“Oh how beautiful she is!” Sujata murmured to her self as she usually did while seeing that woman: the woman who lived in the apartments just next to hers. Her balcony was so close to hers that she unintentionally got into the habit of peeping at her all time. Daily, she admired her beauty and cursed her own plain looks.
One day Sujata saw that woman in her balcony with her husband (may be, she was not sure). “What love and intimacy they have!” she thought, unknowingly admiring that couple. Her husband has never embraced her like this in open… “Is it because I am not beautiful?”
Engrossed in her thoughts, suddenly she heard a manly voice. “Will you give me my breakfast? God knows why you look outside the window all the time”. She hastily rushed to the kitchen and started preparing breakfast. Her husband, Arvind was a clerk in a bank and was depressed these days because of employees’ feud with the management. “Have you got Sonu’s medicine?” he asked. As she shook her head in denial, he shouted at her, “The whole day you rest at home. Can’t you do these menial jobs?” Sujata thought it is better to be quite, because if she would say that the doctor’s slip is with him, he would put forward an argument that medicine could be bought showing the old slip. And if she will tell him that she has missed the old slip, she would get a full-fledged lecture on her carelessness. She kept quite. “Is the breakfast ready?” Arvind asked. “I’m doing it, I’m not a machine”, Sujata replied in a fizz. “Well then am I a machine?”, Arvind retorted. “Morning to Noon I work for you and you talk like this”. He stood up in anger and left for office.
Standing at the door, watching him rushing towards the busy street, Sujata realized what had happened. But it was not new for her, such arguments usually happened. She always wondered why all her efforts to keep Arvind happy failed. Tear rolled her eyes. She saw that woman in her balcony again. She was drying her hair after bath. “How pretty she looks. She must be newly wed.” Sujata’s thoughts started wandering again. “How lucky they are to be happily married. They have a housemaid in their house, so they must not be fighting over breakfast. What could then they be fighting for? Why does Arvind always fight with me? Is it because we are not newly wed and have a child? Or is it because I am not beautiful?” A shout of sabjiwala, distracted her mind, she remembered she needed vegetables for lunch.
After taking lunch, She kept Sonu in his pram and laid on bed for a sleep. She woke as Mrs Pandey rang the bell. She was her neighbour, a good friend and usually dropped in for tea. After a little tête-à-tête, she asked her, “Sujata do you know the woman in the front flat of the next apartment?”. Sujata replied that she had seen her quite often in the balcony. She made every possible effort to not to reveal to Mrs Pandey that she admired that woman heartily. “You know she has left her husband’s house and is living here with some other man. I do not think that she has a good character you see. I know that she is very beautiful, but is that enough? Afterall, character is an important thing. We have it. We are happy in our families…” what Mrs Pandey said next, Sujata could not hear. She was so lost in her own thoughts. “Oh, this can’t be…. She murmured. She felt as if her something very dear had smashed. And so it was. A sudden blow broke a dream, a happy image of a beautiful lady, happy in her married life. She felt as if the pieces of that dream are before her, alive and are staring at her. Sujata quivered. Not the fact that that beautiful woman lacks character made her feel bad; but the realization that she also nurtures something very strong within her that is more important than beauty, got a new realization for her of herself.
After Mrs Pandey left, Sujata was lying on bed, all set to fly with her insight. Arvind entered and asked, “Why are you in such pacified mood? Are you still angry with me? O darling, this is not fair. I’m so sorry. It was that dispute in the department that made me so unhappy and you were getting affected by that. But now all over sorrows are over. Our demands are fulfilled. The management has accepted our all demands. In addition, they will pay us our arrears too. And see what have I got for you....” Contentedly, sujata looked. it was a beautiful red sari. “Oh, so nice of you”. “Just get ready we will go out to celebrate”, Arvind said giving her a kiss.
From the bedroom room, she saw the balcony of that woman again. “No, I will not look at her again,” she decided. She did not need another woman to make her realize whether she was beautiful or not. She knew her heart was good, full of love for her husband. And that’s what made her beautiful. Sujata’s eyes were gleaming with tears of contentment. A new Sujata was ready to come out.