Fair Chance15 mins 260 15 mins 260
And the first thing she observed was, ‘Even the attendant was fair!’
She didn’t know what to say or whether to confide in her that she was looking for an ultimate solution to achieve fairness. She looked around just to make it appear, that she was merely casually looking around the store.
As if reading her mind, the helper came back, ‘Ma’am there are more creams and face- washes behind this rack as well.’
‘Thanks!’ Vidya gave an awkward smile and moved to the other side.
She wondered, ‘Was it a wild guess she took?’
Well, she was true! There were a plethora of products to improve her complexion and the celebrities endorsing them tempted her to go all out for them. They had already attained their light-complexioned glowing skins and stood to pose there in all their divine essence.
‘Anti-ageing, Wrinkle reduction, BB+, whiteners, foundations…………………….,’ the variety was endless.
‘Here you are! I have been looking for you. I was just going to call you. I have bought whatever was needed for home. Are you done?’
Richa was Vidya’s colleague and was taking her to visit her house. They had worked together for close to six months and had become good friends over this considerable period of time. Richa belonged to the city while Vidya was residing as a paying guest with a bunch of other girls, in an apartment. This was Vidya’s first visit to Richa’s
‘I do not need anything’, she replied. taking her to visit her house. They had worked together for close to six months and had become good friends over this considerable period of time. Richa belonged to the city while Vidya was residing as a paying guest with a bunch of other girls, in an apartment. This was Vidya’s first visit to Richa’s house.
‘Hello mama, this is Vidya. She is my colleague’.
‘Hi Vidya, Great to meet you!’
Richa’s mother seemed delighted to meet her or at least pretended to. Vidya smiled back in return, in an honest attempt to strike a chord.
‘I just love all the South Indian food be it Idli or Dosa. You can help me with the recipes for all!’
The over-animated aunty tried building up a conversation too. And there was silence for a few seconds.
‘Aunty, I do not know how to cook these. I’m not a South Indian!’
‘Oh! Well, I was just trying to prepare something which everyone would love to eat’.
Richa’s mother tried her best to divert everyone’s attention from what she had just mentioned. It was obvious that she had mistaken Vidya for a South Indian owing to her complexion.
And this was just not fair! Vidya immediately gained true sympathy for her entire South Indian fraternity and for all the others who were not fair. But, of course her deepest sympathy was for herself!
Dinner was done over aunty’s luscious meal and spirited talks and then both moved to sleep into Richa’s room. While Richa dozed off immediately, Vidya’s thoughts had rolled off.
She had always been good in studies and accomplished in other co-curricular activities. Teachers appreciated her in school due to her grades and she was popular amongst her friends in school and college owing to her helpfulness and cheerful behaviour. However, there was one stark difference. She had many friends but no boyfriend!
Her professional decisions had recently brought her to Delhi. Although she had always seen people’s preference for the fair it is only now that she realized how important it was, to be fair-complexioned. Flat nose, double chin, bloated paunch, inflated arms, dilated thighs. All of that did matter, but not as much as being fair. Beautiful had only one definition. Beautiful meant fair!
She had an athletic figure but, no one seemed to notice that since her tint devoured that. Vidya kept turning around completely engulfed by this concern. Not that the girl lying next to her was light-complexioned. But she was certainly several shades lighter than her. Vidya’s thoughts lingered from Americans to Africans until she finally managed to droop.
It was the next morning and both Richa and Vidya hurried themselves having breakfast and dressing up for office simultaneously.
‘Hey, try out this top. It shall really suit you!’
‘No, I’m fine with this’, was Vidya’s gawky response.
Wearing a bright top would make her feel weird and also fetch her snickers, leave apart the sneering glances.
It was really refreshing and soothing how Richa did not differentiate between people based on skin colour. This was a rare priced quality. And Vidya respected Richa for that.
‘Oh c’mon be slightly adventurous!’
Vidya went by her advice and well, she liked herself in that t-shirt. She even blushed. But no one could tell.
