Princess themed birthday party.
She sat in her birthday dress surrounded by presents. She grabbed the closest one and eagerly ripped the wrapping paper open.The box read ‘Cinderella’s glass slippers’. Her eyes widened. She stared at the sparkling pair of transparent plastic heels in amazement.
“Don’t open the package Anya. You’ll outgrow it in six months. We’ll gift it to someone” Amma said, breaking Anya out of her trance. Tiny tears stung her eyes as she watched Amma lock the shoes in the glass shelf in her room.
She would stop by the shelf and look into it every time she walked past. Until one day, she stopped noticing.
One day, she stopped liking sparkly things.
Saturday nights, Appa would come home late. He was different. He was loud and aggressive. He would slur and wobble. Sometimes he’d fall. He reeked of whiskey and sweat. Amma would yell. He would yell louder.
Saturday nights, plates were broken and doors were slammed. She clutched her blanket over her head and pressed her eyes shut.
Saturday nights, she’d fall asleep to a lullaby of shattering glass.
Msn Messenger makes the world go round.
MuZikLovR: hey u kno Aish rite?
MuZikLovR: Cud u introduce us? She’s so pretty…!!
Her heart sank. She thought of all times she giggled at his jokes and learnt trivia on his favourite football club. How she’d pray to be on the same group project. How she hoped he’d forget his textbook so they could share. She felt betrayed. She thought of how Aish managed to get his attention by just existing.
The next morning, another preteen girl woke up early to sneak away makeup from her mother’s dresser. Yet another one would begin that inevitable journey into a world of concealers, stuffed bras, waxstrips and fruit diets.
She stood there in the cold bathroom as she shakily applied the kohl across her eyes. Much better, she thought.
The girl she saw in the mirror was beautiful. The girl in the mirror looked back at her in disappointment.
“Sshh” she giggled as she shut the door behind her. They held hands, wobbling through the darkness on their toes. They finally made it to her room. She took a swig of the vodka in her hand and winced as it trickled down her throat.
He kissed her passionately. Rough. Like wildfire. She let herself go. Sinking into the darkness the way only young lovers know.
She lost her balance and dropped the bottle.
It left a thundering echo across the house. Appa ran to her room and swung the door open. He stared at them in disbelief.
The boy froze. Cigarette in one hand, teenage daughter in the other.
That night, it was Amma and Appa’s turn to fall asleep as the sound of shattered glass rang in their heads.
Red glass bangles. Amma slipped them onto her wrist with tears in her eyes. ‘You must be careful with them, Anya. Don’t take them off for 40 days.’
She watched dully as the crowd grew. All of them gathered there, dressed in their finest.
She looked at her glass bangles in disgust. A token of her womanhood, honour and undying love, Amma told her. They seemed to be getting heavier by the second.
‘Anya weds Manjit’ boasted a grand sign at the entrance. Anya laughed to herself cynically. They both knew what it should’ve been.
26, fair, Tamil Brahmin girl weds 32, banker, non-smoker.
“Im resigning.” She told him firmly as she stormed out of the room. She’d watched her subordinates become superiors and her superiors become partners. She’d waited long enough.
An appointment letter arrived promptly the next morning. They wanted her back. She’d been given the promotion. She read it over and over again. She beamed, five long years and finally a crack in the glass ceiling.
News travelled and her mother-in-law called, “Im not okay with you earning more than Manjit. Tell them you will not take it. What will people say!”
She should’ve known. The glass ceiling was like the sky. Everywhere and impossible to escape. She put the phone down gently.
This time, she resigned to her fate.
Dia read her homework aloud that evening. “Glass, normally fragile, transparent and hard is made of silicates and alkali materials fused together. Glass is very brittle and can cause serious wounds when broken. However, its use is common in our daily lives…”
Anya stopped listening. She thought of those glass slippers she never got to wear, the hours she’d spend with her reflection, Appa’s empty whiskey glasses, the last time he spoke to her, her bangles on her wedding day and the appointment letter buried deep in her drawer.
Dia had a lot to learn.