She wore silk. In the early spring mornings, sunrays reflect on the surface of water and adorn it like a thin sheath of cloth- one cannot really see the water but then, one can almost see it. The water is right there to be touched. Thus adorned the silks Her body. That was several years ago. Now, She wears a tired terecotton saree. The same one. Everyday.
She had grown up watching, copying, adoring and then worshipping Sreedevi on the little B&W television they did not really own, but had been passed onto by one among the seven families her mother worked as a maid for. She thought her mother really resembled Sreedevi. To be fair, she didn’t. Not at all. Her mother’s face had dark circles, not just under the eyes, but all over- skin wrinkled as if someone had cheated her into accepting a skin transplant from a woman at least 25 years older than her. Her voice was too coarse and rough to belong to a seasoned Bollywood temptress- one that millions like Her worshipped. But She really loved Her mother and to Her, she was the most beautiful woman She had ever seen. But then that was long ago. Now, Her mother’s memories are as beautiful as she herself was once.
Her dance teacher used to say that the feet of the girl knew music like they had composed it, and that Her grace and poise suited none other than the Queen of the seven seas. The only reason why, he often said with a confused air of anger and pride, he agreed to teach Her Bharathnatyam foregoing his monthly fees of thirty rupees, was because he was certain She would perform on the stage one day with a discerning audience applauding Her. And maybe, even Her accomplished teacher. But then that was long ago. Now, he is restricted to the wheelchair and his eyes well up at his unfulfilled dreams. More so, at Her unfulfilled dreams.
Elaborately designed chandeliers hanging from the roof, tapestry covering the walls tastelessly, light peering in through the stained-glass windows as if mortified and looking for some dark corner to hide in, air suffocating itself on the otherwise charming vapor of wines, both cheap and old, amidst rapturous claps of patrons- some who could not wait for the sham to get over and some who were there to let themselves feel like proud, genuine connoisseurs of the arts and dances- She danced. She danced with eyes that had no tears, how She does not understand now, with lips that had a genuine smile of happiness on them, how She does not understand now, with an untiring zest in Her movements. With heavy make-up and heavier jewellery but never a heavy heart, She danced. Thursday evenings were special. She reserved her most rousing performances with the most sophisticated music for Thursdays. Only special patrons, not necessarily rich, but necessarily old-timers, could attend on Thursdays. Sundays She never performed. Every Sunday evening, She would silently come out in purdah, or wearing a burqah, enter the already-waiting Auto and make the painfully long distance to the house that did not have paint peeling off, always had running water and electricity back-up too for summer days- to the house where Her old mother counted her days in loneliness. A nurse who does not speak much, or only does so mournfully on the days she fails to comprehend how her life came to such a pass that she has to clean the human waste of the mother-of-a-whore, is not great company. The nurse wanted to listen to the cluttered heartbeats of asthmatic patients with a stethoscope, write down the long-winding, complicated names of antibiotics on a fresh prescription, and hand it over to the patient even as she called out “Next patient please”. But then, that was long ago. Now, she just covers her face with her apron as she approaches the old hag to give her the customary sponge-bath.
It’s another Thursday. Now, however she doesn’t dance. Her osteoarthritis would kill her if she as much as even thought about doing so. Sreedevi, however, is still dancing pretty on a television. Color television. She somehow does not like Sreedevi’s elegant steps any longer. She remembers how She used to worship her once.
But then, that was long ago.