After ten long years, she once gain strolls down that familiar street in the afternoon hours. The quiet place is brought to life with the shouts and laughter of the school children. She stops and recollects her childhood, smiles and turns back. As she takes a few steps forward, she realizes that someone is staring at her; she again stops and looks back. The old mask-seller smiles at her. She is completely taken aback to find that he still recognizes her. She goes over to him and says, “I never thought I’d be remembered after all these years! How are you?”
– “I remember all those children who buy masks from me but I’m hardly remembered by anyone! Want a mask? Maybe that one-”
– “How come you always know which mask we want?”
– “When you come to buy a mask and try it on, only your eyes remain unmasked. And that’s how I know which mask the child is looking for. Why do children wear masks? To hide their feelings, of course! The most timid child wants the scariest of the lot while the unhappy one wants the large smiling face! Sometimes the one who buys a heart gives it to someone she’ll betray the next day!”
– “Do you always wear a mask to ‘hide’ your feelings? Can a mask not serve any other purpose?”
– “Can it? Your choice of masks always surprised me though. I never understood why you wanted the mask at all. When your eyes were filled with tears, you didn’t want the pink smiling face; you asked for the crying clown instead. When you marched out of school with determined disapproval, you asked for the purple angry face. So, today I think you might want the-”
– “No. I don’t need them now.”
– “Really? You sure you don’t want to buy a mask?”
– “You just said that every mask leaves our eyes unmasked. And I have learnt to believe that no mask can overshadow our thoughts.
Everyone appreciates your collection of masks but have you ever wondered why your customers are mostly children? It’s because they still have to master the art of revealing their feelings and thoughts the way others can take them.
With tears in her eyes, a child buys a happy smiley for she still doesn’t know how to hide her tears from those who don’t care. A friendless child buys a worried or funny face because nothing else will fetch her company.
And in the desperate search for a cheat-sheet to this exam called life, the masks give them what they are taught to think they want. And even before they know it, they are entrapped into the habit of masking their character with a rose-tinted personality. Maybe they even lose track of themselves. Maybe their real thoughts never receive the due importance. As a child grows up, she no longer needs these plastic masks. A prisoner of birth, the plastic life teaches her to remain masked when the need arises; or unmasked when life gives her a chance!
Maybe I still, always will need a mask. But I do not need to buy one now; for I’m no longer a child.”