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Shagun was peering at her face in the large, oval, mirror in her room. A deep furrow lined her glabella. She clearly did not like what she saw.

“Shagun beta, is anything the matter?” Rajat stopped at the doorway, curious to see his only child unusually ruffled.

“Oh Daddy, just look at my face!” Shagun ran and hugged her father. “Such an ugly outbreak of acne, just before Deepa Didi’s wedding!”

Rajat could feel a light moistness on his shirt as Shagun buried her face against his chest, valiantly trying to suppress the deep dismay that threatened to spill out of her eyes. He gently veered Shagun towards the bed, sat her down, and patiently waited for her to regain composure.

At fourteen, Shagun was like most girls her age – lean, gawky, and largely uncomfortable with her body and her looks. Losing her mother to cancer at the early age of nine, Shagun had developed a maturity not easily noticed in children her age. For Rajat, it was a boon to see his princess soldiering on with a hopeful heart…trying to plug in the yawning vacuum in her life with sports and dramatics. And yet, there were these fleeting moments of self-doubt and sagging confidence, when Rajat had to amp his ‘mommy’ mode up, to buoy her spirits and make her smile!

“Shagun, do you remember this amazing picnic we had gone for?” Rajat flipped open a fat, colourful album housing an array of photographs. “You were all of eight and so proud of your new pixie haircut, you wouldn’t tire of showing it off to everyone!”

Shagun blinked back her tears to look at her favourite pictures – memories of halcyon days. Rajat smiled.

The photo album never lets me down.

“Oh Daddy, I used to look so different earlier! Tomboyish, puny, wearing braces…can’t believe it’s me!”

Rajat was waiting for this opportunity…and he grabbed it with both hands.

“Exactly, my dear! Growing up, you changed. You now tie a ponytail, wear eyeglasses, and the braces have gone. Instead, acne has arrived! Just like the caterpillar story – how it showed exemplary courage, and changed into a beautiful butterfly.” He continued, “The process of change was long and painful, but Madam Catterpi held on!”

Shagun’s mouth curved into a sliver of a smile.

“When your mom passed, I changed my lifestyle completely – modified my office schedule, learnt new skills, redefined my dynamics with you…and today our neighbour, Ms Rafique, swears by my parenting technique!”

Shagun threw her hands around her father.

“We all need to change, grow and evolve, Shagun,” Rajat held her close. “Each phase has its particular limitations and its own beauty. It’s up to us to find it and savour it, draw life lessons, and move on to the next phase.”

“So maybe my acne is also a sign of change, of growth?” Shagun chirped. “Thanks, Daddy, you’re the best!”

Rajat sighed in relief…yes, times were a-changing and his little girl was growing up fast!

 

First published in BTB Chronicles, Edition 9 as a winning entry for the prompt CHANGE

P.C. Jonas Kakaroto on Unsplash

 

 

 

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