I sat tense , waiting expectantly for the next patient .
Clad in my PPE ( personal protective equipment ) mask , gloves , face shield , I looked more like an astronaut or a deep sea diver than a dermatologist /cosmetologist.
Gone was my saree ! Gone was my friendly banter !
And the comforting pat on the shoulders ? Heavens .. No !
Corona times are such !

‘’Hiiiiii Doc!’’, breezed in Hirral Merchant .
‘’How are you , doc? Really glad you have kept your clinic open .I need to get FIXED real fast !’’
I wondered , for what ?
Have known Hirral for several years , evolving from a shy Kutchi mother -of -two ( two sons 17 and 10 years )
to becoming a healer and a numerologist .
Maybe she had begun online healing sessions and needed to look more presentable .
A quick laser hair reduction of the lower face would do the trick. I suggested the same .

‘’No , no Doc ! I need my hair gone , not only from my face , I want a whole body laser treatment! ‘’

‘’Sure Hirral ..can do !
But it is expensive , are you sure?’’
‘’Yes Doc ! I have to be my best ! And I need more than just laser hair reduction . I am contesting for the MRS INDIA Contest !’’
My jaw dropped !
In these times ?
Was there even a ‘Mrs India ‘ Contest happening ??
‘’Yes , yes Doc !There are 145 participants .I have cleared the auditions and have reached the last 30 !
The orientations will be in September in Dehradun (maybe ) and then the SemiFinals , probably in a safe international environment like NewZealand or the Maldives .’’
My jaw dropped further , but the mask I wore somehow held it up !
What drive , what a feat …
to prepare for a beauty contest , in these most uninspiring of times .

‘’ You have the most charming gamine eyes Hirral , a very attractive face but your ‘ thighs ‘ ? How do you propose to get them shipshape ??’’
‘’I consider my flaws , my strength ,Doc !
I will diet , I will exercise , I will get to where I have to !
And you will have to help me !’’

‘’ Mrs India Contests are hard Hirral . They assess not only your face and figure but also how talented you are , your self confidence , your desire to win . ‘’
‘’Yes , I am aware Doc .Every week all of us participants are given Tasks , which test our abilities in a variety of ways .
I have made videos of myself cooking and dishing out healthy recipes , demonstrated effective concoctions for Face and Body Scrubs, made workout videos .
For Sushant Singh Rajput , I did a spontaneous dance tribute and a devotional number dressed like Radha on Janamashthami . Like our yesteryear actresses I have even danced carrying double ,triple earthen pots on my head!
I am on a roll Doc , today sitting for photo shoots sporting the 60’s look , tomorrow the 70s rock and roll look !
I am enjoying myself !
And the best part Doc , the more I work on myself , the more I want to run out and help others . Make meals for the hungry on the streets , participate in any and every civic activity to help those in need .
And all this whilst looking after my own family , my work !
God and the Universe are helping me find TIME for EVERYTHING!

I was amazed !
Hirral had lofty dreams but also the spunk to scale them .
‘’What about your family ? Are they supportive ??’’
‘’ Yes doc , I
have got quite a lot of encouragement from my husband who though a financial wizard himself kicked up his job and started an online portal performing online Poojas , the EPooja ! You must have heard of it !’’
Wowww ! I was awestruck !

‘’Tell me what has been the most difficult part of this journey ?’’
‘’Oh , it was when the judges asked me to introduce myself and my vision .. all in 1 minute !
I thought about this question .

She was right ! To try and
précis oneself , ones life , one’s desires …in 1 minute ! Not a cakewalk at all !

‘’This has been a period of the greatest growth for me . I am constantly working on the way I walk , talk , my manners, etiquette.. but Doc you really have to help me LOOK my best !’’

‘’ Yes , yes Hirral ! I will , I will !
But let me tell you whether you get the Mrs India crown or not ,
in my eyes you are already
A role model for everyone , including me !’’

That evening , fully inspired , I prized open my cupboard of treasured sarees after 4 months and took out an AJRAKH.
What type of saree is that you might ask .

