Smokey Eyes and A smouldering soul

As an adolescent, I used to watch the contraption that Ma used at home to make my Kajal. She held the contraption called the kajolota over a Diya that burnt to its embers. One uses organic ghee to light it and hold the kajolota lovingly over the dark smoke to make my kohl or Kajal that I used with a brass stick to apply in my eyes. Ma moistened the smoke with the ghee. It was an immediate transformation to my bland underdressed face.

I never saw her use that ever. Ma was of darker complexion and said the Kohl wouldn’t look nice and that moment in time I didn’t understand that she had been conditioned to believe fairer skin was better at carrying any beauty product. For her, even a lipstick was a no-no.

I was young without too much disruption in my accepted ways and attitude towards beauty and women.

I took it in without questioning what being dark had done to her. In hindsight, I realize she was frightened to question the beauty diktats that society coined. I used to watch her apply Fair&Lovely to no avail.

I asked her as an adolescent if I could use. She always lovingly looked into my eyes and said you are not like me. Thank god!

Over time I found out different kind of kohl pencils, that wasn’t cumbersome to make anymore. Also found a Pakistani surma that I used too. Today the array of colored kohl is so many. You have the dark turquoise and the light blue and the browns, reds, purples etc.

I still love my kohl-rimmed eyes. On that day when I want to cry out loud but have that muffled cry, tearing and searing into my being over the cruelty that’s meted out to women in the name of tradition.

I just recall those wet roads of my childhood Shillong, where the accessory you carry is an umbrella and your kohl-rimmed wonder eyes of adolescence. Because the rains and the women of Shillong are considered the most unpredictable part of that matrilineal society.


1 Comment
  1. What an absolutely lovely read. Been fond of kajal all my life. And have always felt that whenever my tear rimmed eyes were about to overflow, the Kohl lining worked as the dam.

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