“Don’t push me…don’t push me …no..no… I am about to fall...I am falling,” …. And I got up. Phew!! Thank god it was just a dream…but not completely, I do remember getting pushed and shoved by all the jazzy brands of lipsticks on the shelf. They were put on the front while I was relegated to the last row of the lower most shelf. Me being an obscure brand, only girls and women from the lower middle income, would welcome me in their homes.

Woman who would finish the day’s work by eleven in the morning, getting up early, filling up the drinking water in containers from the municipality tap, that would run only for half an hour, making tiffin for children , husband, sending them to school, office. She would then take a leisurely bath, scrubbing her body more than pouring water, for she knew the worth of half a bucket of water.  She would wear her clothes and then comb her hair; untangling night’s knots, and then taming it with a bun. She would look into the tiny mirror, hung on the wall, for she had neither the means to have an elaborate dressing table nor the space to keep that. And yet, she had made the space for me, in a tiny pouch, with a kohl pencil and some Knick -knacks!

She would take out the pouch from the cupboard, spread its contents on the bed, picking me proudly- a bright red lipstick.  I so loved her luscious and full lips. She was not really diligent in the art of make-up. But I tried to make her lips look pretty nevertheless, sometimes though I did venture out of the boundary of her lips, smudging the corners of her mouth and the lower lips. But she would not mind. Or perhaps she did not have the time. She would then pick up her jute bag and out she would be- buying grocery, vegetables, stationary for the children. Coming back, she would stand at the neighbour’s door, chit chatting a bit, not minding the heavy handbag. I loved the spark of her persona, the warmth of her concern. I knew she would go home And take me out again to rub tad bit more colour on her lips, some of which had vanished when she licked her lips, pursed it, bit it while bargaining with the vegetable vendor and gossiping with the neighbour. She wanted to look good before her husband came back from his work. My colour was not those anti smudge, anti-transfer, waterproof types that the higher echelons of the society used. I was the kind who loved to be picked up every now and then and do its bit.

Girls loved me as much! Girls who didn’t have the privilege of a handsome pocket money, did have the desire to be at par with the privileged ones and in their small ways they did try that, and I always helped them in their endeavour. Alright, I wasn’t the best, but then good enough to give them the confidence that they needed. How proud did I feel when I would enliven their lips with my colour, after they wore that skinny pair of jeans and a polyester blouse  bought from the neighbourhood Sunday market, which had stalls of everything; from jewellery to clothes to vegetables and chicken.  She would call up her boyfriend on the way to college from her cheap mobile set. With the jingling laughter and the stretching of lips, I would know, she was happy! She was rich in that moment and I was content. The discrimination that I had felt on the shelf in a cosmetic shop, was no longer in my heart.  

However, the lock-down is here now. And I am back to the shelf, with all those brands who looked down upon me – the lesser variety. As women and girls of the world are either home or masked, they are no longer thinking about their lips. Priorities are changed. I do miss them though. But its okay. As everything else, this too is not going to last forever. I am hoping to find my place again in the pouch of that woman and in the cheap sling bag of that young girl. Meanwhile, amidst this chaos I am pushed and shoved… but this time, even the so-called good brands are with me! The shopkeeper was sealing us all in a carton till we were asked for again- I thought …finally …something has brought equality!


Lockdown Story