“All that glitters is not gold”, “beauty is only skin-deep” are statements I find ironic since I grew up in a society where people judge others on the basis of their physique and skin colour. With flawed thinking, we expect others to be “flawless” and “perfect”. I wish a lawsuit against ‘judging’ others could be filed.” She scribbled her heart out in the journal and kept it aside.
She was 12 years old when the white, flesh-like patches started to appear on one side of her face. It started off with a white spot and grew into a patch affecting other areas, too. The patches seemed to elongate with time yet remained non-itchy and harmless. Initially, she ignored but then visits to the doctors became frequent and taking medicines became a dreadful chore.
“It is not leucoderma,” one doctor confirmed.
It was a relief to the family. Leucoderma tends to affect the entire body and develops due to the absence of melanin pigment.
Then, one afternoon when the sun was at its apex, radiating heat waves across the city, she found out it was more than just a scar. The sun streaks touched her face, aggravating the scars and causing tingling sensations. It was quite a shocking sight. The scars had turned somewhat pink and itchy under the scorching sun.
“Oh my God, this is not good,” was all she could utter.
It’s been 13 years. Life has been a bittersweet ride; from attaining a degree in Geology to switching medicines and undergoing a series of clinical tests every now and then. Living with Psoriasis is not all rainbows and butterflies. Every single day is a struggle. The stupid questions and scrutinizing gazes don’t bother me. What bothers me is this won’t go away. Lyla Idrees wrote down.
“Psoriasis is an autoimmune skin disease and might take years to settle down. The scars appear in response to accumulation of dead cells and tend to stay,” the dermatologist briefed Mr. and Mrs. Idrees. One thing was clear, she had to live with it all her life.
At Eid or weddings, women would keep staring at her until one of them would ask, “What is this scar on your face? Is it - ?”
“It is not leucoderma, trust me,” Lyla would interrupt.
After coming back home, Lyla would write down: I am awed. It has been a mantra for decades; people expect a face to be perfect. It has to be. I am amused to see, the rule applies to boys as well. If by any chance, the boy is dark or has scars, he doesn’t deserve to be married to a “fair-skinned”, “picture-perfect” mate. Appearance is more appealing than what lies within.
After being rejected by a couple of suitors, Mrs. Idrees started convincing her daughter to use concealer. She knew how sensitive her skin was, but then her major concern was her daughter’s marriage and that, too, on the right time.
Lyla would protest; she wanted people to accept her the way she was. Plus, she thought it was wrong to decieve people.
Faiz was Lyla’s cousin and, in other words, the sixth one on the list who would reject Lyla. Faiz and his family were invited over dinner that day. Lyla rummaged through the messy contents of her drawer and picked one of the concealers. The concealer only lightened the scars, but couldn’t conceal them completely.
Faiz was quiet and mature, yet he seemed to enjoy family gatherings. He was done with the meal earlier than others and made himself at ease on the sofa. Lyla returned with two cups of tea after serving others who were still at the table, discussing politics, drama serials and fashion industry. She handed one to Faiz and held the other one.
They hadn’t talked much all this while. Faiz started the conversation.
“You haven’t changed a bit.”
“I doubt that. In all these years, I have grown to be a hot-headed, scowling monster. The last 13 years have been revolutionary.”
The conversation was light and Lyla found herself fitting into the moment. She knew there was nothing else and she didn’t want to ruin the present.
It was a warm evening. She wiped the sweat beads off her face with a napkin. Faiz stared at her in disbelief. She realised the concealer had come off
“I am aware why my family invited you over and I apologize that you were kept in the dark,” she said.
None of them uttered a single word after that.
That night, Lyla wept and cursed Psoriasis. Her self-esteem was damaged for the first time. Lyla felt embarrassed.
I wish Ammi hadn’t insisted. No one deserves to be treated like this. Why was I chosen for this, Allah? What now? I shouldn’t feel like that. This is who I am. Nobody should be kept in the dark! She poured out, feeling disgusted.
Lyla spent the next few days trying hard to distract herself. One afternoon, the phone buzzed and Mrs. Idrees answered. It was Faiz’s mother. Mrs. Idrees was quite surprised to know that Faiz wanted to come and meet Lyla in person. Mrs. Idrees asked Faiz’s mother to wait until she asks her husband and Lyla.
Mr. Idrees was reluctant, but then he granted permission on one condition: Mrs. Idrees would sit with them.
Lyla was already mortified. She explained to her mother about the tragedy. Mrs. Idrees couldn’t have been more embarrassed since it was she who wanted them to see each other. Now, she could only pray for the well-being of her daughter.
At exactly 5pm, Faiz was sitting in the lounge when Mrs. Idrees handed him a cup of tea and pretended to attend to the household chores while Lyla sipped hers, hardly making any eye contact.
“Auntie, Lyla doesn’t need to be here. I guess I should have talked to you in the first place.”
“What happened, beta? Is there any issue?”
“Yes, there is! Who in the world uses concealer to hide scars that make them look even more honest and beautiful?”
Lyla couldn’t believe her ears. She thought Faiz was making fun of her. She wanted to say something but she couldn’t.
“If faces were meant to judge the extent of flawlessness, then what would one do with a flawed heart?
“I will send Ammi and Abbu for the proceedings,” Faiz added before leaving.
Faiz and his family came over with utmost respect and asked for Lyla’s hand. He married Lyla with all his heart and soul. The wedding was a big one and hundreds of people watched the two tie the knot. No concealer was used by Lyla from that day onwards. Faiz’s bold decision broke the stereotype of ‘appearance matters.’
And the scars? Well, they were meant to fade.