Bengal is the land of beauty. A red Sindoor bindi on forehead, broad red bordered cotton taant saari , a bunch of keys tied with the pallu hanging down, shaankha-polaa rattling on the wrists and a pretty smile completes into a divine beauty soaked in simplicity and captivates the eyes. Being a fan of Bengali beauty, I had always pictured myself into a very similar Bengali get up. Every girl (be it a village girl or an urban girl) anticipates her image as a grown up when she would turn out to be a beautiful feminine figure playing different roles as a wife, as a daughter-in-law and as a mother. Again then, no one admires old age. That is quite obvious too. Who would like to be weak and weary, wearing thousands of ugly wrinkles? But as we say-‘Beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder’, I once was able to look at the beauty in the wrinkled face of an old lady.
If I am right, it was fifth of the May of this year, around 4:30 pm. I was out on the local bus heading towards the market. I had to buy gifts for my parents (their marriage had completed twenty-five glorious years) and I was going home the next day. The bus was overly crowded as usual but luckily I had found a seat for myself, a window seat. As per my habit I was peeping out of the bus window to get a proper view of the people, houses and hoardings around (and also to get some fresh air). It was almost halfway of my journey when an old lady (Very old I must say, I tried to guess if she had a family or not and then her sindoor caught my sight. She was married and probably has had some children). Then I looked off her, again peeping out of the window, busy with my unique style of meditation. The bus was awfully crowded now. There wasn’t any room left for even a single person and the bus conductor kept on pushing in people (as if it wasn’t a bus but a black hole). The lady beside me was getting uncomfortable due to the passengers standing beside her. She caught hold of my right hand, and made me feel uncomfortable too. I wished to shirk off my arm to release it from her clutch but my sight fell on her hands, so weak they seemed, full of wrinkles. Her hands were dark and felt hard and strong. I made out her to be a working lady who must had gone through hard times. She wore a white saari with broad red border and she had her head veiled. I got lost in my thoughts. I had seen similar wrinkles in their making on my mum’s face too. She is also growing older, I realized. But I had not found any change in how does mum look in these twenty years I have been with her. It saddened me. I knew my mother will also get as old as the lady who was sitting beside me. She would also lose her facial beauty and charm. Once, my mum was a cheerful and playful young girl brimming with hope and desire just as me. And then I put the spotlight on me. If my mother is getting older I will too. Time will draw lines on my face too. I will also get weak inching towards the end.
I started to stare at the old lady sitting beside me. Perhaps, she did not care if I was looking at her or not. Perhaps, she hardly cared about anything around. She was severe, serious, not composed but carrying some kind of divinity (I think this was the result of my thoughts). Years ago, she must have been a girl as me. She must have had anticipated her image as a lady when she was young. Marriage must have been a turning point in her life, receding far away of her parents (whom she must have loved a lot) and devoting her body and soul to a stranger. She looked like a responsible lady, carrying money in her pallu. Hardships of her life were visible in her severity. I was growing as a young lady, learning something new at every step of my life. She was also learning, growing older. She was beautiful, I thought. A strong feeling of oneness overshadowed my mind. I felt she was just like me and I am just like her-‘A woman in making’.