It is a saree made of the softest cotton, soft enough to swathe a baby , painstakingly blockprinted on both sides with natural dyes over and over again to form complex geometric and floral patterns .
It is a 4000 year old technique native to Sindh and Kutch , a product of patience and arduous labour.
The word Ajrakh comes from Azurakh which means indigo in Persian . The indigo represents the sky , the red madder natural dye superimposed is twilight and the
white dots strewn all over are the stars which illuminate the deep blue sky !
And that is what Hirral is !
Standing out in this sea of forlornness with hope and light !
Simply beautiful!

34 thoughts on “ZARAH DIARIES … COVID or no COVID

  1. Doctor.. You actually change life’s for the good.. many must have experienced it.. this is another beautiful story … About you Sarees… The lady Doctor… Looks awesome 😍 in them.. 😊👍


  2. Radha, you look gorgeous as always in this saree… absolutely lucid writing…I have become fan of zara’s diaries and your sarees…


  3. After a long time,a fascinating read,you undoubtedly have the knack to make work in these trying times fun filled,.coupled with your patients positivity and enthusiasm,’MrsIndia’ WOW,Action is definitely a reflection of your faith.Wish her luck.Your saree stories are always inter woven with such precision.By the way that makes a perfect ‘GOOD EARTH,’advertisement.


  4. Hirral is truly inspiring much energy and enthusiasm. Good luck to her !!!
    Radhika you look stunning in this sari.
    Love and looking forward to more beautiful write ups and pictures ❤️


  5. Another fascinating read Radha. Your ability to see the best in everyone, to see and highlight their positives is amazing.
    Elegance personified 👏👏👏


    1. Aadaaab Ashish !
      So nice to know you found time to read despite your grilling schedule at the frontline of COVID .
      Remembered Girija on the second of August .. but like a sloth didn’t ring up to wish .
      These days , need a whack to get started on anything other than the ordinary !
      Loads of love !
      Stay safe


  6. Radhu, as always your writing is so beautiful and for a few moments it takes me to day dream. You look beautiful and have maintained inspite of the lockdown. Love to my gorgeous sister in Mumbai – vijay

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Glad to be reading Zarah diaries ! The bit about looking like an astronaut or a deep sea diver is really funny ! Re Hirral ‘s doing so much , it requires a pandemic to discover how much one can really do with ones life, other than going to work and back everyday. I am sure a lot of people have pushed the envelope in terms of achieving things things they never thought of during the period of normalcy !!!


    1. Hiiii Mekhi !
      Lots of people did do lots of things . Dug deep , found some inner strength and made themselves productive .
      I was however most uninspired till Hirral jolted me to thinking .. come on get up .. Do Something / Anything !!
      Love you Mekhi !


  8. Hi Radha enjoyed the read as always u looking regal in ur saree which is beautiful luv Hirals enthusiasm n attitude way to go !!!


      1. Radhu, Hirral story is superb for self confidence. I enjoyed the reading.
        At the end your picture is the most beautiful surprise. Keep it up.


  9. Hi Radha superb write up as usual. And look pretty in that beautiful saree. As usual. Hiral is really inspiring. Hats off to her. All the best. Keep it up


    1. Hiiii Sid !
      It’s been ages since I heard from you .
      You were one of the first to warn about COVID , remember your being in a bunker like apt in Dubai !
      This highly forgettable period of our lives is unlikely to be forgotten .
      But glad you found it in you to be creative ..
      Played the tabla with a set of bottles , right ??!


  10. As usual interesting story, well narrated. Either you meet many interesting people in your clinic or you have a way to see the interesting side of common people, more likely the latter.


      1. You know I read this twice. Once the day it came and today again.. wanted it to seep in.. for me the most significant part was the moment of transformation when your own mental
        Commentary stops and you can see the shining spirit of another even though it’s dressed in Bollywood colours! I am working hard myself on opening myself to another without our judgments. Beautiful as always.

        Liked by 1 person

  11. Dr Radha thank you for writing this blog. Hirral is a friend and I could just visualise entire conversation so vividly. Her energy and determination stands out. Just love the way you have described her journey and especially her towards the end with your saree. All the very best to both you ladies !


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