Where credit is due: I thank Dove and Yahoo for accepting my entry as an application to the contest. All readers please visit Yahoo! Real Beauty and join the conversation.
In December of 1998, I went on a School sponsored excursion to Orissa with several distinguished members of my 6th grade class. The train journey that marked the start of a truly momentous vacation began from the small town of New Jalpaiguri in West Bengal and ended in Bhubaneshwar, Orissa.
During the journey, my eyes crossed an unfamiliar face of a girl sitting beside a classmate of mine. They were sitting painfully close to each other as if joined at the hips; I eventually discovered that she was in fact related to the classmate by sisterhood.
I spent the next few days trying to get her to like me by allocating all portions of my tiny, otherwise unused 6th grade brain, to doing all things possible in romance. Young love as it was, stole my sleep, ate my food, made me week and desperate for her attention. I went to lengths trying to occupy every spotlight created by her glance and reserved a spot for her in every photograph I clicked as a tourist.
I won, she noticed me and we fell into love. On the very last day, her goodbye came in the shape of a parting kiss to my cheeks, a feeling that refused to leave my face for several weeks.
The following year, I graduated to the 7th grade and she was admitted into the 6th. Cupid had held her at gunpoint for several months after the excursion forcing her towards me, she had to give in.
We celebrated a glorious year and decided to take the next December excursion to Nepal.
The bus made its overnight journey to Kathmandu through a hilly meandering roadway frequently visited by cold winds. We spent most of the night talking about the past, present and the future. At some point that night, while everyone else is the bus was fast asleep, she asked me if I really loved her. She prefaced this question with the assurance of her love for me.
At this point, I took a long contemplative walk across the aisle between the two rows of seats in the bus and came back with the answer, which to her dismay turned out to be “No.”
A few months later, I graduated to the 8th grade and she took the 7th by trading places with cupid. The gun had switched hands and almost every eligible candidate in school began to dote upon her uncontrollably. To my knowledge, she was also circuitously responsible for several disputes between couples who considered themselves, to that point, matches made in heaven. As she gained more and more craze, I got more and more crazy. She had blossomed to become a full size apple pie and I wanted a piece. It was more than just obvious that she was not going to fall for it again, I had hurt her more deeply than anything else I’d hurt before and this particular wound was not going away anytime soon.
I spent the next several years – right until the point I left school after completing my 12th – trying to make up for the loss but it never happened. She was through with me for life, she was.
This particular ‘guilty narrative’ is unlike any other. Real beauty, as the question suggests did appear at least once in this entire story if not more.
On that bus, all those years ago as I took that stroll between the rows, I made an agreement with my imaginary friend and lover, who although unreal [but very much real] that I would not betray her by committing myself to loving anybody else. I chose to deny the love of the very first real person for the very first unreal person in my life.
‘Real beauty’ [as I see it] is knowing that twelve years later, while everything has changed and everybody, including her, has moved on – I’ve still managed to keep my end of the agreement.