“She walks in beauty, like the night
Of cloudless climes and starry skies;
And all that’s best of dark and bright
Meet in her aspect and her eyes”
After a long time I chanced to read this poem of Lord Byron…and as I went from verse to verse, one face kept emerging ……its been a little over 5 years now, but how can I ever forget that face …..
Bright eyes, …..dusky complexion….her oiled hair tied in a neat pleat, her steady steps with one hand supporting the Basket on her head and the other holding a toddler by the arm….
This was about 8 years back …..I was new to the city and had just moved into an apartment complex in a residential locality ..and for the 3 years that I stayed in the that apartment, my day started with her effervescent smile as she dropped in every morning to deliver fresh vegetables at my door step…she was a regular visitor and almost everyone in the apartment complex knew her…..she shared a special bond with each one of us as her ‘amma’ …”didi….’aunty’ ..or ‘madam’. She had become such an important part of our lives.
Shanti( as she was called ) ran a small temporary veg shack on the pavement near the main gate of our colony.Enterprising that she was…she had a number of permanent clients for whom she did door delivery of fresh veggies every morning, before starting off her shop.
She was no ordinary woman but a living story of grit and determination…..her life had been beset with a series of challenges, struggles and misfortune ….something that her face never betrayed…
Initially, all I knew about her was that she lived in the nearby ‘ basti in a single room with her daughter and husband, but a few months down the line, during a random
conversation with an old neighbour, I got to know her story….Shanti was an uneducated village girl and had moved to the city post marriage…her husband was an auto driver. Life was fine until her husband lost both his legs in an accident …..it was just 6 months into her marriage. Her husbands family did not offer any kind of support. Her own family offered to take her back to the village, but were not willing to support her now disabled husband. This was not acceptable to her. With no other option in sight …she decided to take charge and over night , the coy, village girl had transformed into a fiery, strong woman willing to take on the world at her own terms!
She started doing odd jobs, but soon realized that leaving her husband alone at home for long hours was not a good idea……staying alone was not just physically challenging for him but was also impacting him mentally…he was slowly getting engulfed by depression and self pity. While Shanti always tried to keep-up a cheerful demeanor to help him stay positive….she was acutely aware of the reality, and knew she would have to seek an alternative, one that would involve him. She could not see him going down…..
Within the next few months, with some of her savings and some help from people around , she decided to set up a small vegetable shop ….Her husband sat at the shop while she managed the other stuff.…the most shocking discovery for me that day was that the daughter who was inseparable and trailed her like a shadow was actually not her biological daughter! She had found a baby girl -abandoned at birth and decided to raise it as her own ……this brave soul had done what many of us with all means wouldn’t dare to …she had adopted the child with her whole heart despite her situation! No one who had seen them together could have ever guessed this, that’s the kind of bond she shared with her daughter.Above all , no one ever found her complaining about the daily struggles.
My bedroom balcony faced the street where she sat……..so very often, I found myself mesmerized as I watched her go about her business on the pavement. With the help of her husband , she managed her Enterprise with great dexterity through the afternoon.…helping customers pick the vegetables…weighing, negotiating.In between, also found time to drop her daughter to school…. and pick her up in the afternoon…….( she had admitted her daughter in a private school near by- she had big dreams for her and so wanted to give her the best ). On many a afternoon I had seen the trio having lunch under the shade of the tree… chatting, giggling, laughing like a normal happy family ….oblivious of any struggles and Shanti was the one driving it all!
Here was a simple village girl who charmed the world around her effortlessly ….clad in just a simple worn-out old sari and a face devoid of any kind of makeup. She was a symbol of ‘True Beauty’- her beautiful smile and sparkling eyes reflecting the purity of her soul.. her thoughts …her courage …
In Lord Byron words ……
“One shade the more, one ray the less,
Had half impaired the nameless grace
Which waves in every raven tress,
Or softly lightens o’er her face;
Where thoughts serenely sweet express,
How pure, how dear their dwelling-place.”
Along with many other things, this uneducated young girl had taught me a very important lesson of life…..that real beauty lies in polishing your soul…..it lies in courage , in determination…..in compassion and persistence!!
I believe every woman has TRUE BEAUTY within her in all the roles she plays. For over 18 years across 650 plus salons across the country, Naturals has been helping the Beautiful Indian Woman get more Beautiful.
Today Naturals Salutes the Beautiful Indian Woman.
Presenting Naturals TRUE BEAUTY…http://bit.ly/naturalsOF
Glad to share with my readers that I had written this post for a contest and I won te first prize.
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