Mukta was a wonderful person to have around. She was doing her Masters in economics and was my roommate’s classmate. She used to come to our room often and create an impact akin to a whirlwind sweeping through the room.
She had thick eyebrows. By thick i mean really really thick. They joined at the center quite unapologetically, and then took off on both sides really really boldly, straying occasionally like unpruned hedge.
‘Looking at your eyebrows, I’m reminded of a not a very long shot of an eagle in flight’, I told her once.
A banana skin landed on my face without any warning and she went into peals of laughter, thrilled at having hit the bull’s eye.
‘Listen you nut,’, I told her. I’m only trying to tell you that you should try to make some sense out of that overgrowth that you claim are your eyebrows’, I persisted.
‘No way’, she said. ’My boyfriend has no problem with them. So what’s yours?”
“What’s that play you were reading yesterday, Molly?’ that was my room mate Leela.
‘Hairy Ape?’ I asked innocently.
Mukta looked around for something to fling at Leela, and finding nothing, grabbed the chair. Leela pounced on her laughing, saying. “ Hey cool it Mukta. It’s your boyfriend I had in mind – he must be a hairy ape himself to like you like this’.
Mukta swung at her, missed and fell. Soon all three of us were laughing out hearts out.
Our taunting appeared to have had an impact, for, a week later, I found Mukta in our room, sitting with her head flung back and resting on the chair back and Sumi from the next room threading her eyebrows. Sumi finished and we looked at Mukta. The transformation was incredible. Looking into the mirror, Mukta herself declared, with her hands on her cheeks Sushmita Sen style, “Where was all this beauty hiding?”
A week later, as I was running down the step during the lunch break I ran into Mukta. I was flabbergasted at what I saw. I grabbed her shoulders and stared at her incredulously, with my mouth hanging open. She tried to shrug off my hands and asked unpleasantly, ‘What’s it? What do you want? Why you staring at me like that?’
‘Your eyebrows have grown back full steam. I just can’t believe this. Just in one week? It’s simply not possible!’
The students who were going up and down the stairs were looking at us amused. Muktha noticed this. Angrily, she knocked my hands off her shoulders and ran up the steps looking furious.
I stood there looking at her, totally bewildered, confused and what not. Can eyebrows grow back like that in a week’s time? It was as it was before she shaped it a week before! And Muktha’s behaviour! Most unlike her – she who I thought didn’t have an iota of unpleasantness in her personality. What the hell was wrong, I wondered as I looked at her disappearing back. She flung a vicious look at me before she disappeared at the landing to take the next flight of stairs.
To date I haven’t forgiven Muktha for not telling me she had an identical twin doing masters in Fine Arts in the same college. The Fine Arts Department was a separate block from the main college, and those students therefore had an insulated presence in the college.
Nor can I forgive my friend Leela for not warning me about Mukta’s twin - identical in appearance but, in nature and temperament, as different from Muktha as two people could possibly be.
The day after I cornered her sister, Mukta walked into our room grinning from ear to ear, and shaking both her index fingers at me while she chanted happily ‘Serves you right, serves you right, serves you right - - - ‘ with her head bobbing up and down with the rhythmic chant.