There are few things more beautiful than a young woman completely involved in what she’s doing. Confident, joyful and and elegant.
You see it in dance movies all the time, like Nora Clark, the female lead in Step Up. In Dance movies it is easy to capture the performer’s beauty and their immersion in their craft. The timing, moves, music and beats are obvious and naturally elegant to our senses. You understand and relate to the music and rhythm.
These women don’t try to be beautiful, they are beautiful because of the things they do. Their actions are graceful, their joy is contagious and its so enchanting that you forget their looks after a while.
In research some of the girls around me tend to have this tendency to dress down I got confused at this because they can be very pretty when they want to. I always wondered about this approach.
Then a few years ago, incidents involving friends in the 2010 Masters Batch of the Department taught me something. Something I’ve just begun to understand.
The first one was with an ecologist friend of mine who was an insect enthusiast and loved butterflies. She was fanatic about them really. The first memory I have of her is in the university garden. It was the middle of the day and she was walking a little behind me, there was a large hedge between us. I was talking with a few other people and was waiting for her to catch up when I heard her say.
“Get up lazy, its the afternoon and you’re still sitting here! Don’t you have any self respect?”
I first thought she was speaking to a drunkard lying on the other side of the hedge so I walked over and looked. There was no one there though, or so I thought.
“Who are you talking too?” I asked tentatively, hoping she wasn’t crazy.
“Just look at that guy!” She pointed at a twig in the hedge “Is that what he should be doing at this time of the day!”
I looked closer, and there on the tip of twig was a little Chocolate Pansy Butterfly having a nap. Now I don’t know what the poor butterfly should have been doing to avoid the scolding but I’d never seen anyone talk to a bug before. That’s when I decided this is one person I am definitely being friends with.
Her name was Bella Mariposa and we eventually became very good friends. She did turn out to be quite crazy, but in an adorable way.
There was also this class field trip in our second year. We were at a place called Tamhini near Pune, It was February and the river had dried up. We were all wandering, watching and observing. Most of us were not really serious though, and were having fun gamboling around.
Mariposa though was different. The moment she entered the forest she was not a person any more. She became something else, something beautiful.
Insects fly away when people come near, but not for Mariposa, she had a way of approaching which was completely silent, inching forward almost infinitely slowly, not even the insect would notice, even if he did, I am sure he wouldn’t be scared.
I still have that picture of her in my mind. It is how I will always remember her, in the dry riverbed full of rocks covered completely with a canopy of green leaves, like a great arched ceiling. Rays of sunlight streaming through gaps in the foliage, the whole scene bathed in light filtered green by the leaves.
And in the middle of this scene is Mariposa; worn out pair of Reebok shoes, patched jeans with a hole in them and a camera slung around her neck picking her way among the boulders, her large black eyes always watching. Noticing what no one else could see with instincts no one else had.
She did not seem part of us then, wherever the main group went, she would quietly be some distance away. One hand on her camera, ready for the moment.
When some insect was visible Mariposa would stop, and begin inching closer, it was all about timing, getting the best shot at the closest distance while being completely silent, not alarming the creature.
She would stand at a safe distance, take a photo and come closer, another one, still closer and again another. Then she would be there. The exact distance and angle she was waiting for.
Everything is still silent- hanging on a thread, the insect twitches, he is about to fly I think- but he doesn’t, it almost like she is willing him to stay- and he’s listening; like a charmer she has it set. Now is the moment.
And another one for backup-
Slowly she draws back again, still in sync with the bug and its surroundings, soundless. At a safe distance she relaxes, takes a breath, looks at me and smiles. The dance is over.
“That was perfect.” she says.
It really was.