The decisive chime of the elevator indicated that I was in the 6th floor. This is where my office is. I step out of the elevator car and gingerly take a step outside the elevator car. I have a walking stick to do the job that my right leg ought to be doing. And the people are staring. Their eyes go from the walking stick to my backpack with its many badges and stuffed animals attached to it. I can sense the range of emotions that emerge from behind their eyes... sympathy, curiosity, disdain... I hoist my bag a little higher up my shoulder as I punch in my employee number. This will make sure I get paid today. Once that is done, I trudge down the corridor, swiping my access card in front of doors, making sure they open up without a problem. It gives me a sense of satisfaction knowing that I am allowed here... that I belong.
And then, I see them. My team waits for me. There are faces that show genuine worry in seeing me walking with the stick in hand. I smile at them. Wouldn't want them worrying now! Mani... my little brother - merely a child... he smiles as he pushes chairs out of my way, while cracking a joke at my limping in the most light-hearted way. Hari.... my soul sibling grins as we share the 'yep-I've-survived-a-torn-ligament-bitch-bring-it-on!' smile. But then, there are those who don't share the same amount of sincerity.
One of them approaches me and the first question thrown my way is,
"Sensei, you're not wearing make-up. It makes your face look weird. You don't look good."
I smile back, "I'm sorry. I didn't know your approval on how I looked was needed to progress through the day today, sir."
I see that the remark has done its job. The person's smile falters a bit and they then hastily add about what they really meant. They say I look sleep deprived. Yes, try sleeping with one leg burning like it's been dipped in flaming petrol, why don't you? They say I have dark circles. Yes... So? And when they run out of excuses, they scuttle back to their seats, pretending to go back to working. But I know they're still smarting and seriously, I couldn't give a shit!
And it gets me thinking. The other day, after days of shuttling between the hospital, for my really ill father and work, for my daily bread, I was left with absolutely no energy to put my face on. And that was when people started telling me how I ought to doll up a little. Now, as much as I don't have anything against people giving others advice, I always tend to see if the timing is appropriate. But I let that slide.
When my father did get better and I was able to better afford time to actually put mascara to lash, the same people came about and jibed about how different I looked and how there were now layers of face paint. The same people who seemed to think of it as a cardinal sin to come to office without make up now ridiculed me for putting stuff on my face. I let that one slide too.
And now this... This was strike no. 3 and they were out... they had better start walking back to the bench!
I know we live in a society where women are forced to either doll up or apologize for dolling up. I am in no way against make up or for it. I am against people telling me what I should be doing with my face. I will decide when I'll put my make up on. I'll decide whether I wear pretty earrings for the day. I'll be the sole reason why I dress up. I don't dress up to impress my colleagues. I don't smell like some of them do. I don't wear shoddy clothing. My hair is not all over the place... so, why can I not decide when I need to put that lipstick on. And when I decide to put it on, why do I need to feel sorry about it?
There's just no pleasing some people... and then again, I don't need to. That's the good thing of being me!