“Am I really that bad?” she thought as that man in her neighborhood called her “kaali.” And why was everybody laughing at that? Was that some kind of joke? Wasn’t anyone, including her parents, going to tell him that he was wrong? This was incomprehensible to her.
Was there really a problem with her? Her face! Her body! Her hair! And she kept pondering and buried these things in her heart, a place which would be locked to everyone. Because they didn’t seem to get it. She didn’t get it, either. But the damage was done. She was disturbed.
With all this deep inside her, she continued to learn. She went to school regularly; a diligent student, indeed, but nevertheless of average intelligence. She didn’t know then that this was about to change. Because the time was approaching when she had to be on her own. To make it on her own. Through all the rejection and the labeling, it was time that she conquer the world.
It was in class four that the moment of metanoia occurred. She was going to do it. Ignore all things that pulled her down. She was going to get through, come what may. She labored hard. Burned the midnight oil. Exhausted herself till she could take it no more. She didn’t care that she was shining among others; people were looking up to her. There were miles to go before she’d stop.
The years passed by and she never looked back. And in the last year of school, she passed out as the most successful among her classmates. It was the same in college. She still loved her books but there was a new problem now. The hormones! Kicking in, signifying those unstable, tumultuous adolescent years. Yes, she looked at boys. But the problem was they never looked back at her. Was she ugly? That bad-looking? Or maybe she was a little bigger than the other girls. Boys, she noticed, liked those skinny, heavily made-up girls, sashaying invitingly down the college corridor. Ah! That was it! But no matter how hard she tried, she never really managed to be like them; she couldn’t even bring herself to dress like them.
Unlike those heavily mascaraed girls, she excelled at studies. Then why did those thoughts that she had once pushed into the far recesses of her heart came tumbling back with striking force. Those words began ringing in her ears. “You’re ugly! Have you looked at the mirror? Look at those other girls; how beautiful they look. When will you become like them?” Was that the reason boys didn’t want to look at her? It possibly was, that she knew, in her sinking heart. “Nobody is ever going to fall for me. I don’t look like those pretty girls out there.” And her tears seemed to flow with a gush like they’d got an outlet after years of being kept locked within her being.
That night, with red-rimmed eyes, she spoke to God, who had come to be her friend over the years. She prayed and she cried and this went on for some time before she finally fell into a peaceful slumber. When she woke up the next day, not a single soul around her knew anything about last night. Because, like always, she had cried alone, terrified that if somebody sees her like this, she would have to face their questions to which she had no answers. No explanations. They would never know. But today she knew that she had to remain strong because if she crumbled, there would be no one to put her pieces back together . . .
She never knew if what she was going through was what they called depression. Did she have the symptoms? Seemed like it. But then what was it that pulled her out each time. Something far beyond her understanding. Was it that God she spoke to? She didn’t know for sure.