Lips Don't Lie

By Aditya in Stories » Short
Updated 10:19 IST Jul 23, 2018
Author's note: I recently attended a Story writing workshop in Mumbai. The story that follows is part of task that we did during the workshop. We were asked to pick three random chits from bowls, one each for the protagonist, for the pursuit and for the conflict/problems/difficulties. The chits I got are mentioned below and the story I could come up is further below. Do share your feedback.
Protagonist: A faithful and naive disciple
Pursuit: Quest for lipstick
Problem: Lack of education
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Aisha was sitting in her favorite armchair by the window, overlooking the vast expanse of the sea. She was unusually silent today. The sea breeze made her gray hair float everywhere, but her eyes were transfixed on the setting sun. She could see the inevitability of time, it wasn’t long before she would set behind the horizon herself. Aisha was 58, Chairman and Managing director of Maya Cosmetics and Apparels, and she was dying.
Over the last 25 years, she had built the brand and empire from scratch. Her name stood for wisdom, wit and warmth. She was ruthless, the few occasion when people tried to cross her path. Otherwise she was inclusive and progressive. She picked up the report the third time and read it, “stage 4, pancreatic cancer”. Now the initial shock was replaced with concern. Concern not for her personal survival but for her legacy.
She dropped the report on the side table and pressed a buzzer. Chaaya, her personal assistant, appeared in a moment. Chaaya was 26, gentle, good looking, naive for her age but fiercely faithful towards her lady. Aisha was everything for her; mother, mentor, friend and philosopher. Aisha had rescued her from a brothel when she was 13 and since then she had been with her. Chaaya was provided with basic education, but she opted to devote herself to her master, so she never went to formal school beyond her graduation. Aisha asked her to call for an urgent board meeting, she had very little time.
Couple of hours later, the boardroom was full. The right side was occupied by three women in their late twenties to mid thirties. Isha, Ishita and Ira, all of the immaculately dressed in business suites, they were Aisha’s daughters. Haribhai, old and wrinkled occupied the left side, followed by Jaya and Aakash. Haribhai was the legal consultant while, Jaya and Aakash were business heads of cosmetics and apparels respectively. The room was waiting for the chairperson to arrive, with expressions varying from concern, confusion to downright irritation. Chaaya pushed the door and Aisha walked behind her, dressed in a dark blue suite. Her gray hair were neatly done and her trademark red lipstick proclaimed her total command.
Aisha apologized for the last minute request and circulated a copy of the test report without wasting further time. The atmosphere changed to shock and grief. She allowed a few moments to pass and then addressed with her usual resolve, “We are not here to discuss that what is inevitable. I have had multiple discussion with the best of doctors. I have a couple of months at best. We are here to understand the way forward. You my trusted board members have the responsibility to take our business forward. I have full faith in your abilities and I am sure you will follow our core values. We are here to ascertain the one who will take up my position as the chairman. I have a not so enviable task to choose from four women who are worthy of this position. Along with my daughters, Chaaya shall also be considered for the position”.
The boardroom fell silent. The daughters were outraged but were wise enough to kerb their emotions. Chaaya was in shock. Before she could protest, Aisha went ahead with the balance part of her address. “I have a task for the four aspirants, the one to present the best case shall be awarded the position. The task is simple, find the worlds best lipstick and tell me why it is the best. You have 10 days to find and build your case, we meet here on the eleventh day, I shall sign the letters then and there”.
The boardroom assembled exactly after 10 days, everyone taking their usual positions. Aisha invited Isha to present her case.
Isha was dressed in a Pink suit, with matching lipstick. She described her tour to Paris where she met with some of the leading women in fashion business and told, how after much deliberation, she felt that the L‘Oreal Paris X Balmain 356 Confidence Rose Gold Metallic was the best. This one, she said, symbolized universal love, spunkiness, self worth and innocence. It is what a women should be, full of love and joy.
Ishita was the next, she was dressed in a Mauve suite and looked stunning carrying the Purple lipstick. She said she went to New York and met with business professionals in the cosmetic industry. The Estee Lauder Pure Color Envy Dominant Purple was the best, she said. It represents a rich, regal attitude. It symbolizes power, luxury, it is feminine yet strong. It is what a women should be, in command and not a dependent. She settled with an air of confidence.
It was Ira’s turn to present. She stood up dressed in a pretty Beige suit and a contrasting Blazing Orange lipstick. You don’t have to go around the world looking for wisdom when we have it here in abundance, she said. I went to 8 shopping malls and spent 40 hours talking to customers, sales people and brand ambassadors. We don’t need anything outrageous here. I found that the Lakme Absolute Argan Oil Dewy Orange is the best. It represents fire, the sun, the passion to seek more, learn more and do more. It is what a women should be, eager to do more and not just cosy up to her man, or be a man hater either, she said, taking sideways glance to her sisters.
Finally it was Chaaya’s turn to speak. She was dressed in simple office Gray suite but her lips were painted Bold Red. Standing behind the old lady, she looked a reflection of her mentor. She took a few steps ahead and kept a file on the desk. There was a hint of nervousness in her demeanor, but when she spoke, it was calm and clear.
I neither have the resources to travel the world, nor the knowledge and experience to talk to people. All these years, I have been with Aisha ma'am, attending her needs, managing her schedules, taking notes. And sometimes, just being quite with her. These past 10 days I have been with her for all the time I could. Pardon me for my incompetence but this is what I have learned. I have never seen ma'am wear anything else but a light touch of our own Maya Queen Red. I have seen her passion at work, when she worked tirelessly for 16 hours each day. I have seen her confidence, when she refused to get intimidated by big brand takeovers. I have seen her love and inclusion, when she took me and many other like me under her wings. I have experienced and lived the core values she believes in.
She has always been who she is, she never attempted to be anyone else, she never felt like emulating someone. Red represents the desire of every women on this planet to be who she is, the way she is and accepted in whatever form she is. Our company may be a drop in the ocean of fashion world. We may not rub our shoulders with the likes of L‘Oreals and Lakmes of the world. But, we are who we are and we will be what we aspire to be.
Chaaya looked at her mentor and she could see pride and a sense of fulfillment in Aisha’s eyes. The sisters, Jaya, Aakash and Haribhai clapped in unison as Aisha signed the papers. Isha was given the position of Head Sales and Marketing. Ishita was assigned Head Finance, while Ira was given the responsibility to lead Manufacturing. Needless to say, Chaaya was assigned the position of Chairman and Managing Director.
Exactly 30 days after the last board meeting Aisha died, peacefully. The four sisters continue to build the business. Chaaya continues to devote every Saturday in CSR activity for the underprivileged girl child, she wears the Maya Queen Red with pride and dignity.
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