I remember how I hated jasmines as a kid. I thought the flower was popular. It was the favourite flower of everyone I knew, regardless of the generation they belonged to and I had promised myself that I would not be part of any communal activities or likings. Hence, jasmine was a total no-no. I maintained my distance with them, except for at weddings. My relationship with the bride or groom never mattered, I was determined to dress up and Amma was determined to pin a garland of jasmine from one side of my head to the other, like an arch. As much as I hated jasmine, I never thought I looked bad with it. But then nothing looked bad on me back then: not sandals with socks, not gaudy necklaces with t-shirts and pants, and never shoes with pattupavada. I genuinely believed that I was a fashionista but sales girls of the stores I walked by saw the bright red eyeshadow on five-year-old me and tried hard to suppress their laughter out of courtesy (but not really).
The only time I remember totally despising my mother was the time she refused to get me a bright red lipstick. I was about 6 or maybe 7. I do not remember the age but what I remember is that I howled the whole auto ride back and tried to jump from the three wheeler several time. Amma, tired of the drama, wore her most nonchalant face and stared at the auto driver’s balding head. As we reached the road running to my house, I forced the man to stop the vehicle and walked haughtily back to the store kilometers away. Three steps past, I stopped in my tracks, waiting for Amma to call me back. When she finally did, we went home hand in hand to devour some hot adas.
B aunty was our neighbour back then and a beautician; what more reasons do I need to like her? She had a huge make-up box with its million shades of eye shadows and lipsticks and things I did not know the names of back then. My make-up vocabulary was rather restricted but I knew what everything was, at least I thought I did. (Now as a twenty year old I realise that the green powder I dabbed on my cheeks might not have been a very conventional choice … but I have made peace with the choices of the child I was). B aunty was the one who suggested that I should ask Acha (who was in the Gulf back then) to bring me a make-up box of my own. She said it as a joke but it was enough incentive for me to force Amma to include my extravagant wish in her next letter to Acha. Dying to win my affection, Acha got me a nice red make-up box, which, when pressed a button would let out numerous trays with all the colours in the world.
Then came the days of sophisticated make-up application. I mixed colours, gave shadings, with no previous experience whatsoever. Everybody at home was too busy to care about whatever I did with this new toy I got my hands on. This was also the object of my bragging. Whenever a cousin or a friend visited, I took them aside and showed them the box. I gleefully smiled as they went through it, pressing this button and that, trying on the powders and lipsticks. After they were done going through the box, I would run my fingers through the golden lining of the box, against its red body and let out a loud sigh.
My world came down after a bragging session like this. I had just shown my prized possession to my cousins inside my father’s Omini van. As I opened the sliding door and placed my barefoot on the ground, I lost the grip of the right hand with which I had held the door and fell face flat on to the ground. Two or more teeth had started to dance in a pool of blood that had formed inside my mouth but I was more hurt by the broken pieces of my precious make-up box that I lay in my left hand. All the trays had come out, broken, and the blocks of colours had all gotten soiled.
This week followed weeks and weeks of crying, unpredictable sobs during the day and recurring nightmares at night. After the incident, I could not muster the courage to pick up the pieces of the make-up box and use its contents. Thus, my dream to become a make-up artist ended a sad death.