All That Matters - 3

All That Matters - 1 | All That Matters - 2

I thought of him often but it never showed up on my face. I never called him and he did not call me either. Though I looked beautiful everyday, special occasions were the days when I got the chance to flaunt my beauty, rather beauty accessories. One such chance came my way in form of my colleague’s wedding. He was not a close friend of mine but then he admired me. He specially invited me for the wedding and I could not refuse.

Few hours before the wedding, I spent some time in front of my wardrobe deciding which dress to wear for the occasion. I saw my mom through the mirror; she had a strange look in her eyes as if she pitied me. She shook her head and walked away. I finally selected the dress and matching jewelry to go with it. I kept it on the bed and walked to the washroom. When I walked out after freshening I heard a knock on the door. It was open and dad was standing outside. He asked me whether I had time for a talk before I got ready for the wedding. I invited him and sat on the bed. I knew what he was going to talk about. The father-daughter talk was going to be all about the change in me.
“You look beautiful” he said as he pulled a chair to sit across me.
I simply smiled. I was not wearing any make up and if I looked beautiful it was only because I was his daughter and fathers always found their daughters to be beautiful. But what he said next surprised me …
“I wanted to talk to you about something important”
“Yes dad?”
“I like the way you are … now.”
I looked at him in the eye.
He took my hand in his
“I am not against the things that you do everyday but I want to ask just one question…”
Do you feel beautiful from inside when you try to look pretty?
I stared at dad as he continued
“I just want to remind you that you are the most beautiful person from within. Don’t ever let that change.”
He got up, kissed my forehead and walked out of the room.
That was my dad … no explanations, no questions, just a few sentences … but these sentences were enough to change someone’s entire life.
They had changed my mother’s life when he had stopped her from getting into a wrong relationship and then she married him. Never was there any occasion when I had overheard them fighting over some matter. They never fought; they had unspoken understanding between them.

Do you feel beautiful from inside when you try to look pretty? Dad’s words echoed in my mind as I got ready for the wedding.

I wore the prettiest dress in my wardrobe … I saw my dad in the mirror telling me that I was not looking beautiful
I put on the make up and looked at the mirror expecting to see him there and tell me that I was beautiful, but he simply shook his head.
I put on the matching necklace and earrings and looked at the mirror, dad’s image whispered No and disappeared. And for the first time I realized what I had been doing. I was trying to be what I could never be. I could never succeed in looking prettier from outside if I was killing the beautiful soul within me. What was I doing all this for? Just because Shekhar had said I looked beautiful when I left my hair open and applied lipstick?

I brushed my hair and let it fall on my shoulders. I sprayed perfume and looked at the mirror for the last time before walking out of the room. This time I saw my own image shaking its head.

At the wedding I stood alone watching people going on the stage to wish the couple. I had given my gift to my colleague as soon as I reached the venue. Actually there was no need for me to stay there but he insisted that I wait for some time because someone really important was about to arrive. We had a deal to make with that person and meeting him like this would make things easier. My colleague told me that I was looking beautiful and if I met this person today he might very well be impressed with me and that may help us to finalize the deal. I did not know how to react. Was he trying to use my appearance to impress someone? I felt cheap but then I could not blame anyone. I was doing this to myself and doing it on purpose.

I looked around, waiting for a crazy guy to step out of nowhere, stand in front of me and say to me that I was looking beautiful. I could already feel his eyes all over my body. I had almost decided to walk away when I heard a familiar voice
“What is wrong? You are not looking all that beautiful today?”
I turned my head and saw Shekhar standing to my left. I was genuinely surprised.
”Hi! What a pleasant surprise!” I said.
I managed a smile and he asked me again, “What’s wrong?”
“Nothing … why?”
“Something is missing”
“And … what is that?”
“You are not looking beautiful today.”
“Am I not? People here have different opinion. They find me the most beautiful person around” I said running my fingers through my hair.
“Are you feeling beautiful from within?”
I was shocked when he asked me this question. For a moment I thought I saw my dad in him.
“What did you just say?”

