Ah,now there’s a difficulty. How can I raise the other? I contort my face. I try again. Both go up. They furrow. I try again. Both go up, comically raised in atbutham.
I try again, press my palm down on one and force the other up. I try 100,000 times. I raise one. Now, the other. There you go, now?
Do you look like one?
I look into the mirror, long and hard. Long hair, kohl-lined eyes, earrings dangling from both eyes.I raise one eyebrow, then the other. I do it rhythmically, increasing my speed to the beat of the chenda.
At most, a clown’s instruments to play the Fool. A veshakaran? No.
Mirrors have played a large part in my life. I always had just the single mirror in my room, a small one. It was at a rather uncomfortable position, I could never see my uniform properly or the ends of my long hair. I had to stand on my knees on the bed to examine the pimple on my nose for any sign of a promising pop. Despite its position, I loved my mirror and would constantly look into it, brushing my hair or putting up little theatrical shows for myself. I loved role-playing and the mirror was both my audience and my judge. Everytime my mum came upstairs to check on me, I would be in front of it, in the middle of a song or dialogue, a sharp dance move or religiously brushing my hair.
I hated it when she caught me, mirrors were meant for sneaking a look at yourself, prolonged examination would conclusively place you in the vain category.
Vanity was a bad best friend. I loved my designer clothes, clear face, wide eyes and long hair. I hated being admired just as much as I loved it. I learnt how to paint my nails at four and don’t remember ever having stepped out without lining my eyes with kohl.I winged it with a liquid liner, went under my eyes with a dark kajal pot, coated my lashes with it hoping it would look like mascara and even drew elaborate bindis with it. This didn’t mean that I did badly in school, in fact I did rather well and was an excellent student, but at home my vanity became my only trait.
The early categorisation and being an easy target for ridicule drove me farther from the things I loved. I forced myself to read, I told myself I hated frills too. my eyeliner became less dramatic(it never fully went away) and my little trysts with the mirror reduced in number.
I did gradually learn to love books and even engaged in politics, and however well I cultivated an attitude of indifference towards all things material and ‘silly’, I still had midnight affairs with my mirror. So when I finally got my very own full-length mirror, I found it hard to stop myself from fixing a cuff, smoothing a wrinkle, or quickly changing a mismatched outfit.When had it become a cardinal sin to be conscious of my appearance?
Today, in another continent altogether and amongst strange faces completely alien to me, I wear bold red lipstick and spend 5 whole minutes in the morning lining my eyes. But now my bold red lips become the slogan of my feminist stance, heavily massacred eyelashes gain sanction when they widen in political outrage and anything from crop tops to a salwar-kameez make political statements rather than fashion statements. I must admit that I am not wholly innocent here, I do this fully aware that I can let my love for fashion go wild as long as I have a prompt answer with a complex theory to back it up so it never seems trite or silly. I spend long hours on Youtube looking for the perfect shampoo and ways to trim my eyebrows, as long as I read a serious magazine right after. Fashion has become a guilty pleasure. I cannot watch 6 straight episodes of Sex and the City without making a righteous commentary on how American television soaps are dumbing us down. So, when I stand in front of my full-length mirror now I spend all the time in the world making sure every strand of hair falls perfectly …and then give it a tousle right at the end, so I don’t look like I spent an hour on it.