“Oh My God! I don’t believe this!” I reacted coyly, feigning surprise. Strutting across the ramp in perfect catwalk, I reached the center of the stage, where the Marian Queen crown shimmered in all it’s glory, waiting to be adorned on my head. I blew flying kisses to the audience, and bent my head for the crown to be placed….
“Aanya, have you taken my stilettos again? If I find them with you, you will feel the sharpness of their heels today!” Boomed my mother’s voice throughout our apartment.
“Yikes…!” Swearing, I clamored to remove my mother’s stilettos from my feet, at the same time struggling with the long socks which had hitherto been disguised as gloves. But before I could change my party gown for my pajamas, dear mother had already barged into the room and caught me in the act.
“Aanya.. yet again! How many times I have to tell you to leave all this charade for your farewell party and concentrate on your studies. For God’s sake! It’s your 10th boards and a crucial, career deciding year for you. Don’t waste your time practicing for the Marian Queen title. Can’t you let go of this foolish dream?” my mother had started her lecture, which wasn’t going to end soon.
Oops! I forgot to introduce myself. I am Aanya Patel. At this point in the story, 15yrs old, 5″2′, wheatish complexion, lanky frame, braces on my teeth, thick glasses on my eyes.
When girls around me were metamorphosing into sweet sixteens, from caterpillars to butterflies, my sweet sixteen had decided it was going to transform itself into a moth. Where most of my friends had started flirting and some even had boyfriends, I was still struggling to smile without being called ‘Brace-face’, ‘Chashmish‘, ‘Nerd‘, and as the new show on television blared “Jassi jaisi koi nahi”, my repertoire of ‘called out names’ had a new addition.
To sum it up, severe body image issues. Confidence which was low because of looks, was compensated by my exemplary performance in studies. But, to be acknowledged for something beyond my marks, maybe, for my inherent beauty, was always a dream. Marian Queen, the school title for the most popular girl would have been that opportunity. But, if wishes were horses!
“Hey Aanya…planning to participate in ‘Utsav’, our college fest?”
“No yaar.. the upcoming 12th Boards and this pressure for the entrance exams, all my time is spent poring over these tomes. These extra-curricular activities will only be a distraction.”
“But with your beautiful face, complemented with your sweet voice and wonderful oratory skills, you would be perfect as the female lead in the play.”
Yes, junior college had been a game changer.“Mirror, Mirror on the wall, who is the most beautiful of all?” This question didn’t break my mirror into pieces any longer. But neither did it show me as Aishwarya Rai.
On the threat of bunking college, my father had relented and agreed to trade my glasses for contact lenses. My braces too had vanished, leaving me with a beatific smile. These changes in my image should ideally have boosted my self-confidence but it had decided to sleep a-la, Kumbhkaran.
My friends kept cajoling me to participate in atleast one event in the college fest, but I had my excuses ready. However, friends do have their way to create a mess in your life.
A small prank by them and I found myself on stage giving audition for the role of a maid. Stage never frightened me, I was a champion in elocutions and this was a secondary role, mostly relegated in the background, so I thought. I gave the audition with all the confidence I could muster.
As luck would have it, I was selected for the part. It was only when we started rehearsals, that the ground beneath me succumbed. The play was a monologue of the maid, whereas the other characters were secondary. I couldn’t do this, I could not hold the crowd together for a dark comedy play. But the dream, to be recognized, to be famous, raised it’s head again and it nudged my confidence to act up too.
The day of the performance came and it became the most memorable day of my life till then. The play was well received and my performance became the talk of the college. Unknown to anyone, in the audience sat a parent who was also a casting director for television shows. There is no prize for guessing what ensued.
But, what is a story without conflict. And, the villian in my story was my exceptional performance in 10th grade. It had become a reason for my father’s aspiration; to see me become a doctor, a dream which he had been unable to fulfill for himself. Education and its importance was not unknown to me, and though the new opportunity provided a way to prove myself and all my naysayers wrong, I didn’t have the heart nor conviction to go against my parent’s wishes. Although, the few moments of limelight had given my dream and confidence a well-needed gratification. They went to sleep back again, only to wake up in the next chapter of my life.
