I used to wonder as to what makes a girl different from a boy?
And I had sincerely believed that at least my younger one was of a different kind as compared to the lot. She is the one who would make fun of all those women and girls who acted in a coquettish manner or let’s say a womanish manner. Ever since her childhood, she was more of a tom boy and less of a girl. No perhaps, I am wrong. She was very much a girl when she was small. I remember when she would put on make-up to brighten her looks and would wrap my Duppattas like a saree and play the mom. But over the years, during her teenage a change came over her and suddenly she became more of a tomboy that a teenager girl with average preferences of that age. Looking back, I am able to see her wearing loose trousers to the market as well at home and was so taken up by the cargo pants that she once asked me as well to switch over to wearing them as they were so much comfortable.
Her dress code was well defined—cargos and a loose fitting top and any thing girlish was out of scope for her. Everyone had become so used to watch her like that. The only feminine feature that she carried was her hair—thick, black and wavy. I loved her hair as I had always dreamed of having such hair.
It was during the time when she was not able to make it to a Medical college despite having worked very hard that she asked me one day—a day before she had to go to the Degree college—“Maa. I want to cut my hairs short.” I was literally taken aback as it was such a shock to me. But as I knew her so well, I was able to see reasons for her impulsive behaviour. She was being cruel to her own self by getting rid of her hair that we all loved. With tears in her eyes, she said, “let me get at least what I have control over.” I had no answer to the pleading look in her pathetic eyes. I silently accompanied her to the parlour where I think we were entering for the first time. It had two parts, one for the ladies and another for the men. She headed towards the men section and asked the in charge there to give her a very short boy cut. I was dumb with surprise but thought not to intervene and let her have her own way, at least this time.
I saw her long tresses falling on the floor rolling down the white sheet wrapped around her. Something was wringing my heart and I thought of the countless times that I had combed those hairs and plaited them and to see them shorn off from the crown was a sheer torture to me. But I didn’t stop her. Later, silently, I collected all those hair and put them in a bag to bring them back home. Even today in some corner of the almirah all those hairs lie secure in a bag.
She became more of a tom boy than she was earlier and started carrying a stiff expression as well on her face. She was basically the same bubbly young girl, so full of life, but had suddenly turned hostile towards anyone who would try sneaking inside her tough exterior. It was only with us, the family, and some very close friends that she would let the appearance fall and be her real self. Boys were just out of question in her life except a few school friends who just loved her for being what she was, an unpretentious girl.
Even when she went to Chandigarh, the most fashionable place in North India, I failed to find any discernible change in her looks as there too she became part of a group of students for whom looks were secondary to substance. Or she was perhaps deliberately putting up a front just only to torture her self. And such was her reaction towards any comment pertaining to looks that she would snub persons making even well intentioned comment about her. I know she snubbed someone when he told her to be careful in what she eats as she had developed dark circles around her eyes!
Now this was not good. A girl has to be a little careful about her looks as well. Her dress code now changed a little as she had in her wardrobe jeans and Kurtas. Knowing her love for Kurtas, I would design and stitch beautiful ethnic Kurtas for her. Perhaps this was a mother’s way of gradually bringing her back to the fold as I wanted her to look pretty in Indian dresses. During her short sojourns home, I would stitch for her suits as well and would wish her to wear them. She would put them on once or twice and then revert back to her own dress code.
On her coming back from Chandigarh she got a teaching assignment in the local degree college, the same where she had gone after her first hair cut. Now suddenly she wanted to appear like a teacher and the first step toward it was wearing of salwar suits. I was happy and got for her new suits. Though she would be wearing those suits but as soon as she would arrive home, she would again change to her old self and would become tom boyish. Her hairs had grown a little and she had now got laser cut—now whatever was the name of the cut—at least it was feminine and this was sufficient for me. Salwar suits were a necessity for her because of her job profile but the other accessories that go along with suites were terribly missing in her appearance.
To lure her into wearing something in her wrists, I got silver bracelets from Mandi for her as I knew about her love for ethnic jewellery. But all these efforts, on my part, were having short term effect but still like a crusader, I went on and on.
This was a time when she had only us as friends. Though we share a very solid bond between us but one needs friends in life to share many things with. Call it chance or providence, but the net connection in our home brought about turmoil in the placid and tranquil environment of our home. She became friendly with someone, a person completely unknown. She changed. And this “someone” was bringing out a subtle but discernible change in her. Was I happy or sad—I don’t know.
The mother in me was happy that at least she had someone she trusted and looked forward to talk to. I was sad also at the same to see her change as despite my best efforts I was not able to bring about a desirable change in her. When she listened to a remark about the dark circles around her eyes, she wanted to do away with them. Many a times I found her to be angry with her own self for paying so much attention to a cursory remark made by this friend.
Leave aside the effect on her physical appearance, she had started listening to his advice regarding her studies as well and I was really alarmed. It is not that she didn’t know about this subtle yet quite obvious change in herself and would at times be angry with her own self. During her recent visit to Chandigarh where she met one of her hostel mates who was engaged to a boy, this gradual change to please someone became very clear to her. And she confessed to me that she felt bad thinking what this girl was doing, like going to a gym etc, was in no way different than what she herself was doing.
She has started growing her hairs, is careful about eating well, getting rid of her dark circles and so much so she would do anything to increase her height, if she could. She, at times, seems angry with herself for this strange change taking over her and finds herself to be no different than other girls she always made fun of.
A part of her wants to change but another part would say why to?
A real Catch 22 situation for her! So I believe that girls would be girls only