Dear pados wali aunty,
I hope you’re doing fine. Yes yes, I am doing well too. I am going to cut to the chase and tell you a few things I’ve always been meaning to tell you.
You came home the other day, you had to borrow sugar. Remember? You peeked around the house and made small talk with Maa. Then, you found me glued to my laptop screen, trying to make sense of chemical bonds. When you came and subtly asked about the guy who dropped me off the earlier night. I told you about him. You asked me if he had a girlfriend, yes? I smiled and told you no, he did not have a girlfriend. He had a boyfriend.
You put aside the bowl of sugar, horror clear on your face. You very bitterly remarked that being gay was a trend now. “Yeh gay-shay kuch nai hota.” You also said that he should get checked and wrote down the number of your ‘baba ji’ on my Chemistry notes for him. I thanked you and promised you that I will make sure he gets alright and normal. I told my friend about this, and he laughed with his lover and said that this was normal. His normal.
We ran into each other in the elevator the other day, remember? You looked at me intently and with a frown and commented on how tan I had gotten. You raised concerns regarding how men don’t like tanned arms and faces. I could see the little girl who had just gotten home from playing touch her face and gasp from the corner of my eye. After all, she was tanned, that is where playing football under the sun gets you. You then elaborated on a face mask I should apply twice a week for fair skin. Just like you do. The magic of papaya and honey. I thanked you as you got off the elevator. I then turned to the little girl and told her that she looked beautiful.
Oh oh oh, do you remember your daughter’s birthday party? Her thirteenth birthday party. Just wearing her teenage-girl shoes. Anyway, you advised me to not eat the pizza because I was ‘putting on’. You said fat girls get rejected in dramatics auditions in school then later in life get rejected by the marriage proposals. You asked me to gulp down warm water with lemon. “Does wonders”, you remarked. I smiled and put the pizza away.
Before leaving the party, I slipped a bar of chocolate to the birthday girl who wasn’t allowed to have even the birthday cake! She’d get fat otherwise, na. You left us both thinking, was there just one body type? If there’s just one body type, why are there sizes ranging from XS to XXXL?
Aunty? Do you remember that time when Shalini didi from apartment number 206 got a marriage proposal? You had told us all how lucky she is; the boy had a car, a good family, and a job in London. To your shock and horror, Shalini didi had declined the proposal. She was not ‘allowed’ to work after the marriage; that work for which she studied for days and sleepless nights.
You went on and on about how modern girls shouldn’t give so much importance to their jobs. Rather should concentrate on serving food on the table, slicing mangoes, drying the clothes, and watching soap operas. But aunty, wouldn’t it be nice to take money out of your own account? For how long will you ask your husband to give and give?
Dear aunty, I know you care. I know you do. Otherwise, you wouldn’t have home remedies for literally everything at the tip of your tongue for me. I also know you were brought up way different than I am. All your life you were told you had to be thin, you had to be fair, and you had to stay away from boys. I know. The person you are is what your own insecurities shaped you into. Or rather, the ideas of ‘perfect’ by society shaped as insecurities of women.
You had a whole book of rules and regulations thrown at your face when you were nine. People expected you to be thorough with it, and you read it like the Bible. But aunty, rules are meant to be broken. Rules change. And sometimes, there are no rules.
Aunty, I know, this is hard for you to accept, but a boy and girl can be just friends. However, a boy and boy can be more than friends, too. And sometimes, you don’t want to be friends with anyone. You are just enough on your own.
Beauty is found in all forms, be it dark-fair, or thin-fat. It accepts all the forms because it exists in all forms. What is beauty anyway, aunty? Isn’t it in the eyes of the beholder? Or is it just a saying? Just like many other sayings.
Dear padoos wali aunty, it might be a lot for you to take at once. You might still not accept all of this, but I know you eventually will. Because you once accepted that you weren’t enough, but you are. We all are.
Pados wali bachi.
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