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The white dress
by Sonali Mukherji (Prose - Short Story) | Published On: 13-Jun-2014

“She felt the cold blast from the sterile air conditioning on her bare arms and thighs, as she ambled down the center of the shopping complex's ground floor.
The scene was a swirl of candy bright lights--the Victoria's Secret fuchsia signboard, signboards which lured one to purchase "confidence," or "sexual appeal," or whatever it was that was being advertised--the fluorescent lights in each store, contrasting with the shiny, black-tiled walls and eye-catching speckled marble tiles on the ground.
One could lick the floor--the tiles were spotless, clean like the fake air she was breathing in, like the atoms and cells in her that were decaying in stale neglect.” 
― Jess C. ScottJack in the Box

The story of my white dress began three years back. I was wandering inside a shopping mall in search of a beautiful dress for myself, something that would seem straight out of a fairy tale. Infact my love for dresses started ever since I started reading fairy tales. I would imagine how pretty all those princesses looked in their lovely dresses which flowed along like a river as they walked ever so gracefully towards their prince charming, while he would feel overwhelmed to the object of affection of such a princess. I grew up with a hidden desire to be one of those heroines., wearing one of those dresses.

Unfortunately my parents were always against it. According to them Delhi was not a fairy land where you could wear such a dress.

Yet, my longing didn’t fade. I wanted to buy something different, something which would make me look more feminine, and something which would make me look like a princess right out of a fairy tale.  I checked all the stores but could not find a dress which I had in mind. The minutes turned into hours and the grin on my mother’s face turned into a frown. My dress was nowhere in sight I was about to give up, but something within told me to try one last shop.

A tiny little boutique with an old matronly lady sitting and knitting was around the corner. It was hardly a place I would imagine could store something that was in my mind. Yet I stepped in. It was an old shop with the usual bright coloured dresses lined on the hangers. I mechanically ran my hand past the dresses, absentminded and a little sad. Suddenly my eyes stopped, my hands froze and a smile appeared on my face.

She was peeping at me from a distant corner of the shop. She adorned a mannequin, just like an imaginary princess out of my fairy tales. She was a beauty, her colour white as snow, her lace swaying like the white flowers on a solitary creeper, her persona like that of snow white. She was a beauty designed for me, which would make me look like the princess of my dreams. I tried her. She made me look sensual, she enhanced my personality, she gave me an aura of elegance, and she made me smile.

Although my mother had a look of appreciation on her face, all she managed was a puckered brow. Her contention was that the dress appeared revealing to her and couldn’t be worn to any of the places we visited. Her words never registered with me and I simply walked out of the shop with the dress, I was a happy camper going back to the base.

 My family was not happy with my choice. "Where will you wear the dress, you should not wear this dress when you travel alone. You hardly go to any parties or clubs with your friends, you can’t even wear it in any family function. It is a waste of money, instead you should have bought a beautiful salwar kameez" Everyone lectured me on the way home.

I knew my life was not full of parties or ballroom dances, I knew there weren’t any prince charmings to drive me around, yet I was happy and contended with the dress. The nature of my job or my lifestyle would never allow me to wear that dress but I knew I could carry it well. I felt more comfortable in it than in any salwar kameez or jeans. I did not see any point in ignoring my fantasies, just because it was unacceptable as per the norms set by people who didn’t matter.

After a few months, I got an opportunity to try my beautiful white dress. We were invited to a family friend’s place for dinner. A few of my relatives and friends were also invited.

I got ready soon. The dress looked beautiful and I felt comfortable and confident.  I stepped out of my room with a tinge of nervousness, wondering what would be the reaction of my family members. It was nothing less than an exam.

They smiled; they had that glow of wonder in their eyes. I was thrilled. My father came up to me and said that I looked like a princess.  That night turned out to be special, everyone complimented me and they loved my dress. My friends told me that my dress reminded them of Cinderella. I was on cloud nine.

I decided to save the dress for a special occasion, my first date. If everyone liked it, my prince charming would definitely like it too.  I imagined myself in that dress and my prince complimenting me. I wrapped my dress carefully and kept it in the corner of my wardrobe.

Years passed, my life moved on and my dressed remained packed, lying in the corner of my wardrobe, yet the dream remained unfulfilled. I was waiting, for the opportunity to wear that dress on my first date. The only place where I wore my dress million times was in my dreams. 

Yesterday was my first date. I was excited. The first thing that came to my mind was the white dress. I took it out from the wardrobe and started wearing it.

Ten minutes later, I was sitting next to the mirror and the dress was lying on the bed. She had betrayed me. I couldn’t wear her. Like many other things in life, I had outgrown it. My entire wait had been in vain.

I wasted so many opportunities to look like my dream and now I stand getting nothing out of it. If only I had worn it more often, I would have made myself happier.

My dress went back to the corner in my wardrobe, leaving a lesson for me to never let the present go in anticipation of the future.

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