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Cosmo Short Stories: Author Zarreen Khan Tells a Tale of Love, Loss and Longing

There is no one, true definition of what qualifies as loving oneself as one ought to. So, we asked the author of Koi Good News and My Best Friend’s Son’s Wedding to give us her version of what all self-love could mean, through a short story.

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THE CALL


By ZARREEN KHAN
Author of Koi Good News and My Best Friend’s Son’s Wedding

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“Guys, I’ve decided to follow what the Prime Minister said last evening in his speech,” said Rish, stuffing her mouth with popcorn. “I am going to be atmanirbhar.”
“Ew!” Maya said into the camera, taking her eyes off her nails for a split second. 
“Not that way, you dirty mind! I am just going to stop looking for love outside of me. I’m going to love myself and that will be enough.”
“So you’re going to be single all your life,” Maya said, rolling her eyes. 
“A man’s love does not matter,” Rish snapped, almost spitting popcorn out of her mouth into our Zoom call screen. “All that matters...is you!” 
“Of course, all that matters is me, Rish, but can you stop showing us the insides of your mouth,” Maya said in disgust. 
Rish banged the table. “I can’t even talk to you guys while I’m eating? Do I have to be all made up and hoity-toity like you just for a video call?”  “Well excuse me for giving myself some TLC!” Maya said batting her mascara-laden eyelashes. 
“But seriously, Maya,” Sadhna interjected, “who wears lipstick in a lockdown? For a Zoom call?”
“When can you wear lipstick then?” she asked exasperated. “Certainly not outside, under a mask! I tried, believe you me. The bloody mask stuck to my lips and I couldn’t speak to my neighbours at all.”
“You shouldn’t be speaking to your neighbours anyway! It’s social distancing time!” Rish argued.
“Guys, guys, calm down,” Sadhna said. “Anyway, I just called to let you know that I’m taking a new meditation session next week. It will really help connect with yourself.”
“If you ask me,” Maya said with a sigh, “I’ve connected enough with myself. I’d really like to connect with the outside world now.”
“Why?” Rish scowled. “Why do we need company? I’m having a great time living with just myself.” 
“You are great company only for yourself,” Maya said pouting at her own image on the screen. 
“Guys, please stop it,” Sadhna interrupted...again. “Just, breathe! Love each other, love yourselves.”
Rish snorted. “Maya only loves herself.”
“It is easy for me. Imagine if I were you!”

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“Are you guys interested in the meditation course or not?” Sadhna snapped before Rish could bite back. They became silent and exchanged uncomfortable looks. 
Sadhna sighed. “Fine. I just think meditation will really help connect with your feelings.” Then she turned to me and said softly, “What about you?” They all turned to look at me, with a hint of concern, including Maya, who tore her eyes away from her own face for a minute. 
18 months ago, I was a bit like Maya. A bit, because I was much worse. I was used to seeing my face in the mirror and finding just that one spot, that one freckle, or that gap in the tooth I thought made me the ugliest person in the world. I started cancelling shows, dishonouring contracts, running out of events because I, one of the well-known models of the country, couldn’t bear to see my face in the mirror. The irony, right? Only I couldn’t love the face everyone else seemed to love. I kept falling deeper and deeper into the dark, quiet world of anxiety, doubt and loneliness. 
And then these girls, my friends of 20 years, reached out to me. They pulled me up and held me together. They showered me with love, laughter and with their time, and sometimes, you just need someone you love to show you how to love yourself. 
 I smiled. “Whenever I feel like connecting with myself, I connect with you.”    


“But seriously Maya, who wears a lipstick in a lockdown?”