Tara looked at herself in the mirror and was quite satisfied with her appearance. Her husband Manish, looking at her from a distance said, ‘Tara, why don’t you pin your saree properly? And look at your hair, it needs conditioning, it is so rough and insipid. You will outshine everyone at the party if you take a little more care of your appearance.’
She glanced at him and smiled, ‘I like myself as I am. Besides, at my age why would I want to outshine anyone? I am a mother of two grown up kids.’
Yet, his words stayed in her mind. True, she was still very good looking but it had become a habit to downplay her beauty, not trying to be a queen among others.
Her mind winged back to her office days. She had joined as a clerk in a Bank after her graduation, much against her parents’ wishes.
‘Why do you want to work?’ they had questioned with a disapproving look, ‘You are our only child and we plan to get you married at the earliest to the most suitable person. We don’t need an extra salary either.’
But Tara had insisted, yet her experiences were not too good. Right from day one, she had noticed admiring looks directed towards her. In fact, when two young men were trying to get fresh with her she had told her friend, ‘If I knew such people would be my colleagues I would never have taken up this job.’ The men, though handsome were repulsive to her. She just did not like people staring at her and passing comments.
And comments there were many. Everyone seemed to have something to say, about her looks, her appearance, her behavior. She was a very friendly person, but when she realized that men often took advantage and tried to come closer, she shut up like a clam. She withdrew into her shell and became reserved, earning the nickname of ‘Ice Princess’. She also learnt to underplay her looks. She stopped using make up or dressing well. Of course the basic make up and good clothes, she used, but did not go overboard even for parties and picnics.
Not only had her unmarried colleagues, even her young newly married Boss seemed to want to get nearer to her. He did not overstep his limits, nor did he pass any remarks, but his behavior made it clear that he liked her a lot. He even went to the extent of saying that if she had joined the Bank six months earlier, he would have ditched his girlfriend (now wife) of five years for her.
It rankled. She did not want to hurt his wife, nor did she want to be the ‘other woman’ against her will. But working together every day brought them closer. Especially when he specifically singled her out for special favors, meetings and other official things, praising her sky high in front of other colleagues.
Tara did not know what to do. She had taken up the job in defiance of her parents and did not really want to give it up. It gave her self-confidence, a feeling of independence and importance as she was getting paid quite well and had got a promotion in a short while.
She became quieter, simpler and tried to recede into the background. When a strange boy of a different caste, community and a different office, sent word to her that he would like to marry her, she almost blew her top.
Her mother remarked, ‘You must be encouraging such young men, otherwise why would they dangle after you? This fellow does not even work with you, yet he wants to marry you.’ That hurt her to the core. The feeling remained when she got married to handsome and rich Manish and gave up her job to look after her husband and children.
Now at fifty, she still did not want to get into the limelight or steal the thunder from anyone, even though she could easily do it. But how could she explain all this to anyone, even Manish?