She had been perhaps the most grotesque and the detested creature in the vast expanse of that colossus mansion. Loyola had been serving the inmates of that house since time oblivion but now what remained was her frail dead frame burdened with languor and ugliness. How often had she fleeted from one storey to the other cleaning and mopping the unkempt corners!!! With what great delight had she spent her days making breads for those hungry little mouths!!! Had not she caressed those little cherubs with profound concern and affection!!! But all had fled- the Agility, the sprightfulness, and every trait for which she had been revered and praised. What just survived was that perpetual urge to serve and that dreadful ugliness. It was the sympathies of the masters and the magnanimity of their wives that had still tamed the sick maid in their house.
Loyola was in her early forties then. Those bygone quiet ephemeral years had estranged the maid from her own self, her family and her country. And what remained in that long pace of time was a faint picture of the roots to which she was born, the truth that she had been disowned by her father for being the ugliest creature of them…and the name ‘Loyola’. Her kingdom that comprised of those long corridors and that old kitchen had shrunk into a disheveled little dark room that occupied an obscure corner of those ancient corridors. There was a broken wobbly cot, a couple of discolored robes hanging from a vermillion rusted iron nail, a dozen of tattered books, a massive mirror and a dried rose in a green vase that accompanied the desolate being in her loneliness. It was illness rather the diffidence that had scourged that little woman. What was it that had the swallowed her health??? Was it the incessant tiring years that had ripped her off her liveliness??? Or was it the profanity she suffered for being tamed as a loathsome worthless beast??? The abhorrence, the hateful glances, and the constantly stirring sense of uselessness had cloistered her to that dark room…..her room. The children were no more children. The house cheered in the rasping music of youth and ardor. The sons became the fathers and the elders gave way to their young sons. Generations rolled with an amazing briskness. And she was eclipsed the more!!!
She was often discovered copiously weeping in her desolate confinements or was found ceaselessly gazing at the emptiness of those flaking walls. A couple of servants often attended to that poor retiring lady. It was just her silence and the quick deteriorating health that they perceived. The sent bowls of meals often returned untouched. And the silent sobs were gradually taken over by frequent shrieks and tearing laughter. The insanity exacerbated with each passing month and every reluctant eye stared at the door with a hidden awe. How keenly they awaited her farewell!!! How often did they think to get rid of that irksome creature!!! But how could they??? Had not she nurtured them with her own hands?? Had she not been one amongst them???The reluctance gradually metamorphosed into concern, but not for the insane woman, rather in trepidation of losing their philanthropic reputation.
One amongst those pretentiously kind people called for a doctor. But alas, the medicines were rendered futile. The doctor spoke no words of hope. She wailed and swooned. And the servants pitied the more. How arduously they prayed for her to sleep!!! And the repugnance intensified in those young minds. Was it not mere imprudence to feed that savage lunatic woman?? The family had grown bigger.And was it not a necessity to have more commodious rooms?? They moved the old furniture and the other paraphernalia into that room. The 'small' grew smaller and the sense of futility worsened than before. Every time the workmen straddled into that cell with some or the other massive antique, she was gazed at with hatred and fear. She covered her scarred visage with her chapped hands to mask her ugliness. Quite often the doctor stepped into her dreadful premises but departed with a mournful frown.
Months fled past with abruptness. And the docile creature had not been seen for a long time. There was a deep silence with sudden murmurs. But no-one cared rather dared to plunge into that silent depth. Stirred by the sudden silence, the doctor was sent for. He carefully pushed in through that heavy door and walked in stealthily to that darkness. Thin streaks of light that invaded it through the small gaps of the window smeared that room with a faint dusky light. Peering through that dimness, his curious eyes perceived the long unseen woman. She sat herself on her neatly dressed cot with a tattered book in her hands. The man was taken aback by her composure. There was neither violence nor insanity. He drifted towards the patient hesitantly and muttered politely, “May I interrupt you Madame”. Loyola lifted her eyes from those old stained pages and greeted with a smile, “yes Sir”. He spent an hour in that grayness, relentlessly trying to probe into the cause of that abrupt change. He made frequent visits to that mysterious lady and each time he went, he was the more astonished. The question agitated him constantly that what transformed the sick lady. Where had the sickness disappeared??? But none could answer!!
She was seen with her mop again, cleaning and sweeping the floors. But the matter remained unanswered??? He often pondered upon the mystery and wondered if he could investigate the reason. But how could he??? Was she not still insane?? He often leaned against the locked door and tried to decipher the low murmurs that were often heard. But none of his question could find their answers. Unable to resist himself from the inquisitiveness, the doctor pushed in through the door and found the lady sitting close to that huge mirror. A faint smile smudged the corner of her lips and she gazed at it ceaselessly. Perturbing the silence he spoke out loud, “What are you gazing at Loyola?” she turned that detested face towards him and uttered with a smile, “me”. The doctor lifted his brows with keen curiosity. Measuring that he was unable to understand her, she explained, “There is a girl just like me that sits behind this mirror. She says that we two are alike, like the twin sisters. She says that she is beautiful…so am I. Neither am I worthless, nor am I a discerned creature…..and no one is!!! All this time I have been abhorred, considered ugly but the girl who sits behind does not think me so. I had been a fool giving way to the perceptions of the others but look…..She says…I say that I am loved and deserve to live.” The doctor gaped at her astounded and wondered how the sense of futility and being hated ruined men. How ardently had she craved for love and acceptance!!! None could fathom those innocent desires. But it was ‘her’, who did!!!