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A Reflection of Tomorrow

By Arpita Nandi

I stand in front of the mirror. I expect to see my pretty face reflected in the glass. But then, someone else from within the glass stares back at me; someone who looks uncannily similar to me, someone staring back at me with her defiant, piercing eyes.

Is this a trick of the light? Is the sunlight that streams into my room and falls on the glass, being reflected back the wrong way? I move to my window and draw the curtains before I look into the mirror again. But the apparition remains- her eyes devoid of the sparkle in mine, her cheeks missing the glow on mine, her hair lacking the shine in mine; her lips not curved like my smiling ones… in fact she is frowning. Who is she? A thousand questions regarding her identity bombard my mind. What is this morosely mysterious figure doing in a place where I should be present? The reflection should be mine!! 

And that is when I realize- this is not an anomaly. This is ME. This is how I will look a few years hence- ageing and alone; my broadened hips and sagging breasts reminding me of the past when I was so beautiful, so well formed.

I am a dancing girl- or more euphemistically, an “entertainer”. Everybody knows that a dancing girl does more than just dance, to entertain her clients- I am nothing different.

All men enjoy being with me. They lavish compliments on my beauty and my skill at pleasing them. They keep coming back to me, for I can give them a lot. My slim hips, my well rounded waist and my beautiful face satisfy them. They ignore their wives to be with me. I am like the magnet, capable of attracting them with immense strength. All men feel irresistibly drawn to me. To an outsider, I lead the perfect life- for I have beauty, enough wealth to sustain myself comfortably, no commitments, and of course, so much attention!
But the image in the mirror draws my attention to my future- when I will be beautiful no longer, when I will be drained of my youth. It reminds me of the tomorrow that I don’t want to face, of the beginning of my end. It reminds me that my state will soon be like that of a withered flower, deprived of its nectar. It tells me that the day is not far when I will be sought after no more, when there will be nobody left to care for me. I do not know how much money I will save till then; and if I can sustain myself in the future, for I have nobody to turn to when I will be incapable of earning anymore.

I have known no other world beyond this pleasure house. Right since the time I was a little girl, I’ve been here. This damp, cold building has bee home to me since forever. I am adept at no skill other than that I practice; I know not how the world outside will treat me when I’m out there on my own. I am not a ‘respectable’ woman. I don’t think the world outside will be a bed of roses… In fact I think the thorns themselves will prick me to a rosy red.

There in the distance I hear the church bells chime. They remind me of the promise made by the Son of God, “Knock, and the door shall be opened.” The traveler to Samara had drunk water from the pitcher of Mary Magdalene- the woman with five husbands. Will He accept this unchaste woman as his child too? Will I get to sit at his feet? Will he bless me as he blesses the ‘respectable’ woman? Will he help me steer my boat tomorrow when I will be caught in the tempest? I know not what the scriptures say about this, for I’ve known no religion… I’ve known, and trusted only Him…

About the author: Arpita loves thinking about most things that many people do not. A street-woman's life is one of them. Inspired by a line in one of Ruskin Bond's books, this story was meant to be thought provoking and heart-wrenching at the same time.

 

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