She hated it. The sound of the rain was a terrible, ugly noise. Her heart could tolerate a little drizzle, but pouring rain caused her pain. When the others curled up with their mug of hot chocolate and a book, she’d wish her ears were silent. The cruel thunder pierced through her, as she hoped that her homeless friends outside had found some shelter.
When Honey was done, her father showed her how to dry his hair using their hair dryer. She watched him studiously. All of a sudden, they both leaped at the mirror – Honey’s father’s brown hair had turned red! Poor honey ran to see what was in the bottles. Yes, she had made a mistake. It was some kind of mehendi that her mother used once. Honey felt terrible. “You allowed me to practice on you and look at what I did,” she cried.
“It’s alright,” her father said. “I like this new look,” he joked. So Honey finished drying his hair without burning it just before her mother returned. She found them standing in front of the big mirror. “What have you both been up to?” Veeroo was there too. They both looked curious.
“Practice makes perfect.” That’s what the art teacher at school repeated every class. Honey knew that she needed to practice more before she opened her salon. So she invited her cousin Mohua to visit her for a facial and nail painting. “Don’t tell my mother,” she warned the older girl. Her father’s red hair had been a disaster, but he had kept Honey’s secret.
So the next time that her mother went out to visit her grandparents, Mohua came over. They went straight to the bathroom because Honey was scared of making a mess on her mother’s dresser. “Alright, time for your facial,” she announced.
Mohua was a quiet girl. She closed her eyes while her little cousin put a mixture of sandalwood powder and rosewater on her face. It was something that her mother had talked about on the phone with a friend. “Just add some rosewater to the powder for oily skin,” she had said.
“Are you almost done?” Mohua asked.
“Yes. Don’t open your eyes or talk. Wait till it dries,” Honey scolded.
Honey kept on touching the mask to see if it was dry. When it was dry enough, she wiped it off carefully with a wet small towel. Then she ran to her mother’s room to get the pink bottle that she used for her face every morning after her bath. It said Face Lotion on it. The second practice customer liked her suddenly brighter face. Veeroo, who had been watching the whole time, wagged his tail. Now it was time for the nail painting.
Honey went back to her mother’s room to get the purple nail polish. That was the nicest colour. She asked Mohua to put her feet up on a chair. Honey put polish on all the fingers one by one. She tried her best to stay within the lines, but she couldn’t. She was upset.
“I don’t think anybody will want to come to my beauty salon,” she said sadly. Her cousin asked her to stop feeling bad. “Come on. Keep on trying.” Honey tried again. She improved.
Mohua got up to put on her shoes and leave when they heard the doorbell. Her mother was back. Her father knew about the practice session, so he tried to keep her in the living room. Honey managed to help Mohua get out the door after they had put all her mother’s things where they belonged.
“Mother, how are Dadu and Dida doing?” Honey went into the room and asked.
Her mother stood up. Honey noticed that her toes were not painted anymore. Her fingers were plain as well. Plus, her hair was not shining and her face was sweaty. She handed a little pouch to Honey. It had a rainbow of nail paints inside it! Before Honey could ask her anything, , she said, “Let’s go upstairs. I want to be your first customer.”
First published in TeleKids (An ABP Group publication)
Honey was the only person in her family who hated the summer holidays. Her mother was happy because she did not have to go to school to teach French classes. Her father was happy that all of them could play Snakes and Ladders together. And even Veeroo the dog was pleased. It would be nice to have everyone’s attention on him all day.
Honey believed that the long vacation was a waste of time. “Mother, can’t you tell the other teachers to ask for a shorter holiday?” She asked hopefully each year.
“Silly child! Your classmates are enjoying these five weeks. You should too,” her mother would reply with a laugh. But Honey was not convinced.
“Mother, most of them go on cool trips. Like Aditi is going to Goa and Jit’s parents are taking him all the way to Thailand. We never go anywhere,” she complained.
That evening, Honey’s mother went out. When she came back, she looked different. Her skin was glowing. Her hair was shining. It was tied up like a movie star’s hair. Even her mother’s feet looked unusual as the nails were painted dark red. Honey could not stop staring.. Her mother was not acting different though. She came in and put her bag on the counter. Then she took out her phone to check for missed calls and messages. After replying to one, she looked up at Honey. The sight of her shocked, round eyes, made her laugh loudly. “What happened,” she asked. “Do I look nice?”
Honey giggled. “You look so beautiful, mother! Where did you go?”
“You remember where you got your haircut last time?” Her mother looked amused. Honey said yes. “Well, I went to the same place,” her mother explained. “I have to attend a special lunch tomorrow,” she added. Honey nodded. She wanted to grow up as soon as possible so that she could do such fun things. Haircuts were never this interesting.
So when her mother was out for her lunch invitation, Honey asked her father, “Daddy, may I wash and comb your hair today please?” Her father looked surprised. He asked her if his hair looked dirty. She said no. “I just want to practice,” she said.
“Practice for what, Honey?” He seemed confused.
“For my beauty salon,” she told him.
“Which beauty salon?” Her father was very serious.
“My own beauty salon, Daddy. The one that I will start soon.”
Her father patted her head and left her for a minute to get towels and his comb. Then Honey asked him to wait. She guided him to the bathroom sink after she had kept a chair in front of it. Shampoo and conditioner bottles, a hair serum and the comb were arranged in a line. Honey’s practice customer sat down. She placed a big towel around him, wrapping up his arms somehow. He could not move his arms now. “This isn’t how they do it at other beauty salons,” Honey thought. Then she removed the towel and wrapped it around her father properly. She felt grown up.
In the next ten minutes, Honey put shampoo and conditioner in her father’s hair and washed it out too. “Am I doing it correctly, Daddy,” she asked him more than once. He nodded each time. Honey used her fingers to massage his head just like they did at the beauty salon that she had visited last time. When she was done, Honey wrapped another towel around her father’s head. She was trying to follow the few magazines that her mother read. They had lots of pictures of grown up girls getting their hair set and makeup done. There were also pictures of them exercising and eating fruits and vegetables. She liked those pictures.
First published in TeleKids (An ABP Group publication)
It pricked her like a needle, but the pain was different. It was sudden like the needle and a tiny stab at first. Then it felt bigger and greater than she could describe to any other person. It was no new discovery that grief hit people hard. In fact, she had expected difficulty as she thought often of life and death. As she cried tears of the loudest variety, screaming to God or whoever else was responsible for this fate, she knew that her childhood was over.
Numbers made her anxious. She’d never been great at math. Shapes reminded her of geometry or trigonometry or whatever that class had been called. Decades down the lifeline, she still had the same childish reactions. So that day when her editor asked her to write an article for the magazine, she grinned too widely. Then she did her happy dance in the ladies’ room. Words were her thing.