“Oh, hello Tina!” purred Sana who, as envious as some of the other ladies, eyed every inch of Tina, thinking “not a hair out of place, and not a wrinkle on her skin. What is it she does which I, after spending so much money and effort, just can’t seem to get right?” She gently patted her rock hard, back-combed and over-sprayed chignon, and walked through the main doors to mingle and gossip with the crowd, stamping her feet. “Tina was too busy on her phone anyway!”
“These shoes are killing me! I wish these women weren’t so fashion- and status-conscious. I have spent $500 on this pair, and I don’t even like it,” complained Amina, as she half-walked-half-stumbled into the party. This was nothing new for her husband, who was well aware of the consequences if he dared to remind her that he had told her so.
“Tina and Zara will look nicer no matter how hard I try. They are probably all dolled up even before they get out of bed,” mumbled Meher, as she pretended she wasn’t bothered by the price tag of her new outfit, which she probably wasn’t about to get much wear out of! She felt mortified at the thought of repeating her clothes. “What would everyone say?”
Tina, on one hand, was aware of her popularity, and on the other, of her so-called friends’ under-handed competition. But that was the least of her worries. She hurriedly ended the conversation and, with a bright smile, walked back into the party, joining the ladies in the first of the many selfies where perfectly blow-dried hair, designer bags and shoes, bling and shimmer, one-leg-to-the-side poses and bright-red pouts were all that mattered. Facebook would be plastered with images of yet another “I’ve got one over you” party, and the host of the next party would already have a list of what bigger-and-better to do.
Row-upon-row of women walk into the party. Some looking for friends, others being coy towards foes. The aim of the game? How much social media coverage one can get, and how less one can eat than the rest.
Thoughts of “Oh drat! Is that the same clutch as mine? Couldn’t she have waited till I had at least aired it?” turn into “Hi gorgeous, our tastes are so similar!”, and “She must have seen pics of me wearing those Louboutin’s, copycat.” becomes “Oh, don’t you just love those beauties?”
Oblivious to all this drama stands Tina, faking a smile so perfectly that even she half-believes it to be true, chatting away to kill time, and shrug the worry away of what beholds her once she gets home.
The fancy shoes, the expensive bags, the bling and the glam are apparently there, but the illness she is fighting, along with the soon-to-fade-away facade of wealth her dear husband has been putting up is weighing her down every day. Secretly, she wants to perform the public service of revealing to the crowd that shallow materialistic obsessions such as these bring only temporary joy, if any at all. In fact, more than half of the time, they are a liability. She knows even she can’t bear to face the truth, and has to carry on playing the role of the “Joneses” while everyone else follows suit, whether they can afford to or not.
As a very observant onlooker, I have watched this parade for a while now, and each time I wonder what brings mankind to such a level of complexes; so consumed by materialism that while more than half of the world is deprived even of basic needs, this handful suffocates itself in its own bubble.
After the party, all that remained was the sound of vacuum cleaners, and dishes being put away. As I waited for the valet, I noticed Tina clenching her fists against her stomach looking pale and rather sick. I rushed towards her as she spoke argumentatively into the phone, with her back towards me. Before I could make sense of the situation, I realised we weren’t alone! The hotel manager, with a rather anxious and unpleasant look on his face, stood a few yards away.
“But how can that be? We sold that plot and this account should have that amount in it! Your sick habits have sucked us dry! How am I going to pay this bill?” As low as Tina tried to keep her volume through clenched teeth, it was all audible. She was startled when she saw me, and quickly change her tone and expression in order to compose herself.
“Let me take care of the deposit,” I offered, “you can settle the rest later, Tina.”
She didn’t look convinced but her shoulders relaxed a bit. “Oh, it’s alright. Just a bit of miscommunication,” she tried to shrug it off as she told the manager to drop by for tea the next day at their residence in Defence. “Rana Sahib will sort the payment out.”
The valet guy blew his whistle to signal the arrival of my car, and I cordially said my goodbyes to the hostess. I was unsure as to what I felt. Was I not good enough to help? Or just not trustworthy enough, when the rest of the crowd was far from genuine? I dropped Tina a ‘Thank you” Whatsapp message, with a “This stays between us.” dropped in between the lines, so as to not come across too strong.
Who am I? I am not the popular one, or the fancy one who walks in and makes heads turn. But I am at peace with what I have. The clutch that my daughter lovingly bought me at the charity fair is more precious to me than Prada or Chanel, and the loomband charm bracelet on my wrist peeping out of my full-sleeved shirt, brings more joy to my heart than a 5-carat diamond would, as it was patiently and lovingly created by my son. The clothes I’m wearing are neither branded nor expensive, but tidy enough to be repeated at least 5 more times. After all, the cut and the colour do wonders for me, and my sister did about 7 rounds to the tailor before she was perfectly happy with it.
Oh, and there is one thing that I wear, which is worth a million dollars. The content smile on my face as I am not, and don’t ever want to be, part of the rat-race I see around me; because at the end of the day, you are always just a rat, as I read somewhere.
And I would rather be human.