Soft rays of light woke up Rama. He sluggishly opened his eyes, stretched his arms, pushed his blanket to the edge of the bed and got on his shaky old feet with the help of his old man’s stick. His blurry sight strained to find his glasses, which were seating on his bedside table. Spectacles helped him read the time on the clock. It was eight, on another Monday morning of his retired life. He timidly walked to the porch and sat besides his wife on the old and ratty swing.
Rama was agitated from the previous night. A good night’s sleep hadn’t helped him to subside his annoyance. His cranky old head wanted to converse but not initiate one. He looked through and forth at his wife, who was just in contradictory mood as he was in. She was all composed and enjoying her morning cup of coffee. In order to break the barn of silence he began swinging the swing, with every freckle of strength his seventy year old body had.
‘Stop it Rama. Don’t spoil this pleasant morning’ His wife said.
‘How could she do that??? Have you seen her?? Have you?? She is not my Jhanvi….That foreign soil changed my doll like daughter. I want my daughter back’
‘Enough Rama. Don’t forget your doll is 30 years old, an independent woman and happy than ever. Your retired brain needs to understand’
‘But, she is only thirty and I am her father’
‘What is your point?’ His wife asked.
‘The point is she looks so different and I cannot even recognise my very own daughter’
‘Rama she is your daughter not your property. Let her live her life her way. It took thirty years for her to make peace with herself. Do not add to the drama unnecessarily. I was concerned but ever since she has returned I have only seen her smile. That smile is precious for me. I hadn’t seen it in a long time’
‘How can you even say that Madhu, of course I want my daughter to be safe and happy but I am genuinely concerned. That girl who returned yesterday is a complete different person. This is not Jhanvi. Jhanu was so simple…My daughter….’
‘Enough Rama, I am in no mood for morning argument. Your breakfast is all ready, waiting for you on the dining table. You can have it when you get time off from your unnecessary worrying. I am leaving with Mrs.Mathur for morning arti at the temple. See you for lunch’
Madhu left even before Rama could speak. He sat on the porch cribbing and talking to himself a little longer than he wanted to. He hesitantly unlocked his smart phone, his Jhanu had gifted him on her previous visit. The screen fascinated him but he still struggled using the fancy phone. His weak eyesight and shaky hands didn’t adapt very quickly with the usage of device but he knew how to WhatsApp, which had become one of the most frequently used means of communication with his daughter who was based in New York for almost two years now.
The night before she had returned back home. This was her second visit in two years. Habitual Rama went on WhatApp to check his daughters updated profile picture or any recently posted status. But there was none. He murmured to himself and went indoors to have his breakfast.
Rama was a government employee and Madhu a school teacher and the two now led happy retired life. Jhanvi was Rama and Madhu’s only daughter born after fifteen years of marriage. As a young girl she was very simple and sorted, who took pleasure in the little things of life and her parents were the centre of her Universe. There were a small and tightly knitted family.
Jhanvi grew up to be a beautiful woman. Her dusky skin, long curly locks and hazel eyes added zest to her aging parents. Things went smooth until one evening she returned from her interior designing college all sobbing yet hiding her tears. Jhanvi was being bullied for her appearance in her college for quite some time but that day things got off the mark and jabbed her heart. She even skipped college for the next few days to avoid humiliation until a friend of hers suggested to wear make-up.
Jhanvi had never used any, before. She got her hand on basic make up items and began using it after leaving her house and before entering her college. The bullying never stopped but Jhanvi got obsessed with applying make-up, doing her every strand of hair, wearing right clothes and always carrying a picture perfect image. Advent of social media gave her an audience base who appreciated her physic, her flawless skin, who wanted to be like her. The negative comments no longer bothered her as little as the bullying did, which had now moved with her to her workplace. Soon Jhanvi’s obsession with the mirror reflection began to concern her parents. Apparently they couldn’t comprehend Jhanvis condition and also didn’t know any right way to deal with the situation. The knitted family felt the knot of a grown up, insecure daughter.
Jhanvi no longer liked to be without make up and neither would she let her parents see her without it. She felt naked, is what she said, so she would at least put the concealer, dab some powder and apply kajal even when at home. Her obsession was getting in way with the people she dealt with, be it her parents, friends or her extended family. Bit by bit she got isolated from people, lost her fiancé and became a living stranger to her very own parents. Her work suffered as well. After working for five years cordially with her company she was fired. She was sacked on the grounds like nobody had been prior, for wearing disproportionate amount of make up and for being self-obsessed.
