She’s trying on her mother’s jewelry.
She reaches for a gold ring, delicately, picks it up and slips it on. It’s too big and slides down. She puts it onto her thumb instead.
Next she attacks the bangles on the dressing table. The gold bangles clang on her small wrist, the diamonds winking playfully at her.
She looks at the gold necklace encrusted with rubies. She does not need to unhook it. The necklace chain is more than wide enough to slide over her head unhooked.
When she looks in the mirror, she does not see an 8-year-old Kundan in pigtails. She sees a princess, a beautiful princess of a faraway land. She feels beautiful, adorned with glittering jewelry. She feels as beautiful as her mother.
She carefully unbraids her hair and slides them over one shoulder. She slants her head to one side and watches the rubies glinting in the light.
She needs a tiara, she thinks. She picks up one of her mother’s shiny hair clips and attaches it onto her hair like a crown.
Next she rushes to her mother’s cupboard and takes out a shiny blue dupatta and wraps it clumsily around her waist like a sari. She gets a red lipstick, applies it hurriedly and smacks her lips, like she has seen her mother do so often.
She stands in front of the mirror, admiring her work. She leans in to have a closer look. She looks beautiful, she feels beautiful, and special, because she is wearing her mother’s jewelry.
The knob on the door rattles and she turns around to see her mother enter the room. The little girl runs expectantly to her mother and stands in front of her, awaiting her verdict.
The mother beams down at her with love affection and surprise. There’s a smile on her lips. She realizes that one day will come when she will have to leave her, when she will get married and go away. She realizes that she’s very lucky indeed to see her child grow up.
She takes Kundan back to the dressing table and makes her sit on the stool. Next she wipes off the extra lipstick from her face, and dresses her up, for real this time.
And when Kundan looks in the mirror, she’s not wearing her mom’s jewelry, or her makeup, or her shoes, she’s wearing all of her own things. And she looks even more beautiful than before.
Says the mother, “You don’t need to wear jewels or fancy clothes to look like a beautiful princess honey, you already are one.”