Do you remember when you were little how you idolised your parents to be your superheroes and how desperately you wanted to be like them? Nothing they did ever fell short of a miracle and you could never dream to be anything lesser than them. I remember when I was young and every time I saw my mother all dolled up in her bright dresses – salwar kameez made of silk and banarasi sarees – adorned with matching round bindis and bangles made out of glass, those black high pencil heels that matched almost every dress she owned, I used to be dazzled by how beautiful she always looked in whatever she wore. I so wanted to always look like her, wear her dresses, put on her makeup on my face, get my earlobes pierced so that I could put on her earrings and walk around like a supermodel in her high heels.
As little girls, we aspire to be like our moms – dressing up like them. And often slipping into their heels! But, as we grow up, we realise perhaps the shoes are too large to fill.
My mother is a passionate woman and from what I remember from my grey childhood memories is that she loved to dress up. Her closet was full of beautiful dresses for all occasions; family functions and get-togethers, her own kitty parties and outings, my parent teacher’s meetings and her appointments with the doctors and her beautician. She loved to look beautiful and had her own style for the same and I remember her huge collection of heels and slippers and sandals and ballerinas that remained hidden in the lowest drawer of the chest of drawers that adorned her critically clean room where everything was always at its right place and she could find everything even in the dark. I always had this peculiar fascination to look like her, as beautiful and sophisticated as she was but I was way too young to be anything similar or even close and I remember running away wearing her slippers every time she was doing her puja or resting during the afternoons. The idea of wearing what belonged to her gave me shivers of joy as I felt a step closer to being her. Stepping into her shoes made me feel older, grown-up and gave me a sense of authority that I never had as a child.
As a young adolescent, my mother’s shoes held a lot more appeal to me than anything else. I would insist on wearing her heels and ballerinas every time I went out with my friends or had an event to attend. I apparently forced her into lending me her heels for my farewell at school where I wanted to walk the ramp in her green banarasi saree. I thought wearing her saree and jewellery and her heels would make me look more like her, dazzling like bright stars and nearly perfect.
I saw my mother last month and it was almost three years. I had settled abroad about five years ago and I remember her seeing me off at the airport. I remember her exactly as she had always been, blue salwar kameez, round blue bindi and her black heels. Those were not the same pencil heels that she always loved to wear. Her knees had begun to give up and she had switched to shorter platform heels. Yet she looked as dazzling as ever and I looked at her smiling at me, tears brimming in her eyes.
When I met her last month I was taken by surprise when I saw her wearing sports shoes for the first time in my life. I couldn’t suppress my laughter as I hugged her and mocked at her asking her where were her heels and her face had dropped. She told me she had serious problems with her knees and she could no more carry high heels or even at slippers and her orthopedist had strongly recommended her to wear sports shoes.
I was getting ready for my cousin’s wedding that evening when I looked at myself in the mirror wearing a red banarasi saree, a round bindi on my forehead, red bangles and a haircut pretty much similar to that of my mom. I badly resembled the younger version of my mother. It was as if it was her standing in front of the mirror and not me. A lump formed in my throat as I began looking for my pair of heels as I was already running late for the function and everyone was waiting for me when my mother came calling for me. She was wearing a yellow salwar kameez paired with same black sports shoes that I saw her wearing that morning. Something broke inside me as I said, “You look lovely, mumma.” And she smiled at me and told me that everyone was running late because of me. I asked her if she saw my heels as I couldn’t nd them and she told me that she had seen Arya, my six years old daughter wearing them an hour ago and left the room, limping.
I stared at the spot where she had been standing before she limped out of the room wondering how time had played its game and how I had become all that I had always wanted to be and how my own daughter had replaced my role. It was not a moment of joy as fear dawned on me and I realised did I really want to step into my mother’s shoes anymore?
May be a couple of decades ago I would have given away anything to be anything near my mom, but today I was scared of my own future. Did I really want to be like her? I de nitely wanted to adopt her character and personality but was I ready to adopt her shoes? But somewhere inside I knew that I will have to step into her shoes, may be just metaphorically or may be in reality too. May be I could see my own future in my mother as I saw a younger version of me in Arya asking me every now and then if she could wear my dresses, put on my makeup or try my heels.
I wiped away the tear that had trickled down my face and went looking for Arya. I was just too late.
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