But that didn’t stop her from doing what she was. As she was internet famous, well qualified and had ample of work experience, her loss of job opened doors to new ones. Soon after she left for New York ,to work with an established interior designing firm. The foreign soil boosted her career and well as her self-obsession. The flowing money let her experiment beyond make-up. She began with laser treatment to get rid of unwanted hair, especially on her face. Once satisfied, she permanently lightened her skin and also did a face lift. She was only 29years. Every beauty treatment boosted confidence in her but never quite satisfied her. Her latest beauty geek was her plumped lips which she had got done right before her visit to India, which had hurt and agitated Rama.
That morning Rama spent his day waiting to hear from his daughter though he knew she wouldn’t. No matter how angry he was he still loved her. That Monday went by like any other, with his wife and two dogs. Rama was longing to be with his daughter but she was nowhere near his sight. That night past dinner as he strolled in his front yard with his wife his phone rang. The phone didn’t flash the name. So Rama hesitantly picked up the unknown number.
‘Hello, pa’ A sobbing voice shuddered Rama.
‘Jhanvi, is that you?’
‘Hello, I am Dr.Naina Talwar. Your daughter is safe in our hospital. Please get here as soon as you can. Galaxy Hospital, Tonca, Panaji’
‘Hospital….why?? What happened.?? Is she alone??? What about her friends??? I want to talk to her?? Please’
‘Sir, I don’t think she is the position to talk with you right now. But I can guarantee you that she is safe. Please hurry up’
The phone call left the two parents in a shock and with many unanswered questions. Madhu drove the car as speedily as she could and made it to the hospital. All through the way Rama chanted Hanuman Chalisa.
‘Jhanvi…Phone call??’ Rama muttered at the reception. He just couldn’t frame a proper sentence.
‘The suicide case?’ The receptionist inquired.
‘What?’ Both Rama and Madhu said in shock.
‘Dr.Naina…Called…Jhanvi’ Rama repeated.
‘Mr.Rama, come with me. Jhanvi is safe’ Dr.Naina Talwar helped the parents to Jhanvi’s ward.
Rama clasped his sobbing girl in his trembling arms. Minutes later Dr.Naina broke the silence.
‘How are you feeling Jhanvi?’
‘Better’ She replied in her faint voice.
‘We need to keep Jhanvi under observation for next twenty four hours. Then she will be discharged. For now I will take a leave. In case of any queries and help we have nurses to help you out. Good night and be safe’ Dr said and left.
Jhanvi had attempted suicide and was rushed to the hospital for drinking poison.
‘Jhanu? Are you all right?? You didn’t go for any track today?’ Rama asked.
‘Pa, am I ugly?’
‘No, Jhanvi, you are beautiful’
‘Pa, I feel so worthless’
‘Why beta?? We love you…What happened?’
Her near to death experience made her speak out. Jhanvi couldn’t hold herself back and spoke. She spoke the truth and her heart out even though it was not comfortable.
‘Pa, a year ago my company fired me due to my irresponsible behaviour and unethical work approach. Since my last visit I have been jobless on the foreign soil. But my thirst for beauty still didn’t die. I shopped myself to rags, all my savings dried within few months of being jobless, I was homeless as well until I got paid for making love. I did it, I did it because I wanted money, money to exploit and fulfil my needs to look more attractive. Man showered cash to make me look more beautiful and I was content. I continued to experiment with my looks, bought expensive clothes, worked hard to please men. Until, all of this came to an end. All of a sudden the same men didn’t want to sleep with me. I was too ugly to play with, was what they said. I hated me more. I once again buried myself in beauty products and treatments but none really worked. Once again I was homeless and penniless. But this time with numb feeling. My inner self has died. Now I see no purpose to live life being this ugly and not pleasing to man’s eyes…..’
Before she could continue Rama and Madhu gave each other a stare, held back their tears and hugged their daughter firmly. They had multiple reasons to wrath but one reason to stay back, not to build her life, not to help her walk again, not to bestow their wealth to satisfy her wants but to help their daughter love herself to life once again. A year later with therapy, constant support and parents help Jhanvi rose back to love her life, work to her fullest potential and let go the physical appeal which once she cared the most about.