“Careful! please don’t knock the sides” Jayashree said anxiously as the three men moved it up the stairs and into her flat. “Here- place it against this wall” she said opening the door to her bedroom wide. After some heaving the dressing table was deposited on the spot indicated.
Closing the door after tipping the men, she made her way to the bedroom to admire her new acquisition in privacy -a beautiful chest of drawers in mahogany with a wide top and a mirror set against an ornately carved frame.!
She had spotted it at Mani’s Auction Yard the week before. It was dumped carelessly in a corner. It seemed to somehow beckon her and finally after some haggling Mr. Mani ( or his representative) agreed to sell it to her for Rs 10000 inclusive of the restoration and transportation fee. After a week-long wait it was finally home!
Jayashree spent the next couple of hours arranging her clothes and trinkets on the dressing table before collapsing on the bed. The dressing table seemed to become the focus of her vision. She continued staring at it until her eyes finally closed in sleep
The next day was a hard one; meetings and then reports and then more meetings! I wish I didn’t have to work so hard, she grumbled to herself as she shifted around at her desk. Just out of habit she glanced at the cabin opposite her expectantly. No luck! He was sitting with his head down looking at some reports.. Ah now he had looked up..! Was he looking at her? No! He was looking at his computer screen.
I just have to make another attempt, thought Jayashree as she made up an excuse to enter his cabin.
“Hello Sandeep- do you want to see the new layout for the annual report?“ she asked
“No. I am busy with the audit report” he said without looking at her.
Disappointed she went back to her desk. This man was too much! He did not talk to anyone outside of what was necessary. A chartered accountant, he had recently joined the company where Jayashree worked as a communication manager. Somehow, right from day one he had aroused her interest but he was oblivious to her. Today and every day.
I need to do something to make him notice me, thought Jayashree determinedly as she rose up to leave for the day.
After two hours of honking and maneuvering the scooter she managed to reach her flat. Her mobile was ringing – Amma again!!! Must be about some marriage proposal, she thought as she let it ring. Flinging her bag on the bed she made her way to bathroom for a shower.
Wiping her face with a towel, Jayashree stood in front of the dressing table and looked at the mirror. The reflection that stared back was not very inspiring – a mop of unruly hair, indention where her specs sat on her nose, medium-sized eyes that were close-set, her father’s stubborn chin and a wide mouth. No wonder he does not notice me she said to herself loudly as she turned away from the mirror with tears in her eyes.
“Hey you.. turn back” said some one. Jayashree started!
Who could it be?
“Here look here “said the voice again.
Jayashree turned back in the direction of the voice and found herself looking at the mirror . Only, it was not Jayashree that the mirror reflected. It showed the image of a young woman about as old as herself, in a green Kanjeevaram sari wearing antique jewelry and flowers in her hair. A big bindi adorned her forehead.
“ Hello. I am Lalita” said the reflection smiling at Jayashree.
My god, I am hallucinating! thought Jayashree convinced that all the heavy traffic had affected her psychologically in some way. She continued to stare at the mirror.
“This used to be my dressing table. My father had it specially made for me as a part of my dowry. I am glad you have it now because I see that you love it as much as I do,” said Lalita.
“But who are you , besides being the previous owner?” asked Jayashree. “I am Lalita from Thanjavur. My father was a leading advocate and I was his only child. He was very sad when I died” she said.
“You died? You mean… you are a ghost?” asked Jayashree open-mouthed.
“Yes. I died in childbirth and so did the baby.” said Lalita. “I am sorry! But why are you inside this mirror?” asked Jayashree
“Well, I spent a long time in front of it and so, now I am locked within in” sighed Lalita.
“You must have been very vain” Jayashree could not resist saying.
“No my dear. I spent hours in front of this mirror wondering how to make myself beautiful enough to get him interested ” she replied.
“But you are so beautiful! How could anyone not be interested in someone like you?” asked Jayashree.
“Beauty, is not physical. It is a combination of many things and the physical is only one of them. I was those days what you would call a dumb doll, I did not know how to converse in an interesting way. Besides, at nineteen I had no talents to boast of. I just hung around my husband hoping he would one day notice me” said Lalita sadly
“And did he” asked Jayashree waiting with bated breath for the answer
“Yes but that was not until a year later. A year during which I learnt how to arouse my husband’s interest. He was an intellectual. So I learnt to read books that he read and discuss them with him” said Lalita with a twinkle in her eye.
“Oh no..! I hope I don’t have to now learn to do double entry book keeping or Tally” said Jayashree in disgust
Lalita raised her eyebrows questioningly. And then it all came out- about that “awful” Sandeep, his lack of interest in Jayashree and her frustration on her inability to get him interested!
“But why are you trying to seek his attention like this? Ignore him!” said Lalita.
“ I can’t! You see he sits opposite my work station” said Jayashree. “No, I did not mean that you really ignore him. You just pretend to do so. And while you are at it, you can also take some efforts to look as good as nature intended you to be. I saw you leave for work today. Oh!! Crumpled shirt and trousers and hair bunched back as though you wanted to hide it ! Tell me why do you need a dressing table? To look into the mirror and feel sorry for yourself ?” asked Lalita
“My iron was not working and besides I was late”, mumbled Jayashree.
“Now listen to me – you are not going to work looking like that tomorrow! You will wear something nice. What about that yellow kurta in the lower drawer? And some make up?”
“Lalita, I don’t want to be all dressed up. I will feel like a fool” said Jayashree.
“Jayashree, nature bestows each woman with a unique beauty. Yours is in your hair and your skin. You have the talent that I lacked as also the education that I did not have. What you don’t have is confidence. Beauty is all about making the best of what you have and wearing it with confidence. And the rest is about a bit of strategy” said Lalita calmly.
“Think about it. Good Night” and she was gone!
Jayashree stared at the mirror. It now reflected back an angry and grouchy face – hers! She switched off the light in anger and burrowed in under the covers of her bed.
9.30AM the next day
Sandeep looked up from his desk at the girl who had just walked in. She wore a beautiful yellow kurta and had long silver earrings dangling down the side of her face. Her bangles clinked as she waved at Suresh, the accountant in the work station next to hers calling out “Hi”. He waited for her to call out the same greeting to him. But she moved on to her desk and started her computer. She appeared to be engrossed in her work. He noticed the way her hair swung around when she transferred the phone receiver from one ear to the other.
Two hours passed and then three and now it was lunch time! Jayashree made her way to the canteen. Just as she picked up her tray and sat down she heard a voice behind her “Excuse me. Can I sit here at this table with you?” Jayashree stared at Sandeep for a full minute before she said “ YES”
“Some water?” asked Sandeep as he poured out water into a glass for her.
“Thank you” she said as she looked into her glass of water –
Was it her imagination or did she see in it a girl in a green Kanjeevaram sari wink at her and nod her head in approval?
Image Courtesy: www.greatmuseums.org
Pablo Picasso 1932 Girl Before A Mirror