Distorted7 mins 16.5K 7 mins 16.5K
“Show it to me. Let me see how I look!” Sneha snatched the phone from her sister Priya’s hand to have a better look at hers and Raj’s engagement picture taken 2 days ago. They had been best friends for over 5 years and lovers since the last 3 years. She couldn’t help but blush seeing how adorable their pair looked. Both had chosen to wear off-white and looked absolutely perfect for each other. Even though her parents were never against their union, Raj’s parents who were a bit conservative opposed the idea from the start. They agreed eventually much later. Sneha was happy that everything had fallen into place as she had expected. A few months down the line, she would be married to the love of her life. Happily, she dozed off to sleep.
The next day, when she woke up, she experienced a headache, a dry eye and pain in her inner ear and on the right side of her face. Not taking it seriously, she left for work at her usual time. As the day progressed, her pain worsened. Her colleagues noticed some changes on her face and started asking different sorts of questions. Disturbed by the constant interrogation, Sneha went to the office washroom and looked at her reflection in the mirror. She was shocked with what she saw. Her right eye was twitched and her lips were drooping towards the other side. She tried to smile but she faced tremendous difficulty to do so. She couldn’t even close her eyes properly. Till yesterday, her face had been perfectly fine. She couldn’t understand what was happening and went into a state of panic.
In the evening, she visited her family doctor along with her parents. He immediately referred her to a neurologist. The neurologist asked her to move her facial muscles by closing her eyes, lifting her brow, showing her teeth and frowning, among other movements. She was told that the condition she was suffering from was Bell’s palsy or facial palsy, which is a paralysis or severe weakness of the facial muscles on one side of the face. The doctor explained to her that this condition is rare and it can happen to anyone. It can take several weeks or months for the muscles in her face to regain their normal strength. Sneha was prescribed corticosteroids along with antiviral drugs.
The neurologist advised her to visit a physical therapist as well who would teach her how to massage and exercise her facial muscles to help prevent this from occurring. Raj played the perfect fiance and supported a disturbed Sneha emotionally as well as morally. But the same couldn’t be said about his parents. From the time they had discovered about her condition, they had been acting distant. His mother never paid her a visit nor did she inquire about her health over the phone. When Sneha had tried contacting her, she always made up a random excuse that she was busy and avoided communicating with her. Whenever she asked Raj about it, he never gave any answers and mostly resorted to changing the topic.
Despite receiving support from her family and fiance, she felt broken from within. Wherever she went, she felt people looked at her differently, due to her condition. They pitied her and sympathized with her, something Sneha had never liked. As a child and an adult, she had always been conscious of the way she looked and the way she presented herself. Even though her facial condition was far better than what it was when she had been diagnosed, Sneha avoided seeing her face in the mirror. She found it difficult to eat and drink. She could neither smile nor she could frown. She experienced facial weakness and a dry eye and mouth. She had become sensitive to sound as well. But these difficulties were nothing compared to the pain she felt deep in her heart. If that wasn’t the worst part, she might have overheard Raj’s mother’s conversation with one of her relatives when she had gone to his place for a visit. Maybe she had purposely said it aloud or maybe she hadn’t. But they had hurt her worse than a knife.
The words were curt and bluntly said: “I do not want a girl with a distorted or crooked face to be my daughter-in-law. If only Raj would listen to me!”
“Why me?” was the only question Sneha asked herself and God nowadays. And that’s when she reminded herself of her neurologist’s words. “ This condition can happen to any one. It will take a few months for you to recover fully.”
Through this entire phase, Sneha fought with herself every single day. Yes, she indeed had the love and support of her family. But she felt it wasn’t enough to heal the self-pity and self-doubt that had captured her. Before her diagnosis, she used to be smart and confident. Now, she chose to avoid people and their hundreds of questions. In the past few weeks, Sneha’s face as well as her life underwent many changes. One day, she casually asked Raj if he was still interested in marrying her. Despite his failed attempts to hide the fact that his mother wanted him to call off the wedding, the truth was right in front of her and he couldn’t make any more excuses. Raj was infuriated on listening to her question but he managed to control his emotions and his tone. His answer shocked her and revealed an altogether different side of his personality which she had never known.
“Do you think it has been easy for me? Do you think I am not worried about you? Well, if you want to know if I am still interested in you or not, Sneha; let me tell you that I am. I still want to marry you just as much as I wanted to before. Nothing has changed. For me, you are as beautiful now as you were on the first day we met. You are a lot more than your pretty face. I want to marry the person behind this face who is strong, passionate about what she does and believes in living life on her own terms. You are a fighter, a survivor, a challenger. I know you are going through a lot at the moment. Our worries are nothing compared to the worries you may be having for yourself. Irrespective of what happens, we all love you. If I had to call off this wedding, I would have done it long ago. But I want to be with you and hold your hand as long as I live.”
“What about your mother?” Sneha asked in a soft voice. Raj stayed silent for a few minutes, deep in thought.
“I do understand that Mom hasn’t been on her best behavior with you and I apologize on her behalf. She will understand, somehow. If not now, maybe later. But she will, one day.
Though Raj tried his best, he failed at convincing Sneha. A few days later, she confronted his mother in his absence. Both women had a heated discussion, but somehow, by the end of it, things seemed to work out in Sneha’s favor. As Raj had said, his mother realized her mistake and asked for her forgiveness.
Just as her neurologist had assured her, Sneha recovered within 6 months. These six months were the most difficult six months of her life. The emotional trauma that came with her condition was exhausting; more than the condition itself. She had to fight against all odds, but more so; with herself. One thing was clear in her mind. This was a test for her and her loved ones by God Almighty. At least, she now knew that they would always stand with her, irrespective of the circumstances. If Raj could still love her despite her condition, why should she stop loving herself? Why should she restrict herself for the way she looked? After all, it’s the person’s inner personality that counts and not the outside appearance.
Sneha was an entirely different person by the end of it all. She had regained her confidence, her zest for life and emerged as a winner, stronger than ever. Not to forget, the beautiful smile on her face was back and she was married to the love of her life. With the prayers and blessings of both families, of course.