PEOPLE ARE LOOKING
“What are people going to say?”
Is it my fault that people are looking?
Let me live..
At least let me breathe!
Good looks are often seen as an advantage but growing up it was the bane of my life. I would get unwanted attention if I dressed up so I dressed like a tomboy most of the time and put no effort into my daily look. What a paradox - it's a problem to be too beautiful.
It must sound absurd, but yes, being ‘beautiful’ was a problem for me back then. I would spend my time making myself look ‘ugly’, just to hide from my mother’s lethal stare, when at that tender age all I should have been doing is learning how to be me - confident, bold and beautiful.
I was described as that skinny girl who was naturally blessed with curves, the one who had the long chestnut locks against those flattering cat eyes and olive skin tone. It was a rare combination on a Bengali girl. But, I wasn't allowed to embrace my flawless skin or flaunt my ‘god gifted’ shape, instead I fixed my walk so that there was no hip swinging, my head was straight and my hair was always tied back into a ponytail. My mother felt it was necessary to bully me into a box where there was no sign of beauty.
In case I’m coming across ‘vain’ let me reassure you that I never thought I was good looking though - just an ordinary, confused girl who wanted to be able to walk freely and not worry about being criticised by “the mother”.
You may be reading this and thinking is this girl serious? I mean, who doesn't want to be beautiful or who doesn't want attention right? But, my childhood was almost destroyed because other people were “looking” at me.
I never understood why Ma was so tough on me, in my imagination I had painted the picture of a cruel and wicked step mother. Funny how little girls think – I was convinced my father had remarried after my ‘real mother’ had died.
Ma, by the way is stunning. I once came across an old photo that made my jaw drop. I actually thought I was looking at an old school Bollywood actress. Those subtle features, that sharp nose and photogenic face made me slightly envious. Her floral saree was gracefully pinned up against her hourglass figure. She was a woman of class who knew exactly how to pull off that back-combed-quiff and dramatic winged eyeliner.
Although she never really sat me down to explain her fears, I now understand what my mother was trying to protect me from - the narrow minded and judgmental ‘Evil Eye’ of the Bengali Community.
My mother didn’t want me in the limelight because she knew what it was like, however she also did not know how to communicate this message to me, so I grew up thinking she was the enemy! (I know, don’t we all!)
We once met mums schoolteacher who claimed I was a spitting image of her, it only occurred to me in my later years that this ‘compliment’ was my mums worse fears. She didn’t want me to be like her, she didn’t want me to live in her footsteps - she too was beautifully cursed.
Culture can be suffocating and the fear of getting a bad name in society forces parents to be over-protective. We live in the 21st century but the thought of being shamed still exists. Parents obviously have the best interest of their children at heart, however being influenced by external people can lead them to behave unreasonably.
I was taller than the all the other girls in my ‘family’ and breaking the stereotypes. A victim to early age puberty and as if that wasn’t enough, I developed breasts and grew into a woman’s body far too soon – my mum’s worst nightmare!
Eventually, I broke free a little and realized that it was not cool to let mum dictate my wardrobe. It started off with hair straighteners and by 15 the real diva came out.
Mums qualms amplified but I was too busy making my wings look pretty and all I wanted to do was embrace this newfound reputation. I didn’t care about which auntie would judge me or what anyone had to say anymore. Mum was nothing more than a broken radio and I was a teenager that wanted to enjoy the moment.
Wherever I went, I drew attention, I was still ‘Shafiq’s daughter’ - the beautiful tall one. This did not faze me because I lived in an innocent bubble, I knew my boundaries and all I had to do was concentrate on being happy and being the perfect daughter. I was less constricted, and had no worries, but there was always unspoken realities - like the fact that at some point, my parents would choose ‘prince charming’.
Except, destiny decided to bring this ‘prince charming’ sooner then I ever imagined – the truth was this attention and popularity that I was receiving drew me closer to the outlandish.