WSPI-2012-03: Beauty – Love Short Story
This short story is participating in Write Story from Picture India 2012 – Short Story Writing Competition.
She was all jittery and edgy as Babu, her assistant opened the door for me. She was peripatetic, moving from one corner of the room to the other. Her words were losing sync with her expressions as she scolded Babu for waking up lately to answer the door. Somewhere beneath that pretentious serious face of hers, was a smile slimily hidden in the corner of her lips and the eyes were speaking all her silence out. I could smell it.
Meneka called herself “Koli Bhoot”, the Black Ghost. I always laughed at such hilarious self-abuses. However the truth always stayed miles away from me, I had my own separate truth—I was blind.
In the pensive notion of my mind, I bore nothing else but a clear image of a two year old radiant sun setting at the horizons of the Jaipur Jal Mahal lake. Meneka had stopped the car nearby to buy some exquisite Rajasthani potteries. Browsing through colours of turquoise, silver, brown, midnight blacks, she was lost among the heap and the cries of the sellers. I on the other hand totally uninterested slithered behind her like a shadow, until my eyes caught the attention of two silent inanimates and I let her wander lone into the paradise of pots. Eyes that could still see the spurious realities crafted by the clay hands of men- there stood two earthen brightly coloured and horned Rakshashas. Those little monster faces gaped at me with their charcoal bright, deviously black eyes like demons residing in the darkest recesses of the human mind that sometimes have the ability to penetrate the soul; mis-shapening their crimson and yellow tongues rolling out as if ready to devour the entirety around themselves. It took me to a mythological reverie of Raahu and Ketu, perhaps predicting my destiny that was to come soon. I stood there stupefied, unable to define the ugliness or the antiquity of such relics. Why would one make such an art of ugliness if it were not precious? If there were no buyers? Certainly there exists a considerable number of our counterparts who see beauty in its myriad forms. I was confused. Futile Human imaginations to craft such creatures, questioning my belief in bad omens. And certainly they were the last omen I saw.
Half an hour later Meneka returned holding two grey coloured pots by their necks and put them at the back seat of the car as I pulled out the door. Without another word she jumped into the driving seat and as dusk covered the pink-city, she sped up the car to reach the hotel where we were to stay for the remaining two days of our holiday break. She drove it like a horse on Protein supplements. The car drove past the danger sign of a bridge in repair. It smashed against the tarmac of the bridge and turned around two times and fell from hole in the bridge into a shallow gorge. For one instant it hung suspended in the air like a moth against the windowpane and then fell down with load crash. The car blew up midway down the watery grave.
And yet indeed the omen proved true!
When I opened my eyes two days later at Jaipur Medical Centre, I could see nothing but darkness. Darkness that changed my life forever. Meneka suffered terrible bruises, several stitches and most of all guilt. Guilt that never let her gather the courage to apologise to me, but fed in her the strength in me to protect forever and most of all Love. Meneka’s love for her best friend slowly masked the metamorphosis of our past as she slowly became my shadow, lingering within and outside, protecting that I don’t step over another wrong stone and I was once again pulled into the sameness of life I so dearly loved. She had been my walking stick and Vikram the love of my life whom I had never seen, entering through the doors of my heart didn’t change it all. In fact she never let me change it. Her dispassion which she was so proud of was the strength that kept my passion for life burning within.
But today it was different. Today perhaps she needed me-to help her realize a dream I could see even with my sightless vision when she opened her heart to me.
“I am in Love Juhi”…she spoke after minutes of struggling to light her cigarette.
“What? I mean with whom?” I blurted, flabbergasted.
“Vikram…..” and then she went into an inaudible, intolerable trance of her!
“What Vikram? You love Vikram ? But how can that be…?” I was too shocked to continue.
“Not that ugly boyfriend of yours! Even, I look better than him”
“That’s very rude Meneka. I love Vikram, the way he is…ugly or beautiful, I don’t know. Of course my eyes cannot see him but I can surely feel his love, and it is the most beautiful thing that has ever happened to me.” I retaliated, though still, clutching the handles of my chair.
“Oh I am so sorry Sweety! It’s just that these days I am really losing my mind out. It’s the other guy, who has come newly to stay with Vikram in the next apartment… He is so cute. I hardly have any words to describe his charm. Juhi he is a magus. He has bewitched me with his charisma. Please do something for me Juhi. Please do something…” Begging funnily she enacted of breathing in shallow gasps.
“Drama Queen, do you even know his name?” I asked smiling.
“I don’t know anything…I just saw him with Vikram that day, walking down the stairs. Vikram uttered something, but I could hardly hear anything… the silence of ‘Love at First Sight’ had already taken me over” Her voice turning into whisper as her sentence ended…
“So what’s the problem?” I asked her…. “let your heart out to him, it’s very normal to be in love”
“You know the problem Juhi…. I am UGLY”, she answered flatly.
“Oh! Not Again Meneka!! I am fed up of this constant rumbling of yours, of not being beautiful and the ugliest person on this planet.”
Meneka had this huge inferiority complex of being ugly. Although my definition of Beauty was completely jaded but she somehow failed to recognise the unruffled beauty of her own Soul. In despair, she could only cry and that is what she did now.
The next day Vikram and I went out to the new park opened opposite the Zoo. The fragrance was ethereal. Vikram too emited some new ones… I could smell nervousness in his breath.
“What’s the matter?” I asked him directly.
Vikram had somehow got used to my abruption. He never asked how I knew or how I figured out. He just answered. And that was one thing I really loved about him.
“It’s my Friend, Karan…” He replied. I could smell his smile too now…
“…Well he is in love with your friend Meneka.”
“Oh! That’s really great. The other day Meneka told me that she is terribly in love with this guy, your friend, and she was crying her heart out for help… if that’s the case, then I guess the problem is solved” I clapped my hands merrily. My heart leaping in joy…
“I am afraid… it’s not so….” Vikram’s voice in the gloomiest of all I had heard.
“Why do You Say so?” I demanded.
Vikram kept quiet for some time.
“Have you heard of Venustrophobia?”
“No, what’s that?” I asked with all my irritation firing on him. I was far from being curious about some Greek word at least for the present moment, when my priority was my best friend and her happiness was all that mattered to me.
Vikram answered in his professional staccato of a psychologist, “It’s a psychological disorder, where a person is afraid of beautiful women. Basically he has this phobia mixed with an inferiority complex that the woman he loves is far more beautiful than him and he himself feels perplexed about loving her, albeit being with her. Karan has it, and is going through his treatment under me. It will take him countless sessions to get over this and that’s why his mother has sent him to stay with me.”
I couldn’t speak a word out. It was difficult to absorb the paradox this love story was weaving. I felt miserable and wondered how I was Blind to all of these. May be this was beyond my perception.
I could just think of those two ugly demons, from a two year old memory that I mistakenly or un-mistakenly, had last thought to be ugly.
Beauty remained an enigma for me forever.