Sometime this week, I took a long and hard look at myself in the mirror and really noticed the difference. It was the first time I saw the way my face has changed over the years….how subtle, soft lines are starting to form around my eyes and mouth. How my eyes tell the truth, right down to my core. It was the first time I noticed that my hair falls a bit differently than it did when I was younger. How I am more prone to letting it fall naturally than to straighten or curl it. How I no longer feel the need to hide behind a smokey eye. Yes, I can now feel the actual shift and the whole idea of ageing.
” Women should be like ornaments Majoni, like flowers, soft and fragile…beautiful. Go check the old albums, my hair was so immaculate and my skin so flawless. My daughters are a work of art too. During my days Majoni, we washed our face with milk cream and hair with lassi. Such a shame these things are gradually dying,” Aai said.
”Now we have face packs, creams and shampoos Aai.”
”Shut up! What do you think? We didn’t have such stuff? But we knew better. We were smarter. Ask your Aata what a beauty I was when he married me. He couldn’t take his eyes off me. His family said I looked like some doll.”
Agreed. She is still so beautiful.
”I think I’m getting old Aai,” I said.
”You are growing my child. It’s very simple. As you grow, you learn more. If you stayed at twenty, you’d always be as ignorant as you were at twenty. Ageing is not just decay, you know. It’s growth,” Aai said.
”Ignorant how? I became a mother at twenty. And I remember you saying how I was your best, super intelligent grandchild,” I said.
”Yes, you were and always will be my best, my Guxani, now keep quiet,” Aai said.
Then she starts fiddling with my hair. Aai partitioned my hair into two zones and proceeded to weave two plaits. I good-naturedly complied and held my head still while she tried to get the motions right. Quietly, a feeling crept up on me. I was transported to another place, another time. I was on the floor in front of my mother, her hands working deftly on my hair to produce two plaits on either side of the back of my head. Ma would tell me stories, sing Sai bhajans. These were such important sessions while I was growing up. From memorizing the shlokas to bhajans, so much happened on the mat during those sessions. And like every time her memory brings with it that sickening weight. My eyes were flooded. Aai reaches out to give her gamusa. We didn’t exchange a single word.
I took out my phone and opened the photo gallery. There she was, Ma, with her most warm and vibrant smile. Instantly I began smiling, touching the screen lovingly and wishing to relive that moment. Time slowed down. Minutes became minutes again. And I remembered to breathe.
”You see this line here…told you, I’m ageing Aai,” I said.
”Hmmm but they don’t make you any less beautiful my child. Look at me, as long as I am breathing, I am just beginning. And by the way, your pants are old, they are torn.”
”It’s new Aai. New design. New stuff. Style.”