They left for the office immediately. Both belonged to the same team and reported to the same senior. Well, that senior was coincidentally someone from Vidya’s college, Karan Singh. He was two years senior to her and she had never befriended him in college except for an occasional ‘Hello’. She remembered the times she would see him hovering around in the college campus in his loose-fitting pair of jeans and unkempt hair. However, scenes had changed within two years. Gelled hair, formal suit, and business savvy; a complete contradiction to his college persona. He had managed to rise up the corporate ladder in a very short time and now headed one segment of the regional consultancy team of which they were a part of. He was presently a rare combination of research, strategy and oratory skills; the kind all would get envious of, and question the Almighty, ‘God, why all to the same person? Not fair!’
He had guided them through the comprehensive training period for a month and both had begun to pick up the ‘know-hows’. That involved, from being meticulous to being shrewd; from sincere work to smart work. Both Richa and Vidya were convenient for working with him except for their individual complexities. Vidya had a blunt dislike for him. There was no animosity between the two but she was simply unable to accept the fact that an idiot guy who had such a laid-back approach in college could actually reach the position that he was presently in. And worse, a competent one like her would actually get to report to him. Not that she was repulsive towards him in college but this was different.
She often wondered, ‘What would have brought on this ultimate evolution?’
On the contrary, Richa’s heart beat faster when Karan was around. Unsure if it was a temporary crush for her, but it would need great efforts to calm her thumping heart and actually concentrate on the instructions he gave for a project or the suggestions he provided for the power point presentations.
Vidya could work best when Karan was away at his own desk. Whenever there was a project deadline or a presentation preparation, Vidya would prefer to do it all alone. Mostly, when others or specifically after Karan had left office. His absence would increase her productivity multi-fold.
One such Friday evening, Vidya was engrossed in her project-plan completion and submission while Richa was packing up for the day.
‘You are not done yet?’
‘Well, just have few more tasks to go…… why don’t you move on? I shall visit aunty tomorrow.’
‘Oh, you are not coming with us today is it?’
‘Why? Where are you headed?’
‘Well, I guess we were going out for a movie.’
Vidya looked around, ‘You never asked me?’
‘Oh, I thought Karan would have already mentioned it to you. But I guess he knows that you have your hands full this evening.’
Vidya was miffed. She however tried to pose convenient in this very inconvenient situation. She looked on as Richa joined Karan to move out of office.
‘He snubbed me? I would rebuff him in college! How could he even think of doing that?’
Her self-esteem was hurt. It took Vidya the entire evening to convince herself that Karan would not have asked her out since he knew of her workload!
Saturday morning and she had rushed to Richa’s house with the excuse of meeting her mother.
‘Well beta, you really look nice in that salwar-suit!’
Maybe she was trying to make up for her comments during the previous visit. But then, she axed her foot by adding, ‘These colours really work well for your complexion!’
‘Oh really? What do you look like fat woman?’ Vidya’s mind silently yelled back at her as she moved to join Richa in her room. Vidya had her sympathies for her oversized brethren as well, but not for the ones belonging to aunty’s category.
Least aware of her agony, Richa narrated the storyline of the movie in complete enthusiasm. Vidya continued to listen as Richa mentioned that the duo had dinner together and Karan had dropped her back home. So, it was just an extension of their friendship, Vidya concluded in her thoughts. Though, one question still poked her. ‘Why should the friendly hand not be extended to her?’
Monday, and Vidya had totally forgotten about all her personal worries since she was completely engulfed by professional ones. And then, she saw Karan walking to her desk.
‘Nice work, Vidya……..we received awesome feedback from the client’.
‘Off course I am much better than you in work, you fool!’ is what went in her mind.
Nevertheless, she simply smiled back in response.
‘So, I deserve a treat don’t I?’ is what she blurted out in this paradoxical situation.
‘Oooppppsss, I guess I have spoken too much!’ is what echoed in her mind.
‘Oh yes, today’s dinner is on me!’ reaffirmed Karan.
Vidya’s self-pride was redeemed!
