I’m twenty-six and being forced to grow up, to take responsibilities and start being the sensible, practical and confident person I’m expected to be. But all I can do is wish I was three again, raiding my mother’s closet for little knick-knacks. I used to be quite stealthy as a child, sneaking into her room, slowly pulling the almirah’s handle, carefully opening it sans a screech, and then launching myself into the huge pile of sarees, suits and my favourite, a drawer filled with cosmetics.
I particularly remember Oil of Olay. It used to be available earlier, the real deal. I’m not sure about it now. [My cousins say that the ones produced here are not the same stuff. But then again, they are highly opinionated.] I used to see my mum generously apply the Oil of Olay post her bath, smelling so wonderful. And on those elusive afternoons, when I’d be home alone, ah, I too loved to slather my face, my tiny arms and legs with it. Next up would be picking up her lipsticks and twisting and contorting my face in the mirror while I applied it. Pucker up, press down, grab a tissue, clamp your lips… I had seen my mum and aunts do it so many times. I too wanted to feel like a grown up, to dress well just like them, to drape the yards of silk fabric around myself and stare for hours at the mirror. Oh you beauty.
I’d even get my chubby hands around the compact, not that I knew what they were called then. Go dab-dab with the little pad of cloth over my cheeks, and then proceed to colour my eyelids like a rainbow. So many colours, how could anyone choose just one? If mum had any saree on her bed, I’d fling it around me, rolling in it considerable times before trying on her necklaces. Strings of pearls, gemstones, cut stones and silver jewellery, they were treasure for me. They hung around my neck, they graced my hair like a crown, and more often that I’d like to admit, I’d even string them around my ears. The more, the better I thought.
When I grew older, I started to take ‘longer showers’. I would slip into the bathroom with an eyeliner or lipstick, and turn on the shower to make it sound like I was busy bathing. And on and on, I’d practice applying kajal or eyeliners, primping my eyes with her mascara, and trying shades after shades of lipsticks. Sometimes, I’d even kiss the steamy mirror to see if the outline was like the ones I’d seen in Archies comics. But alas, mine were always fuller on the bottom; never the perfect shape, never the perfect pout.
One day, unfortunately, I happened to exit the bathroom forgetting to clean the mirror, and my brother happened to enter. Ah, the shame, the awful shame. He came out in a second, clutching his stomach and rolling on the floor, screaming for mum while laughing like a madcap. It took a minute for the reason to sink in. It was sheer horror.
But these are fond memories now. And when I can finally pucker up and primp up like I wanted to back then, all I want to do is be that little girl once more without a care in the world, raiding her parents closets like it were a fortress meant to be conquered.