Ameena came closer to the mirror. She draws her kohl black mane off her face as she prepares to don her hijab. She picks up the fairness cream lying on the table and stares at the beautiful model on its packaging. Her pristine mind raced at the speed of light switching between various questions. This line of thought was broken by her ammijaan.

“School…….nasta…….fast” it was hard for her to comprehend with her baby brother crying in the background.

Rasheed had recently sought a job away from his small hometown in the village of shakkir. This job of a watchman at a very reputed school did not fetch him enough rupees to build a house ( Raziya believed that a shelter was very important), but it did guarantee free education to his dearest, Ameena.

The aroma of the delicious sheerkhurma filled the house. Ameena couldn’t wait to share her lunch with the new kids at school. She picked up the lunchbox and set for school. The hustle and bustle of the city interested her. She walked past a grocery store, a tall statue of Savitri Bai Phule, a beauty parlour, and a gift shop. Adoring the city lights she did not realise that she had walked a long way.

She greeted her Abbu ‘asslamualekkum’ and proceeded to enter the premise. A giant white building in the centre accompanied by two smaller buildings on either side. How different it was from the madrasa she studied in! Heaps of children everywhere dressed in the grey and white uniform just like her.

9th B was adorned with colourful charts and beautiful red curtains. Ameena found an empty bench in the third row and settled down. She eyed around the class. The girls in the school looked entirely different from her madrasa friends Zainab and Noor.

The girls in the class looked big for their age. They had their lipsticks on and some of them kept repeatedly rubbing the tinted chemical on their lips fearing the boys wouldn’t notice them. The room smelled like a perfume factory reminding her of the Attar Javed Ali’s father would bring from Dubai.

Everybody was too engrossed in their conversations and they failed to notice Ameena. Geography teacher, Mrs. Sarita was sweet enough to ask her to introduce herself. All eighty eyes looked at her, forty of them kept looking at her even after her introduction.

She found herself in an environment where she was surrounded by girls who considered Kylie Jenner their model. Kylie Jenner? Ameena had only heard about the movie, ‘Titanic’ because Jamal narrated the story. The girls gathered around Ameena and repeatedly mocked her for her dusky skin, her hijab and her poor knowledge about makeup. 

Image by anastacia bankulova from Pixabay 

What even was a compact? The girls also mocked her for her body type saying she was very skinny and did not have breast like the others. Ameena zoned out after a point of time and fell prey to numerous thoughts. Ameena felt like the world around was making fun of her. The concept of breasts never crossed her mind. She rushed to the school washroom and looked at herself in the mirror. A single tear rolled down her supple cheeks.

As she walked back home, everything she could notice was the body type of girls who walked past her, their skin colour and the chemicals stacked on their face. She looked at the huge advertisements above the streetlamps and wished to look like the pretty model in it. For the first time ever, she wondered why allah made her ‘ugly’. UGLY! Such a strong and harsh word! But that is exactly how she began to describe herself.

That day she did not notice the attractive candies at Dilbar kaka’s store or the long queue of ladies at the beauty salon. The loud humming of the streets of Mumbai was overshadowed by her loud thoughts. The streets of Mumbai! Ameena’s house was silent. Abbu had left for his second work and bhaijaan was fast asleep. She looked at her brother and wished he would grow up and look like Shah Rukh Khan. Tall, handsome, and muscular.

Ameena rushed to the bedroom and hugged Ammi who was already in bed. Well, she was always bedridden after the accident. Her Ammi woke up and love beamed in her eyes as she saw her beautiful bright daughter.

Ammi, am I ugly?”

Raziya wasn’t surprised. She showed no emotion. She internally puffed up her own chest but she always knew this day would come. After all, she was a mother, most importantly a grown woman who has passed through all stages of life. She saw herself in Ameena. Her own childhood.

Ameena, if beauty was the basis for measuring one’s worth, then Jannat would still have been here

Jannat was her elder sister who succumbed to Bipolar Personality Disorder and seasonal depression.

My lower body is paralyzed. Doctors say I will be this way my entire life. Look at you! alhamdulillah, You have been blessed with two legs, two hands- a body. Ameena, beauty is not what matters in this world, and worrying about something as vague as beauty is a waste of time. There are bigger hassles in this world. Look around you. You will thank yourself.

Ameena left the room and introspected. She looked at the portrait of her idol, Malala Yousafzai, and realized that she was the true definition of beauty with brains. Ameena wished to be like her.

The sun woke her up like every other day. She thanked God for this new day. She stood before the mirror. She draws her kohl black mane off her face as she prepares to don her hijab. She picks up the fairness cream lying on the table and stares at the beautiful model on its packaging. She smiled back at the model and set for school.

Seventy-seven percent of teenagers are not happy with their bodies. They have fallen prey to the toxic concept of beauty standards. Children who are yet to get their first period fall prey to deadly illnesses such as Anorexia Nervosa, depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, Bulimia Nervosa among many others.

Beauty standards are the mental epitome of second-hand smoke- venomous- Deadly and unavoidable grey clouds that have consumed all of us.

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