And this sense of achievement made her scrub her face followed by skin matching foundation and lip gloss. These cosmetics were obviously borrowed from Richa who had joyfully assisted. Vidya was ready and she waved her hand to Richa who was still at her desk. That was the first time Vidya realized that all her make-up was in vain. Richa was the beauty queen even without them. Maybe, that was the reason Richa helped her get ready. She was least bit disturbed by the two going out. Vidya however ignored this observation of hers as they drove to a nearby restaurant in the evening.
The talks circled round the upcoming start- ups and the clients they must stay focused on. And Vidya was able to transcend him in every conversation with facts and data. This gave a major boost to her ego. Was she glad she didn’t join him last Friday evening? Off course she was!
Life was consumed in daily professional tasks and personal concerns. It was regular work as usual till one Sunday evening, Richa called Vidya.
‘Hey, come over, some interesting news!’
Vidya had almost guessed what it was. And it was confirmed as she reached Richa’s home and had a hush- hush discussion with her.
‘Karan proposed to me and I said a Yes’.
Not that Vidya felt crushed but she did feel a little bit jilted. She felt happy for Richa but felt uncomfortable, though not quite sure why. Maybe because she was unhappy that a gem of a girl like Richa was going all out for that jerk! Or maybe because she felt neglected! Or maybe because she would lose her friend! Her response was however irrelevant since Richa was already drowned in elation.
‘So, he’s now my boyfriend officially’, declared Richa. ‘I was wondering when he would do that!’
Vidya celebrated Richa’s ecstasy by savouring an appetizing home-delivery meal. And then, returned back to her flat with lots of queries meandering in her mind.
‘Oh, so they have been going out for a while? Why didn’t Richa tell me before? Would I have advised her to sever it? That moron always had an inclination towards her!’ It was a silent debate all night.
Vidya woke up the next morning with swollen eyes. It was due to a disturbed sleep owing to her insecurities. It was the first time that she realized that people might not give her the preference. Not that it was important who it was, but it certainly gave a self-doubt on her charm. Or maybe she didn’t have any! Even Richa could not be pursued away, since she was totally bowled over by that jackass!
‘This is no more going to be my concern,’ Vidya decided as she entered the office.
‘Richa has been a wonderful friend and I should feel happy for her. That’s it!’
However, Karan and Richa exchanging glances and smiles throughout the day brought down all her determination to nil.
‘How can a person whom I dislike so much go around with a person I respect so much?’
This had gradually become a habit and Vidya would have to repeatedly muster the strength to ignore it. She would see the pair having lunch together or sharing a joke over an evening cup of coffee. She would be invited at times to join but would courteously deny.
‘It’s their life. Why should I interfere?’ she would tell herself.
Richa was all busy with Karan, and Vidya would go to her only when he was not around. Vidya would have solitary weekends but least bit boring since she had now learnt to enjoy all by herself; be it alone in a movie theatre or having a book by her side.
Days passed into months and little did she perceive the inconvenience growing between the two of them. Vidya did notice Richa’s dressing sense change but was not sure whether that aspect was worth giving significance to.
One late evening, Vidya simply moved to Richa’s seat to wish her, ‘Goodnight!’ before leaving the office. She noticed her tearful eyes which she was trying to hide behind the laptop.
‘I will not leave until you divulged it. So, save the useless labour. Speak!’ Thankfully, Vidya still shared such deep trust and comradery with Richa that she could talk so authoritatively with her, despite the recent disconnect.
Richa’s tears rolled out by the time Vidya completed her sentence.
‘Karan and I had a fight!’
Not that Vidya was surprised. She had pretty much expected it.
‘This is so natural in a relationship.’ She tried to downplay it.
‘This is not the first time Vidya’, she looked at her. Vidya heard on.
‘He has been dominating with every passing day. How to talk, where to go, what to wear! It’s becoming a daily occurrence. And we had a fight today for the funniest of reasons.’
‘And that is?’
‘His friends didn’t find me good enough to match him They don’t find me beautiful. He implied that I should have put-on appropriate make- up to look fairer at his get-together yesterday. You know, kind of revamped myself?’
‘What? What kind of reason is that?’
