I sat in the dressing room behind the stage and began grumbling to myself. I was pretty good at cribbing and grumbling for various reasons. It could be anything, a gloomy day, an improper assignment, an argument with a friend or even one of those usual days when my hair looked awful.
But today, it was different.
I had applied for the Miss Fresher’s contest for my college annual day program and I was hoping to win the ramp show like any of the twenty five girls shortlisted to participate in the event. Waiting and practicing eagerly and faithfully for the last two weeks of the grand event, I was quite sure that I would carry off the walk with an elegant stride and charisma. I had also prepared a short speech and another few lines on why I wished to win that year’s fashion show contest and what I would do to help my college mates if I did win the Miss Fresher’s post. My beautiful blue sari radiated in the bright stage lights and my sparkling accessories shone. My makeup was done by the best stylist in the best beauty shop in that area and my footwear was from an exclusive store in Dubai.
Everything was perfect. Except for one.
I realised that my scar which was permanent on my right cheek just did not want to hide behind the heavy concealer that I had put on. Emerging from a childhood accident, the small scar became an uninviting and an eye sore in my life, something that I always wanted to wash off but could never do. I had tried to conceal it with the help of makeup but somehow could not manage to hide it. Today being a grand event made me feel everything just had to be perfect to look amazing on stage, but the inevitable scar looked dominating on my painted face.
I kept wondering why things like this always happened to me and not to others, or maybe it did happen to others but they got along with it quite well or maybe they had a solution to every problem they faced or even, to my greatest disappointment, they never ‘did’ face problems like I did.
As I kept wondering and grumbling about my greatest misfortune, a girl whom I had never spoken with, but just knew, came and sat on the chair opposite me. She was definitely competing for the ‘Miss Fresher' program as I could make out from her gown. But what really surprised me beyond words was the fact that this girl was suffering from cancer, and so was pale, weak and had lost almost all her hair. She was undoubtedly the talk of the class.
Ailing from such a serious illness never stopped the girl from doing what she liked to do. She was always attentive in class and made a lot of friends. She was bright and had a glowing face amidst all her pain and suffering. She laughed with others and laughed at herself. She was a sport, a champion who enjoyed every moment of life, no matter what turmoil life threw at her.
Still, seeing her in the dressing room a few minutes before the show surprised me. I kept wondering how she would walk on the ramp, deliver her speech and expect people to vote for her. She seemed to sense my thoughts and smiled at me. I smiled back. She then came and sat next to me. I moved a little to my left and allowed her to take her space.
“I suppose you are all ready to walk the ramp” she asked me
“I suppose so” I replied. That was the first time I spoke to her ever since I saw her in my class and for the next fifteen minutes we were engaged in a lively discussion which included a variety of topics ranging from books to music to clothes to nail paint and even to the latest hair styles. I immensely enjoyed talking to her and for the umpteenth time wondered why I had never done so before. We even exchanged phone numbers and promised to keep in touch as good friends.
We were so engrossed in talking that we did not hear someone announcing all the contestants to line up for the show. It was then that I suddenly realised that my newly found friend was also going to participate in the event. I truly liked her but still wondered how she expected herself to win the walk.
Wondering how to frame the question in a polite way, I tapped her on the shoulder as she was adjusting her gown. I hesitated and started,
“Um, I was wondering…I mean, I wanted to know how …”. Luckily she stopped me in between.
“I knew you would ask me this” she smiled.
I smiled awkwardly, feeling uncomfortable for the first time in twenty minutes and wondered what would follow next.
She went on, "It’s not your fault. Please don’t feel embarrassed to ask me what is going on in your mind. There are people who have asked me various questions ever since I was first diagnosed with cancer and some people still go on to ask me to this day”
“I was fourteen when I first realised that my body was being overpowered by a serious tumour and life has been hard ever since. I began cursing my luck and fate and even God as to why ‘I’ went through all of this. Not a day went by without me crying and waiting for life to end in a sorrowful manner. Days were gloomy and nights were miserable. Friends who I thought would never leave me, turned their backs on me as my physical appearance stared deteriorating. I was devastated and withdrew into a shell that I had made for myself.” She paused as if viewing her hard past life with a more wiser look.
“Then slowly I overcame a change after I started visiting counsellors and psychologists. They taught me to love myself for the way I was and for the way I will be. They told me that life was not ending but had just begun for me. A new life to live it the way I wanted. ”Do you know that I have only another six months left with me?” she gave me a wry smile. I was shocked beyond words.
She continued, "But these six months, I know, are going to be the best ones of my life. I am going to do the things I love, I am going to associate myself with the people I love and I am going to live my life the way I want. I am not going to be worried about anything. The time has passed when I used to sit for hours cribbing over a pimple on my face or over my make-up not looking perfect on me. I have learnt to love myself for the way I am designed to be on this planet and I am going to live every day as if it were the last”.
“You may be wondering how I manage to stay happy and lively all the time even in my greatest despair, I account it all to my parents who have loved me unconditionally and who, even to this day, support me in everything I want to do. They tell me each day that I am the world’s most beautiful daughter and that I would one day definitely win the Miss India Pageant. In fact it was my mother who told me to contest for the Miss Fresher’s post today” she smiled and nodded her head towards her mother who was talking on the phone.
“I don’t know if I will win the contest or not but I will definitely win my mother’s heart and please her as I know that she has gone through a lot more than I have. Today’s ramp walk is for her” she said her eyes glistening with excitement, joy and love.
Hearing her, I followed her to line up on the stage as the contest started in another few minutes. I saw my mother in the crowd and smiled happily at her. The scar on my face meant nothing to me in this hour, in my hour of triumph. I did not, for once, care whether I won the contest or not. I just wanted to have the fun of my life and to live today as it would never return again. My vision of beauty changed from that very instant and I began seeing myself as a beautiful girl, capable of winning hearts not because of physical appearances but because of doing things which changed people’s attitude towards life. I even changed my speech on stage in case I won the contest.
With a powerful stride, full of confidence and new found love for myself , I walked the ramp……