Nidra (alias, Nidi at home) picked up her purse and the latest issue of the fashion magazine that she had received just 10 minutes back from the newspaper vendor and ran to the front door in a great hurry. Perplexed, Udit, her father looked at her, then with surprise in his voice, said, "Half an hour back you were crying because you hadn't finished the course for the examination tomorrow. Nidi, where are you going now and why are you going?"
Nidra shouted, "I am in a hurry, papa. I will come back and tell you."
Udit looked at his wife Pushpa enquiringly, "What is this all about?"
Pushpa answered, "Nidi and our neighbour Tinsy often go shopping as Nidi has become very fashion conscious because of her friends. She gets her clothes stitched in the latest fashions that come out in the foreign fashion magazines."
Udit commented, "But Nidi wears clothes that don't look good on her."
Pushpa agreed, "Yes, these tight fitting clothes make all her substantial bulges become more obvious. I have told her that the models in the magazine have slim figures, but Nidi wants to wear the 'in things' to be 'hep and happening'. Now she will take a lot of time as first she has to buy the material, then give it to the tailor and convince him to make the dress in one day by saying she will pay double. Then she will shop for the accessories because she has to wear the dress tomorrow."
"But tomorrow is her examination," reminded Udit.
"But after the examination all the students meet in a restaurant."
"Should I stop her from this fashion passion?" asked Udit.
Pushpa replied, "You will lose your daughter as she is in college. Her friends live as paying guests. She may rebel and go their way. Would you want to risk that? Udit just accept it. "Thank your stars that Nidi is not into drugs, smoking or drinking."
So Udit was quiet when Nidi came back. He didn't comment when she entered with a load of shopping and gushed to her mother, "Oh, mama! I have bought three new dresses as I have three more examination papers."
"I hope you did not fall short of money, Nidi," asked Udit sarcastically.
The sarcasm was lost on Nidi, bent on picking up her shopping bags. She just informed him, "Papa, I used the add-on card on your credit card. So you will have to pay for all this. I still need a hike in my pocket money as it is not enough."
As he saw Nidi rush to her room, Udit said, "What would have happened if I didn't have a good business going? Thank you, Pushpa, for not being like her."
Udit felt relief as Nidi sat down to study but this was short-lived as Nidi took him to fetch the new dress from the mall before the shops closed for the day.
"Oh no!" groaned Udit as he saw his daughter walking in for breakfast. She looked huge in the flowing A-cut dress which she said was the flavour of the new season. The bodice was body-hugging and the neck was too deep for the liking of the parents. She twirled round and asked them, "Isn't this dress smashing?"
Udit and Pushpa were taking time to find words to criticise the dress in the least offensive way, but Shardul's voice said, "Nidi. The dress is smashing as when people see how atrocious it is looking on you, they will take out their frustration by smashing windows everywhere. The dress may be good for models, but it is looking horrible on you, as it makes you look like a layered cake on a gaseous balloon."
"Shut up, Shardul. I am not your sister Tinsy that you can tease me," shouted Nidi.
"I am thankful you are not my sister. If you had been, I would have locked you in a room and forbidden you to go out while looking such a fright. I am not testing you. I am openly criticising you by telling you the truth about yourself and your dress. Your parents care too much for you to tell you the truth," said Shardul caustically.
"You are nasty. Go away from my house," shouted Nidi rudely.
Shardul agreed too readily for Nidi's comfort. "All right, I am going away but, for your information, I need the car today. Tinsy is in the car. I will leave Tinsy at the centre and then go to my office. So you find your way to the exam centre. Bye."
"Papa, you drop me please," pleaded Nidi.
"Sorry, Nidi, but I can't do that. I have an important meeting," answered Udit.
Nidi swallowed her pique and pride, and shouted, "Shardul, wait, I am coming."
Nidi sulked even as Tinsy greeted her, "Hi! The dress is very nice, Nidi."
Shardul drove off as he said, "Tinsy, don't flatter Nidi if you are her friend. Tell her the truth that the dress would have looked lovely on someone slim and tall, but Nidi is looking grotesque. The dress doesn't suit her, as she is short and chubby."
"What can I do if I am short and fit?" wailed Nidi.
Shardul said firmly, "There is nothing bad in being short and fit, but one should be comfortable in one's own skin and one should wear clothes, not because they are in fashion, but because they enhance the good points of one's personality."
"How can I find out what suits me?" Nidi commented petulantly.
Shardul said, "We have a good dress designer as an employee, for designing our clothes that are exported. You can discuss with her. Oh! This full road is blocked because of a wedding. Now I will have to take a longer route. Tinsy, look! What a lovely bride! How truly beautiful she is looking and she isn't even tall and thin."
They saw the huts and realised that the people were poor but the young bride wearing a simple red cotton dress with flower ornaments was looking very pretty.
"Oh how radiant she is and how charming she is looking!" exclaimed Tinsy.
"She reminds me of a beautiful lotus which is found in muddy water. Do you agree, Nidi, that she does look like a beautiful lotus or you don't like the looks of this bride because her clothes are not fashionable and she has no costly accessories?"
Nidi had to concede. Grudgingly she said, "No, Shardul. This innocent and simple girl does not need any other fashion help or ornaments. She is truly beautiful."
"But, Nidi! How can this be true? Fashion doesn't touch her at all. How can she look beautiful? Impossible, according to you!" said Shardul sarcastically.
Nidi said, "All right, Shardul, you have proved what you had said to me. I got the point. I admit that I did copy fashion without thinking if the dress would suit me."
They had reached the examination centre and Tinsy got off in a hurry as she had to ask her teacher about some problem in her exam subject. Left together, Shardul looked at Nidi seriously and said, "Nidi, we are neighbours and I have seen you looking good when you had no make-up on and even when you were wearing an old T-shirt and an older pair of jeans. Frankly, I find you very cute. You have a very charming face to which, when given the correct dress, would make you look very attractive. I don't think you are fat. I find myself drawn to you and that is why I want what is best for you. Trust me, you can be quite a beauty if you wear what suits you."
Nidi echoed his serious tone as she replied, "Shardul, how nice of you! No one ever gave me an honest opinion. Your comments and approval matter to me a lot. Please fix an appointment for me with your dress designer. I promise you that from now on, I will make it a point to wear clothes that suit me and look good on me."
Shardul said seriously, "Really! You actually want to look good and well dressed? What a pity Nidi! What about this dress that you are wearing? It must be so very expensive. Will you waste all the exorbitant amount that you have spent on it?"
Seeing her hurt look, with a wicked smile he said, "Oh, Nidi, it won't go waste because I can find a use for it. I can use this dress as a tent when I go on a trek and let me make it clear," Shardul went on softly, "Nidi, I will definitely not go alone. As I love you, I will take you with me and we will be alone together, forever, if you like."
Nidi became pink with embarrassment, but she said before going for her examination, "Sorry, but this dress is not for anybody else's use. I tried to wear fashionable clothes only to make you notice and love me, as I have always loved you, Shardul. This tent-dress made you say all that I wanted to hear from you, so I will always preserve it."