Vidya wondered what could have made his friends not observe Richa’s beauty, leave apart her innate goodness. She had a slender physique and sharp features. The only thing which could play a spoilsport was that she was a few shades darker than being absolutely fair or rather what is called ‘wheatish’ complexion. But that coming from Karan was not a shock.
Not that Karan was ‘fair’! He too very much fell in the ‘wheatish’ category but, he certainly wanted his bride to be fair! Someone, he could ‘show-off’ to the others. Vidya had still expected that his renovated modern mind would have outgrown these stupid, biased mentalities as well. But unfortunately, this had clung on!
‘Don’t worry. Things will be fine’, Vidya didn’t know what else to say.
She decided to drop her home as she consoled her all along the way when Richa’s mother greeted her at the door.
‘Hello, Vidya. Long-time! How have you been? I guess you should also plan to marry soon. Then, we can plan for your and Richa’s engagement at the same ceremony’, guffawed aunty jokingly.
That was not humorous for Vidya. It was, in fact, a pinching joke which she chose to overlook. She greeted aunty ‘Goodnight’ and left.
‘Dumb reason huh?’ Vidya analyzed on her way back home.
As far as beauty is concerned, Richa was a clear winner. Petite frame, sharp features. Just that she was not extremely fair.
‘Or, maybe the dumb reason for me but not for many!’ Vidya got reminded of the endless options which were available on the rack the other day, all to get few tones lighter.
‘Oh yes, people were obsessed with fairness. Look around……. from baby advertisements to matrimonial sites. All were proof of this!’ Vidya explained to herself.
Richa seemed composed the next day and Vidya wondered whether things had settled down between the two. She was however scared to ask.
‘What if it hadn’t?’ She would not know what to say then!
This incident was forgotten and maybe forgiven by Richa and work followed regularly until one day Karan invited Vidya for a party. This was in celebration of buying a luxury sedan for himself and she had no choice but to attend it, for Richa’s sake.
Vidya was an appropriate misfit at the pristine event. Though she was unable to enjoy, she had learnt to be comfortable with herself. She had come to terms with the fact that she was the way God had intended it. And she was an endearing person, if anyone was caring enough to find out.
Vidya observed from a distance, Karan introducing Richa to the rest of his guests. She wondered why he felt so awkward doing this. She decided to take a break from all this and headed to the washroom. She found Richa there, soon after.
‘Hello lady. You seem to be the talk of the town!’ she greeted her cheerfully.
‘What are you doing?’ Vidya watched all confused as she saw Richa pull out all the tissues and rub her face furiously.
‘I don’t want to look beautiful. ‘
‘Karan handed over this liquid brightener. He wants me to look flawless. I’m tired of hearing this. He does not like me the way I am, Vidya!’
Richa broke down and began to sob. Vidya was speechless.
It took Richa some time to collect herself before she could join back the crowd. Vidya left early, since she just didn’t belong there. She drove back home watching tall office buildings and restaurants and bars on way.
‘It was a modern world! Modern to adopt dressing senses…….. But not enough to adopt open ideas, Modern to learn social etiquettes….. but not enough to rise above colour…… Or maybe……. it was a pseudo modern world!’
Vidya didn’t see either Richa or Karan at the office the next day.
‘They might have partied late’, she thought. She called Richa at noon to check how she was.
‘I called off my relationship!’
‘What? Uh, I will meet you in the evening’, was her instant response.
A visibly worried aunty greeted her.
‘Beta, please tell her, she is doing wrong. She will never get such a guy.’
Vidya didn’t bother to listen and dashed towards Richa’s room. Richa led her to the terrace as aunty could not climb up the stairs easily.
‘Are you sure? It’s just about mutual adjustments!’ asked Vidya.
‘There’s a limit to changing oneself. From my apparel-collection to the way I talk, I tried enough to accommodate but I can’t lose myself in this! I am this way and if he has problems, then it’s better to tread separate ways.’
Vidya was uncomfortable again. She didn’t know whether to feel happy or sad for Richa. She however knew one thing…… that Richa had evaluated it right…. she had given him a fair chance!