The Tribune - Spectrum


Sunday, November 24, 2002

Life Ties

When a mother’s beauty intimidates the daughter
Taru Bahl

MEERA was a breathtakingly beautiful child. Flawless complexion, perfectly chiselled features and a well-sculpted body, it seemed God had created her with love and tender care. In spite of being a head-turner the girl was oblivious to the effect she had on people. Content to hide behind her mother’s pullav, compliments bounced off her back and pointed attention embarrassed her. When the dramatics teacher in school singled her out to play lead roles year after year, she learnt to say no, suggesting that she try more capable contenders. Her modesty and humility made her more desirable and sought after. As she grew older, her outer beauty came to be complemented with an inner beauty. Consideration for others came naturally to her. She never took the attentions of her male admirers seriously though they were willing to charm her with gifts. Her inherent sense of dignity made the boys respond to her differently. There was no eve teasing or cheap propositioning. In fact, given a choice all the boys wanted to marry her !

Sarabjeet was the dark horse Meera finally fell in love with. This was not a Mills and Boon tale where the tall, dark and handsome hero fell instantly in love with the waif-like damsel in distress. Although their mental compatibility was perfect it was obvious that physically they were not as well-matched. At 5’8’’, with a wheatish complexion, pakoda-like nose and a receding hairline, he was hardly the stuff dreams were made of. Despite Meera’s dressing down, wearing flat heels, bereft of make-up, there was still no way she could hide her dazzling beauty. Whoever coined the phrase, "Beauty needs no adornments, for when unadorned adorned the most," surely had her in mind.


For a split second the physical mismatch would be noticeable but within minutes their chemistry and perfect made them appear made for each other. One began where the other ended. When one talked, the other listened. There was a rare sense of calm that existed between them. Even silences resounded with the sounds of love and camaraderie. As Sarabjeet grew older, he acquired a distinguished look, actually turning handsome ! As a family they had great times with their daughters. Music was their shared passion. Their house was a virtual sangeet academy with classical music baithaks, informal piano recitals and jazz evenings where like minded friends loved to congregate and unwind. Meera had created a welcoming home. There was not a person in their social circle who did not love this couple. Never had her beauty isolated her from others or intimidated them.

Trouble started brewing when their elder daughter turned thirteen. Though mentally prepared for the terrible teens, Meera was still not ready to handle her growing daughter’s tantrums and moods. Both the girls had taken their father’s looks. Also they were at an awkward stage where they were yet to get comfortable with their bodies and evolve a personal style statement. Gauchy and unsure, they were still to blossom into presentable women. While the younger one was a tomboy, happy to live in her frayed jeans and baseball T-shirt/cap, it was Shruti, the elder one, who spent hours in her room brooding about her braces, spiky hair, crooked nose and acne-ridden patchy skin.

Meera knew that her darling daughter was suffering from more than just teen blues when she saw increasing resentment directed towards her. Like the time she removed all the photographs in the house which had Shruti along with Meera in the same frame, substituting them with photographs of either here father or others whom she was attached to. Or the time when Meera enrolled Shruti in an aerobics class which she too attended, to find her changing the timings, switching to a group different from her mother’s. Or when she invited friends for her birthday lunch and took great pains to get the meal organised from the servants, ignoring . Also when the friends turned up, she chose not to introduce them to her.

An invisible wall was coming up between mother and daughter. Perplexed and worried, Meera found solace in Sarabjeet who helped her see that though it was no fault of hers, it was the mother’s striking good looks which were creating a complex in the impressionable daughter’s mind. Years ago, the thought had crossed his mind too. He was not blind to the fact that he was ordinary looking while she was a ravishing beauty. The world would perceive them as a ‘beauty and the beast couple’ or envy him his ‘prized catch’. But these negative thoughts never hounded him. For one thing, he was self -assured and comfortable with who he was. Two, the kind of person Meera was, there was no way anyone around her could resent her good looks. She was like a rare uncut diamond who did not know its own true worth.

However, Shruti was young. She was still to discover herself. Till then, there would be times she would question God for her ordinary looks. Moreso, since everyday she was faced with the dazzling beauty of her own mother.

Meera would have to maintain her poise. Maybe even take a backseat. The father and daughter shared a great rapport. Let that continue and the channels of communication remain open. After all, father and mother were not competing for the child’s time and attention. There were no brownie points to be scored here. Maybe for a while Meera could give up wearing jeans, even if they were comfortable, since they made her look like Shruti’s elder sister. Given her present insecurity, it was possible that the kid wanted her mother to look like a mother. There was no reason why their daughter would not come into her own and learn to take pride in seeing her mother for who she was. Till then, Meera needed to be patient and look at things from a gawky, unsure teenager’s turbulent mind.

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