Beauty Business

She used to work at a beauty parlour in the city. It was no serious business, everyone said. Just for passing the time and so. She wasn't trained or anything. But she was, she said. She had worked at one of those well known parlours in the big city. For two years almost, when she was put up in one of those grim working women's hostels. That dingy existence sans sunlight. But every morning, she tidied up, put on her purple uniform, tied her hair back and plunged into bringing beauty into our lives. Scores of eyebrows she threaded, faces she scrubbed and de-tanned, legs and hands waxed, and on and forth and on and forth. When she sat down a little perplexed and drained, she spoke on nevertheless, about how a little bit of lemon juice  rubbed on elbows, made the skin softer or when cotton balls soaked in nail polish remover held upon nails for long actually cleaned them well and merely wiping didn't do the job that good. She was full of such tips. But herself, she was a taught beauty, neither soft, nor mushy, nor pink, neither white. It was as if, she never tried all those tips on herself. Those things were for others and she was far apart.

When time ran out, she was asked to come home, leave that job and be married. So she did as asked to. She withdrew her limbs, fingers held in a fist and toes crumbled, into a ball of human flesh for months. And survived that way in hibernation. People talked behind her back, that it was only too late for her to have a child. And her indulgence in that job had made her more futile. She now lived in one of those small industrial towns, her husband worked at the power plant. They stayed in staff quarters, on the first floor, slightly more lit than her old room in the hostel. And they had a huge portico, even bigger than the whole house. Boughs of nimbus and mango made it shady in the afternoon, sunsets were a thing to behold from up there.

It was in that portico that she told stories to her unborn child, and there that later her little daughter took her first steps. There that she picked out stones from dal and peeled vegetables. There that she knit sweaters for her loved ones and sent them away. But waiting for her husband to return from work, when she sat down a breath to look at the sun set, sometimes the mixed whiff of Parisian cosmetics, still, bothered her nose.

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