#SHEseries: Behind the Peacock Mask


I love to see a young girl go out and grab the world by the lapels. Life’s a bitch. You’ve got to go out and kick ass — Maya Angelou

SHE looks at her reflection in the oval mirror of her In Houz Idabelle Sheesham Dresser. Its contemporary drawers with pull-out brass nobs give her boudoir niche a classic touch. What an absolute loot, for just 200 Egyptian pounds, from the “moving out sale” her Dutch gal pal had last week over Cappuccinos and Stroopwafels. The spilt Dior Smile 552 stain in the third drawer can easily be covered with the red velvet cut piece saved from last year’s Christmas craft workshop for class moms, she tells herself. And as for the scratches where her friend’s Shih Tzu had gnawed, well, they were barely visible because of the clever light interplay. She is very pleased with herself right now.

Eighteen years of marriage and expat living have taught her how to balance her soaring aspirations with economic ground realities. Wasn’t so to begin with. She clearly remembers the very first time she picked up a “second-hand” bunk bed with Bangkok bhats saved over months as the money transfer for her sister-in-law’s dowry (ya…ya no point beating about the bush) had completely drained the family kitty. The antique gold kasu haram and the polki matha patti, along with the solitaire ring for the NRI groom had pushed their US budget holiday by at least another two years among other things. That was when she realised the use of the “used.”

Over the years, she acquired more and more as she perfected the art of keenly observing and calculating the net worth of individuals and their things, and accordingly cultivating friendships. Starting with the sturdy leather-upholstered sofas and mango-wood double beds to fancy woolen carpets, her favourite French Oreilles High Wingback Chair and all the tastefully selected wall adornments. In fact, pretty much everything in her rented four-bedroom apartment, just a street away from the posh golf course villas, was courtesy floating expats at dirt cheap prices. Except for the Hussain. Now that was the one thing she OWNED. So what if it was a 6″x 6″ hurriedly scribbled horse silhouette in monotone signed by the great master himself in bold strokes. It was an original. Her pride and joy. A reminder of the times when life was one big party at the Bombay gymkhana. When she and Venu had the world at their feet. The perfect power couple looking forward to living their dreams in foreign shores.

It’s 4 pm, she shifts her wandering gaze back to herself. And the mirror does not lie. Standing in front is a typical 40-yr-old matron! The baggy brown grandma nightie barely reaches her calves as the folds of her middle-age belly press against the front. The flabby arms and the hint of a double chin jar her self image. Her ankles look a tad swollen too. And when did “my knuckles get this hideous dark shadow?” But the face. Ah the face. Yes its a little chubby by conventional standards, but smooth as a baby’s bottom. Even at 40. No fine lines. No crow’s feet. No freckles like her stick thin gora friends. Thanks to the rakt chandan-haldi ubtan she’s been using for years. A beauty recipe passed down generations. And the hair. Her crowning glory. Lush and wavy. Another genetic hand-me-down. Years of straightening and curling had slightly dulled their glossy blackness, but nothing that a session with the Loreal experts couldn’t fix. So here she is after a morning at the beauty parlor. Long auburn waves fashioned after her secret idol Adele. Nails painted a glittery blue-green to go with the theme. Oh yes, she still has it!

Chura liya hai tumne jo dil ko…..Humming an old Asha Bhosle number she begins the transformation. Deft long fingers apply make-up in professional strokes. First the fake Chanel foundation is brushed to the perfect hazel tone. Then the rouge, eye shadow and lipstick mixed just right to get the sapphire-emerald glint along with the matching fake eye-lashes. Hmmmm…. not bad at all! That was a face which could confidently carry the chintzy feather earrings picked up last summer from Shoppers Stop.

Flinging her tent-like nightie aside, she gears up to look at her naked self. Really look at herself… warts and all…. one last time. A sigh escapes her. But she recovers and reaches out for her beloved Marks and Spencer waist-cinching, tummy-tucking body sculptor. Suddenly the folds and the flaps and the flab are magically moulded into a perfect voluptuous seamless, matte finish. And a NEW woman emerges from the shadows. Her chiffon masquerade ball gown just glides over the new her in a snug fit, beautifully complimenting her semi-precious peacock neck piece, a Tiffany & Co  rip off.

To complete the peacock look, she slides her neatly pedicured feet into strappy rhinestone stilettos. And struts! Oh yeah… Where’s my Dolce bag?.. Ah there it is… There’s a palpable bounce in her step now. She’s all set to be the belle of the ball. The Queen of Sheba as her friends tease her.

7pm and an impatient car horn hoots somewhere below her window… They’re here yoohoo… time to rock…  Oh wait… a quick spray of her favourite Elizabeth Arden and she’s Pretty Hot… flab, fears, finances, family forgotten – the femme fatale floats on a dream cloud secure behind her peacock facade….


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