Tuesday, May 17, 2022
Outlook.com
Cover Story

Total Eclipse Of The Heart

'This week I was traveling from Goa—and a fellow-traveler asked me if she can use mine...' Smita Nair, a journalist, recounts an incident to tell how gifts make their own journey

Total Eclipse Of The Heart
Artwork by Aradhana Seth
Total Eclipse Of The Heart
outlookindia.com
2022-01-15T12:50:15+05:30

My love is black.
A remnant.
A memory left unfinished.
A string of what could have beens.
My love is black.
It continues to burn.
Charcoal underneath a furnace.
It’s there I still hold you.

Sometimes gifts make their own journey. There are two small vials of surma—one is jet black and one is grey, I possess. I carry them alw­ays in my pocket — sometimes in my bag. Since I started driving, I have one kept in my car, the other on me.

This week I was traveling from Goa—and a fellow-traveler asked me if she can use mine. We met, as ladies sometimes do, in the washroom. She used it and instantly looked at me for app­roval. I told her it’s good. I prefer a surma, sometimes for that killing bite it gives seconds after it touches the eyelashes. A friend once said, it cleanses only when you cry. Or you cry, when it cleanses. Both are true.

ALSO READ: ‘Laab’ In The Mountains

I love kohl, and I know many women in my phone directory and WhatsApp windows do too. It’s the colour of my space, my feelings, most of the time. I have one Jai Kajal on my study table, a gift from my mother, who till date uses a closed pin to apply it. On days when I miss my mother terribly—and cannot be with her in Bombay, I touch the rad­ium green box of Jai Kajal.  

Back in the washroom,, my fellow-traveler spoke of how she had one vial of surma, and months ago, lost it, and then went looking for it a whole night. She didn’t detail the search, so I imagined it with lot of drama, spilled-over wine, and beautiful locations. I told her, she could have mine. Though, I was hoping she said no. It never reached that stage, thankfully.

ALSO READ: Indians Still Tied To Age-old Social Prejudices In Matters Of The Heart

But, something magical happened. She went on to speak about her ex-lover, the man who gifted it to her, almost with all the pain of a moist heart and lots of memories. Two other women who wanted to use the loo stopped, too.  They didn’t need to eavesdrop, story-telling had become public in that private space. Then she said it was nice to see a surma vial again, though she would have preferred it jet black. I allowed her, her opinion; knowing very well, the vial was still mine. I hadn’t lost mine yet.

The announcer of Indigo flight came as an int­ermission as my flight was announced. We parted ways, only after she said, “maybe mine is being used somewhere. Hopefully!” I sat in my seat and wondered the number of times I have lost things and also on how gifts make their own stories. The grey I use on days when I feel like letting go, black on days when I already have.

I hope she finds another vial, soon.

Since she seemed happy, I didn’t tell her that mine was given by an ex-lover too. It emptied long ago. I now do refills when I visit Bombay. My vials are a memory too. The surma is mostly mine.

(Views expressed are personal.)

(From the writer’s 2018 Facebook post)

ALSO READ

How Indian Laws Govern People’s Right To Love And Live

You Are Making My Grey Glow

Love In The Crosshairs: Honour Killings Still Continue In India

War Against Love: Bogey Of ‘Love Jihad’ Ignores Ways Of The Heart

December White

Play Us A Memory, Violin Man

I, Me, Myself: Indian Women Pushing Back Against Social Narratives To Be Single

Friends Without Benefits: Decoupling Is A 21st Century Ddea Whose Time Has Come

Lament Of Separation: Songs Of Habba Khatun, Last Queen Of Kashmir, Still Echo In Valley

Sketches From Memory

Her Palace Of Dreams

An Affair To Remember: Bollywood’s Tryst With Romantic Love

City Of Djinns

'Auctioning' Of Muslim Women Is Symptom Of A Cancer That's Crippling India

Diary | Love In College: Jab We Met, And It Was Magic


Smita Nair Is a journalist

Outlook Newsletters

Read More from Outlook

Lament Of Separation: Songs Of Habba Khatun, Last Queen Of Kashmir, Still Echo In Valley

Lament Of Separation: Songs Of Habba Khatun, Last Queen Of Kashmir, Still Echo In Valley

In happy times and sad, Habba Khatun’s sensuous songs make both young and old emotional. With the never-ending conflict bringing tragedies to every doorstep, Habba’s lyrics of separation amplify their mourning.

How Indian Laws Govern People’s Right To Love And Live

How Indian Laws Govern People’s Right To Love And Live

In India, only those relationships between a man and a woman are considered to be legitimate when there is a marriage between the two.

Kohli Quits Test Captaincy, Leaves Leadership Vacuum

Kohli Quits Test Captaincy, Leaves Leadership Vacuum

Virat Kohli, 33, had recently stepped down as India's T20I captain and was subsequently removed as the ODI captain.

UP Elections 2022: How Congress Is Harnessing Power Of 'Persecuted' Women To Counter BJP

UP Elections 2022: How Congress Is Harnessing Power Of 'Persecuted' Women To Counter BJP

A Mahila Congress leader, who is the face of the ‘Ladki Hoon, Lad Sakti Hoon’ campaign, however, has accused the party of anti-women bias after she was denied a ticket.