A Rather Tish Encounter
Mira was engrossed in a book when her mother said she should start getting dressed for Sheena’s birthday. Sheena was Mira’s cousin, her mother’s brother’s daughter. Sheena and her sister Tamara lived down the road and so Mira knew she had enough time to dress. Mira had been steadily putting on weight on her 13 year old frame though her mother kept insisting it was puppy fat. So Mira had little choice in the clothes department and wore something that she was comfortable with.
They left together to Sheena’s place, passing the well maintained houses down the road with fancy gates and large gardens. They were in a car coz the Abeywardene’s couldn’t be walking on the road decked in their finery. Mira wasn’t too fond of going for these family dos though she did enjoy Tamara’s company as she was closer to Mira’s age.
Sheena was about 5 years older and more mature and didn’t have much time for the younger ones. But family is family. And so Mira tagged along with the adults for Sheena’s birthday. Sheena had started wearing braces and hated smiling so she grinned with her lips covering her teeth almost in a grimace for all the pictures.
Mira walked into the house and proceeded to sit in a corner, close to the food and amongst the older crowd. She didn’t belong anywhere and waited awkwardly for Tamara to come. As she was waiting, in walked Tish. One of Sheena’s best friends and considered to be one of the smartest and prettiest in the class (or so her mother kept saying). Tish was petite and wide eyed with an almost glaze in her eyes like she was delirious. Mira never really knew her much and Tish was certainly not going to waste any time on a minion like that. So Tish walked in decked in a mini plum chiffon dress and black pumps. Her dress was very short and she kept pulling it down from the back. She always dressed in a rather sophisticated manner though she was still in her teens. She wished Sheena, walked into the hall and proceeded straight to the dining table where the food was laid out.
As soon as Tish spotted Sheena’s grandmother, she greeted her with a syrupy and long drawn out “Hiii Aunty Delrinneee” and proceeded to bat her eyelashes with her rather wide grin in place. Aunty Delrine was old and rather frail and she responded to Tish softly. Even Aunty Delrine was regaled with the achievements of Tish and how she was going to Oxford or Cambridge once she finished her schooling. Tish then proceeded to sit at the dining table and serve herself the food. There were the usual short eats – cutlets, patties, sandwiches and some fine mini eclairs. Tish was stuffing her face with the eclairs and both her fingers were practically in her mouth. Mira watched her with fascination. There was something almost bestial about the way Tish was eating which did not ring well with the image that was created around her. She didn’t seem to care and once she was done eating, she flounced off to join her friends who were upstairs in Sheena’s room.
Mira served herself some food afterwards and sat in a corner, waiting for Tamara and hoping they could go home soon. She wasn’t too fond of these parties. She anyway felt inadequate as she was so much younger and with her puppy fat, she certainly wasn’t comfortable being around Sheena and her friends who were on constant diets and exercise programmes to lose weight. They also went to international schools which were different to the school life Mira was used to. They all shifted to international schools from local schools, claiming they couldn’t study in the local languages and needed tuition etc. However they still went for tuition which confused Mira coz she thought the idea was that they forego that pain when they joined the international school.
Tish’s parents and Sheena’s parents were all part of one gang of friends. So they went on trips together and spent a lot of time together. In between they would compare their children’s achievements. Some would bolster their kids while others would point out the bolstered ones to their own. Tish was a bolstered kid. Over affected and her mother’s sole focus was Tish. There was no world outside Tish. Tish was soo smart, soo pretty, soo talented. Tish was this, Tish was that. Too often Mira had heard Sheena moaning about how brilliant Tish was. Even Mira was intimidated by Tish though she saw no such brilliance but then again who was she to judge?
Mira’s musings were soon cast aside as Tamara came down the stairs and both of them went to Tamara’s room to just hang out. It was far more refreshing than being around the likes of Tish who made one question their own self worth with her glazed eyes and wide smile. But the image of her stuffing her face was unforgettable.
Years later Mira remembered her relatives talk about Tish – she never got into Oxford or Cambridge coz she was a person who had knowledge but little intelligence. She crammed for exams – just like she was cramming her mouth with food that day, thought Mira. She did go abroad though. And disappeared from Colombo society afterwards. Now a mere speck on the horizon and her purported brilliance lost in the annals of England.