It wasn’t the first time dad had dissed me in front of everyone. I was used to it, I smiled it off, went into the kitchen and carried on with my cooking. It was spaghetti with meatballs tonight, I was told I made the best spaghetti and thus, everyone had gotten together at our place to have a taste of the ‘marvelous cook’s marvelous cooking’ as my aunt had put it. But I knew she was only trying to cheer me up. She knew how much I had always wanted to fit in, how I always craved for dad’s attention, but it wasn’t there. It was never there. Because since the day I was born, he hadn’t realized that true beauty is skin deep. And had always called me the ‘dark one’.
I hadn’t really known what it meant at that time but all I knew was I was different. At home, no one treated me differently, I was mom’s favourite. We would sit for hours in silence even if we had nothing to do, and she would make sure we laughed off even the silence! I had the most memorable time with her, back in the days, even now as we would sit together and discuss various subjects, we would sometimes go back in those days and then there would be a silence in the air and then we’d laugh it off, just like in the times. It was great to have her by my side always, my guardian angel, my support, my confidence, my confidant. She is, all in all, and will always be, everything to me.
Dad had treated me differently in childhood though. There was more love and affection, which wasn’t present as we (my two other siblings and I) started growing up. My sister went her way with her studies and ultimately got married to the man she liked. Ofcourse, it was arranged but she fell in love gradually. My brother, on the other hand, was dad’s new favourite now, after my sister. Men in our part of the world are considered the pride of the family, as is evident dad was always proud of him, and approved of everything he did. I, on the other hand, got used to ‘skin tone humour’ and being called the ugly duckling amongst the three. Sure, I never really paid attention to the way I looked. For me, it was more sports and being around people you love, and watching your daily episode of thunder cats on tv, reading R.L.Stine novels as I grew up later. I would always indulge in something I loved rather than sitting in front of the mirror for hours and hours and putting on various creams and God-knows-what in order to look inhumanely pretty for all the boys out there to approve. I mean, is beauty only meant to be a fair complexion? Is beauty not the way you carry yourself, your personality, how well spoken you are, how you make eye contact confidently, all that I used to think was part of being called a beautiful woman. But no. In my part of the world, they say, it’s the woman’s complexion that ultimately makes her a trophee wife.
I came out with the bowl of spaghetti and meat balls just in time. Everyone was crowded around the table waiting for me to put that bowl in the middle so everyone could gobble it all down! It was time. I was nervous, even though I’d made them a million times before. But it was different this time. Zain was here. He had recently come back from the States after graduating and he was here to see me, and just as I was about to sit down, my dad went ‘Oh! Sarah’s here! My pretty daughter! Samreen, make some room for your sister please! Oh, I don’t think we have enough chairs around the table, my dear daughter why don’t you sit on the other table beside the tv and eat? I’m sure you wouldn’t mind?”
“Ofcourse daddy, not one bit,” I said. And sat down with my plate of food and a glass of coke. Zain hadn’t said anything, he knew what was happening. Dad wanted him to select Sarah over me, persuading him to throughout the series of events that happened later. Because to him, she was the ‘pretty one’. Because to him, I was nothing but an ugly duckling.