She didn’t want the dark chocolate sweater; her mother had forced it on her because it was warm and practical. It made her look one color, dark and black. It was her curse to be born so dark in a state that kept on harping and kept a high value over white, fair skin. How was she ever going to win Ranjan?
She wanted to marry him, set up home and never go back to Bihar.
Nothing seemed to work for her; she worked as a maid and didn’t know how to attract him. Beena was a diminutive young girl happily renamed as Nikki as thousands of young girls were called in rural Punjab. Whatever be the size or the age or the color they were called Nikki fondly, maybe it was arrogance on the part of the Punjabis as they couldn’t be bothered to call them by their names or it was just a way to make them theirs, they called them Nikki. I guess it was love, and affection and a reason to embrace them as their own. However, Nikki was growing finally from the four feet something to four and five inches but she was growing in years and age and not in height. She knew who wanted what and where everything was kept in the household. She also knew about every temperament and about every one’s mannerism. She was the subtle thermometer gauge in the house, and kept everyone smiling, catering to all and sundry. Nikki’s morning smiles and her salutation started the day and she was like a little butterfly making smiles and giving them.
Beena didn’t see what she was, all she knew she was dark and black and she cursed the day she was born. The village shopkeeper had convinced her that if she could spare money for a tube and if she applied it over a period of time, she could lighten her skin color.
Beena diligently kept on saving money over the months to buy the angrezi tube and not let her family members know about, she knew that getting the tube would be magical and she could lighten her skin.
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Her dreams did come true coupled with Santoshi Ma’s fast that she kept regularly every Thursday and the application of the tube, Ranjan started looking at her.
He smiled a bit; she made sure she was out in the lawn when he came to give some stuff inside. The quickening of the smiles, the catching of the glance, the meetings of the hearts, made life seem better. Her life had taken a turn all was looking good.
After talking one day on the sly, they made plans to meet outside in the field the next Sunday. She thought about nothing else, but she knew she had to wear eye catching clothes, a brighter sweater, shawl and she thought she would wear silver earrings and her anklets that made the merriest sound!
And, she planned to take jalebis with her self when she went to meet him. Anything , to counter the dark skin of hers.Sunday dawned, and she got ready, washed her hair, made it in to a pony tail and she wore her anklets, left the cardigan away wrapping her shawl around her small body and she walked the unlevelled path to the far away fields.
She waited for him there with her offering, and he came there with smiles and started talking to her and before she knew it, she was ambushed by a few of his friends.
The next day she was recognized by her mother’s shawl that she had sneaked away to look pretty.
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No one knew what had happened or who had done this act but on the pyre at least she wore a new sweater courtesy of the people she worked for her. Death was kinder to her.