’t but so badly wanted to. Sarvi trained her. “Close your eyes and you’ll know,” She would say. But Khush couldn’t peel her eyes off of Sarvi. Dressed in skintight jeans and a kurta, her broad humble smile held everyone’s gaze.
“It is now that I am being told that I brighten days and places. It is because I carry the sun with me. The sun is more than acquainted with the first touch of my skin, I bear its brilliance and within, my bones feel its embrace.
“Do you know I used to influence my form till it tore and then bury the rips further; (Oh concealer, how we worked on gashes together.) manipulate and falsify my appearance? I couldn’t consider myself when I crossed my own reflection without a proper deceit of looks. I wish I had because I cannot now.
“And I, for no fault of others but my own, hated my nose for its large occupancy of my face. My eyes fell short of the desired curve. My skin was not the shade it had to be. I blamed my features for the quiet kind souls who didn’t say much because I needed to be assured that I was pretty because pretty was accepted. I did not realize that acceptance wasn’t theirs to give; it is my own.
“Then one year and seven months ago, I was moving fast on the street, the usual.”
“Late again, as always,” Khush keenly interrupted, knowing each element of the story and wanting to be a part of the telling of it.
“If only they’d invent a less scary way to put on fake eyelashes. I felt the weight of my clothes against my body secure me. I felt my flaws hidden and I delighted in its cold interiors. I never wanted to come out, Khush. The encumbrance slowed me down; I was terribly late for work. My blue heels couldn’t stop time, time passed us by long before, it was my gait they controlled. Nothing walks better than the perfect pair. Right swung shoulder over left accented hip, beautifully lengthened legs. I drove my body with altitude and I drove it straight into an eye opener. Don’t you just love irony?
“Ruk! Machine theek se nahi…. Madamji!” Sarvi imitated the worker. Action, accent and all.
“You see just minutes before on that street – the usual, five construction repair workers had gathered together to scratch their heads about a perfectly harmless and safe to use machine that had stopped working whilst their reparations. From them, was one man whose daughter finding strength in her feet had started to use them as much as possible, awake or asleep.
The mutilation that was unfamiliar to them had caused the men to unsurely back away to make calls, reach for those lost uncounselled manuals and overlook my trespassing, except for Ashok whose recently developed sensitivity to anything slight.
“ ‘Madamji! Ruko!’ his screams irritated me but the sense of concern and firmness in his voice compelled me to answer his shouts. Not even did I turn to face them than the machine sparked to combustion, not inconsequentially.
It enflamed ravenously for a moment before it lessened itself to a small conquerable fire. It hit me, my eyes were whitewashed and I felt the heat for only a second. I stumbled back and tripped over my blue heels. I could hear everything clearly but the words mashed into one another. I felt arms steady me. I sat firmly waiting to be okay enough before my feet could take to the ground but it took a while because my vision had cleared itself into complete darkness.
“I never thought I looked pretty because I had to learn how to feel it first,” she said.
Sarvi felt for her shoes with her feet. She slipped them back on. She had had the shopkeeper describe them for her before she bought them; brown chappals with a pink outline.
(Special thanks to my mama for checking and re-checking and re-re-checking my story and dealing with my haste and to Pepin for translating sentences into Hindi for me. ^_^ )