“Aanya, you never mentioned about this awesome play you were a part of?” asked my husband, Mihir.
Mihir and I had been married for one and half years. I had finished my MBBS and was now slogging to complete my post-graduation. Recently the advent of WhatsApp and with that the forming of all types of school, college groups had brought my long forgotten play to the fore, through a video sent by my friends.
Mihir was not privy to my secret, because even the thought of it pained my heart and a sense of loss engulfed me. I had made a conscious choice then, but off late, with my residency and the long hours it entailed, I had begun to lose my individuality. I was a doctor to all, sweetheart to my husband, but Aanya to none. My work gave me satisfaction, but my soul felt unsatiated. The dream would not have resurfaced, if not for the fashion show organized at the hospital, as a fund raiser for the new ward. And now; this old video. It seemed stage and glamour beckoned me.
“You are so talented. The play showcases your prowess as an actor. Your awesome stage presence mesmerizes the audience. If I were you, I would have chosen the field of modeling or acting,” Mihir was showering me with praises. His compliments collapsed the emotional dam within me, and I blurted out my secret dream to be famous, also the lost opportunity to be an actor. I had expected Mihir to laugh at my stupidity for nurturing such an unreasonable aspiration. But by the end of my meltdown, he seemed forlorn and deep in thought.
“Aanya, remember your favorite quote, ‘The best way for your dreams to come true, is to wake up.’ You need to wake up and act now. You definitely have the requisite talent.”
“There is no way now, Mihir. I am busy with my education and there is neither time nor energy in me to keep going for these acting or modeling auditions. I have spent too many years to become a doctor and I don’t want to waste my education; for a mirage.”
“Oh My God! I don’t believe this,” thus exclaiming, and this time for real, with tears of joy streaming from my eyes, I proudly wore the crown of Mrs. India.
“I had forever thought of myself as not confirming to the standards of beauty, due to which my self-confidence was always low. I never pursued my dreams for the fear of failing, even when opportunity came knocking. But, this time there was no option to look back, when Mihir, my husband, secretly filled out the registration form for Mrs.India Contest. It was with his persuasion and belief in me that I dared to dream again, balancing my education and my aspiration.
Self-confidence is a superpower. Once you start believing in yourself, magic starts happening. This mantra, has helped me to reach here.”
Finishing my speech as I went backstage; moments of last one year, flashed in my mind. My shocked reaction on knowing about my enrollment for the contest, the exhaustive grooming and coaching sessions; which Mihir enrolled me in, my moments of negativity and Mihir’s constant motivation, the letting go of my own doubts, the building of my self-confidence, the moment I realized that the definition of beauty is not confined to the stereotypes defined by society but encompasses individuality and self-love.
And the culmination of all these moments in crowning glory.
For now, the dream of being famous had been fulfilled, and it may further result in acting offers too, who knows. Afterall, It’s the possibility of having a dream come true, that makes life interesting.
Marian Queen – Title for the most popular girl in the protagonist’s school, awarded at the farewell party.
Chashmish – Someone wearing spectacles.
Jassi Jaisi Koi Nahi – (No one like Jassi) A popular India soap opera telecasted on Indian TV from 2003-2006. Story of a Nerd girl, who made it big in Fashion industry.
Yaar – Hindi endearment for Friend.
A-La- French for in the manner of
Kumbhkaran- Mythological character from Ramayana, known to sleep for 6 months in a year.
Aishwarya Rai- Ms. India, Ms. World 1994. Reigning actress of Bollywood
The best way for your dreams to come true, is to wake up. – Googled, source unknown.
Self-confidence is a superpower. Once you start believing in yourself, magic starts happening. -Googled, Source Unknown.
It’s the possibility of having a dream come true, that makes life interesting.- Paulo Coelho
The above story is an entry into #Aspirations an Artale Greenhorns-2, Feathers Club Exclusive writing event entry.
Check out event guidelines here: https://artoonsinn.com/artale-greenhorns-2/