“Come with me…” Shekhar said pulling me at my arm. He took me out of the wedding hall and stared at me.
“You are not the same person I knew. The girl I knew was simple and beautiful from inside. This girl is desperately trying to look pretty but her soul is hollow”
Now, I was annoyed. Who was he to tell me what I was trying to do and that my soul is hollow?
“Did you not tell me at Priya’s wedding that I was looking beautiful that day?”
“Yes I did”
“And did you not add that you never knew I was so beautiful?”
“Yes, true.”
“Does it not mean that on the wedding day you found me beautiful because I had left my hair open and had worn fancy dress and put on lipstick?”
This did not make any sense to me …
“So, is this what it was all about? You were hurt when I said that I never knew you were so beautiful?”
I simply stared at him.
“That day when I said I never knew you were so beautiful I meant to say that I had never seen you so happy before that day. That day there was something special in you. There was a special glow on your face! Your face was so radiant as if you were really happy about something. Remember, I always asked you whenever we met that I felt there was something always bothering you? At Sudhir’s wedding that look was not there on your face. Yes, it is true that you look beautiful when you leave your hair open but that day I was talking of your inner beauty.”

I remembered…
I was indeed very happy that day because I had told my parents about Shekhar and they had given their consent and I was going to propose marriage to him that night. So all the while Shekhar was talking about the happiness that was evident on my face? So my mom was right when she said that I had failed to understand what Shekhar had meant to say? My dad was right when he said that I was very beautiful from the inside and somehow that was changing? And I wasted so many precious months of my wonderful future with Shekhar only because of my assumption? Wrong assumption …

I was so deep in thoughts that I never saw Shekhar walking close to me. It was only when he placed his hand on my cheek that I felt his presence.
I looked at him and he smiled.
I managed a smile
“I love you” he said and I went in his arms.
“I love you too. I always have.” I whispered as I held him tight.
We stood there in each other’s embrace till we heard footsteps coming in our direction. We walked back inside and towards the dinner tent. The newly wed couple was having dinner while when we reached the food stalls. My colleague called out my name and waved to me. He was shocked to see that I had tied my hair in a bun and according to him I was looking all messed up. When he saw Shekhar a few steps away from me he asked me whether Shekhar had seen me like this and I said yes.
He then told me that Shekhar was the client we were making a deal with and seeing my like this Shekhar might have been upset.
“Just shut up and eat your food.” I whispered. I smiled at him and walked away.
I walked up to Shekhar and put my arm around his and turned to look at my colleague. He looked like he was about to faint.

After having dinner we both went for a walk. After some distance we took a cab and reached our favorite spot. It was late and there were only a few people at the seashore. We walked for a long time holding each other’s hand. We selected a spot near the sea and sat for a while. As I rested my head on his shoulder everything seemed to be so right!
We both were silent. The silence was broken by the ringing of my mobile. It was dad on the phone.
“Hi dad”
“Just wanted to make sure you are fine. It’s late you know.”
“I have never been better dad. I am with Shekhar.”
“Oh. Bye then.”
“I love you.”
“I love you too. Come home soon.”

After a while Shekhar came home to drop me. Dad opened the door for us and invited Shekhar inside. Shekhar came in and after hesitating for a while he asked my father whether dad would let him marry me.”
My dad simply smiled.

That night I realized that beauty is all that matters. But it was the beauty of the soul and not the external appearance.

The next day was a brand new day. I was back to normal. When I got ready to meet Shekhar and walked out of my room dad was sitting in the living room and he looked up from the newspaper he was reading.
The smile on his face told me that he liked what he saw. He liked the change in me
“You are looking beautiful. Stay that way” he said and smiled.
I walked up to him and kissed him on his cheek and whispered “Thanks

Fiction by Arti Honrao

Books by Arti Honrao

Depression is REAL

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