I have always looked at your fair-skinned face and your golden hair and blue eyes and felt a twinge of jealousy mingled with awe. Your clothes are always the newest, the most stylish, your hair gleams like gold in the sunlight, you have to be the most beautiful girl I had ever seen. And then I look at my own black hair and olive-brown skin and dark brown eyes and feel like the ugliest girl in the world.
You look like an angel. You have everything that I do not. Everything good in life is drawn to you like a moth to a flame. All my life I will envy you for what you haveand for what I do not. I don't think I will ever be as perfect as you-I can never have all the things in life that you have
But even your fairytale life isn't a bed of roses.
Do you remember when you invited me to your house-an act of charity, alms given to the needy, a privilege to us lesser mortalsme? I had been stunned, wondering what I had done to achieve such an honor, what I had done to receive such a-such an absolute honorto be invited by you, the most popular girl in the school home for dinner! Meinvited by you
But when I reached your home, the shock assaulted me like a physical blow. There was no welcoming hug or loving kiss waiting for you when you entered within the massive doors of your four-storey bungalow-merely a formal nod of the head from your mother, acknowledging your presence, and a slight grunt from your father-not even bothering to look up from the newspaper he was poring over.
Your mother was such a beautiful womanbut there was such a coldness in her blue eyes, a decided formality in her movements, such anindifference in her tone, in her mannersin her. She and your father were so formal to each other-they both might as well have been strangers on the streetwhy, even strangers in the street held more warmth in their voices!
Your parents called you by your full name and middle name too-don't you have a petname? Isn't there any proof of intimacy, any form of affection between you? So many times I had wondered whether it was my presence which had led to all of thisthe closest you ever got to your mother was a cold brush of the lips to the cheek when you bade her goodnight.
And your fatherhe served Grace before dinner with words soso final... as though our day of Redemption had already comesmiles were forced, jokes were politely coughed at. I could sense no love lost between any of you.
You live the life of the infanta -a princess- and yet your life is a gilded cage. Your father is reigning lord and masteryour mother is merely the woman who bore him his child. And you mean nothing to either of themmerely an innocent passer-by, a plaything, something so insignificant that you don't even seem to exist in your house. Para el amor del dios- I actually envied you
And then I think of my own home- mi familia -my mother swamping me with her great embraces, my father with his deep rumbling voice that would sing love songs in our own language to my mother all night long, fingers strumming on his guitar-only then to be joined by my five uncles, all singing to their wives.
You won't believe it, but I have eleven cousins-blood-brothers and sisters not included. You won't believe it-but I'm already an aunt of six. And old abuela Maria-who mothered my father and his brothers, telling us stories of old-time Spain, of the Moorish conquerors and the khalifas, who ruled over Cordoba and Granada and Barcelona-even the mighty lands of Galicia and the Castileand even our homeland, Catalonia.
And the lovethe fierce, protective love that holds the foundations of our family together. All of us are ready to die for each other and are proud of it. Mama and Papa have always let us know that they love us, will always love us. Hugs and kisses and unconditional love are so common that I even failed to notice it.until the day I met your familiaone where love is nothing but dreams and shadows-where love is nothing butI restrain my imagination. Tears are cried privately, joys are exulted at secretlywhy? Why, why, why? When will you break the walls built around your heart? When will you reach out for them, show them that you love them, show them that even the faintest shadow of caring exists in your heart? Whenand why?
I come from a tight-knit family which understands the bonds of blood. We have laughed, cried, suffered, reveled, mourned and celebrated together and are willing to go on till our time comes. Had you come to abuelo's funeral you would have thought we had just witnessed a mass genocidethat was the way we mournedand I have realized just now how much my family-mi familia-means to me
You may have all the material comforts in the world, la hermosa infanta. You may be beautiful, you may have the golden hair and blue eyes and fair skin that I will forever envy, and what I will always secretly crave deep within the dark recesses of my heartbut I have one thing that you don't. A family. A family's love. La familia amor. I will not gloat. I will not exult over this victory. I will empathize. I don't think I envy you anymore.
Written in 2006 by Pallavi Chatterjee --- Mumbai, India
--- Submitted by Sandeep Chatterjee