Sunday Feature By Rudrapriya Sen

That maroon lipstick

Everytime during the summer holidays father used to take us to our aunt’s home in Kurseong. It had been a routine for many years, and no one, not even my mum had questioned it. No matter how many tasks I had or how many projects were left to be done, visiting my aunt’s home was mandatory.

She lived alone, had never married and had no children obviously. She was a reputed business woman and everyone in her locality knew her name as she was ‘The flower Lady’. She had orchid nurseries, rather famous, and used to sell the flowers all over the country.

It was a bit of a shock, at first, when I realized that she had no one except my father (that too, a cousin) who was ten years younger than her, as a living family member! A few acquaintances and college friends came over to visit, but that was it, she lived on her own in her little kingdom.

When I met her for the first time, I was intimidated. She looked stern, with a few silver hair, lines on her forehead and full lips pressed together. She never laughed or chuckled, unlike my mother. If a joke or anecdote was approved by her, she simply smiled. She had a tired responsible look on her face and a mole under her right eyebrow which obscured most of her beauty. She always talked about flowers, world politics and business with father. To me and my brother, she didn’t talk much, a formal conversation of how our studies had been or what she could buy us from the market etcetera. The gifts from her side never stopped coming and I couldn’t figure out how she could buy us all of the things which my other friends had only dreamt of getting! The lady was rich indeed, her house wasn’t a house, it was a villa with a garden. Me and my brother would often get lost while playing hide and seek only to be found by our mother later on!

One day, when I was in tenth grade or so, my aunt walked into the room where I was busy putting on lipstick , it was a rich maroon one. I suddenly became very conscious, would she judge me? I saw a brief flurry of surprise pass through her face, the only emotion which she had expressed openly, till date.

“That’s…. that’s very deep” she said, “My father never liked it when I wore lipstick!” She tilted her neck as if she was remembering something. When I was about to rub my lips, she said, “Oh no! Don’t remove it. It looks good, suits you well.”

After we came back home that year, I had received a package from my aunt only a few weeks after. It was a collection of lipsticks, each with different shades from different countries! I was overwhelmed! They were terrific!

A month later, out of the blue she had a massive heart attack, so making the box of lipsticks was the last gift I had received from her.

Now that I sit at my home, far away from the small hill station, in my early fifties, I often wonder about her. She always claimed lipsticks were not much of her style, but had somehow carefully chosen the ones which would suit my skin tone best. I had never bought lipsticks for myself after that although the ones I received had replenished long before, I don’t think lipsticks are my style either.

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