Every morning when I am getting dressed for work, my son sits on the bed and looks at me as I apply make-up on my face. I took personal make-up classes a year back, as my facial skin started showing the years gone by, my penchant to paint and erase the frown lines and dab some color on my cheeks started to grow. Previously I owned only a couple of lipsticks and a kohl stick which I love. But now my repertoire boasts of blush and contour and highlight, eyebrow pencils, mascara and whole range of lipsticks in varying textures and colours. I have to keep them all on the top shelf though. Or else my 4 year old boy also likes to paint himself like a tiger and leopard with momma’s eyeliner and lipsticks.
But every morning, we have a ritual. My boy’s little portruding belly becomes a canvas for the paint and he wants me to do everything on his taut belly skin that I do on my face. So we begin with a moisturiser and a little compact. The thick luxurious makeup brush spreads across some contour on my jawline and gets repeated on the sides of his belly button. A pinkish blush decorates my cheeks and then his light veined skin just below his ribcage. I have to pretend that I am applying my deep red and crimson lipsticks on his skin and not actually apply because otherwise they will smear his yellow school uniform. And then after I make two thin strokes of black liner on the upper eyelid, I write our initials A for Arjun and R for Rutvika on his chest. And thats our secret. He tells me that when I apply my moisturiser and make up on him he can smell me when he is in school and he misses me a little less. It’s strange how similar things work in different ways on two different minds. My mum also used to slather her face and arms with Lakme peach milk moisturiser when she used to go to work. But that smell, even now, makes me terribly miss my mom (who lives a minute away) and makes my eyes tear up and I absolutely detest that fragrance.
The French word for makeup is maquillage, a mask. Two different faces , two different people. One for home and one for work. I believe I used to be gentler person before my shoulders were burdened with the running of a 40 year old, 45 people organisation. My parents used to be the decision makers, we weren’t supposed to or expected to make life changing decisions on our own. A cocooned life if you may. But this metamorphosis was bound to happen. The strong winds of adulthood sometimes push you into unfamiliar territories where you have to take stern decisions, take a call and somehow also build up the conviction that your decisions are correct. But this doesn’t go well with a 4 year old. He resists and fights me if I am not gentle with him. He holds my face steady by grabbing my hair and buries his nose in my forehead till I calm down and till I am again my gentler mommy self with him. So I need maquillage. I need this mask, I need my mascara and my red lips to hide the inner self who doesn’t want to take decisions. Who wants to follow and not lead. But this act of applying make up, prepares me for the outside world and prepares my son for separation from his mom for the next 10 hours. It is how we cope.
I also have some subtle browns and nude lip colours. They are reserved for days when I don’t want to threaten the patriarchal male associates we need to work with. I don’t want them to feel threatened, because I need to make my point and I need to make them do as I know is right for our company. Here, I say, I am nothing. I am just vanilla, but sir, may you please shut up and listen to what this goddam woman is saying?
My first ruby red lip color was gifted to me by cousin brother, from his first salary on Diwali. We are sort of estranged now, the painful memories of growing up overshadowing the joys of sharing holidays, but that lipstick in the shape of a bullet sits on my shelf. I use it sparingly, it’s 10 years old now. But I still twist and unravel it and close it back again, safe in its shell. May be that lipstick will live to be 50, may be the cousin and I will have forgotten the mean things that happened, and may be my words will find a way to reach him and set things right. May be. Till then, the crimson reds will line my lips, preparing me for the battle of the day, erasing itself from the inside out with every sip of water and tea , till I go back to the powder room, take a moment to gather myself and reapply the red. Pull up my mask and be ready to face the next set of challenges.