The clapping went on and on. The audience was at its feet. Showstopper Reya at the centre stage, was looking stunningly gorgeous. Her outfit looked out of the world beautiful. The response to the new line of ‘The Stitches’, in this fashion show, was phenomenal. A beaming Ruhaan walked on to the stage and holding Reya’s hand went to the front stage to take a bow. The flashes went on, the shutterbugs went wild and it was a dream finale for Reya and Ruhaan, the co-founders of ‘The Stitches.’ And then the nightmare!

Ruhaan woke up with a start. He was completely drenched in sweat. His heart seemed to be galloping. Everything came rushing back! How very happy they were that day of the Lakme Fashion Week. Their fashion line, ‘The Stitches’ had done fabulously well. They had given so many interviews, met so many people and tired but elated they had gotten back to the dressing room. Reya started to change and Ruhaan went out to take a call when there was a big boom and screams rented the whole space. A fire, due to a short circuit, had broken out in the dressing room and the flames engulfed everything around. The dream clothes, the hard work of innumerable days, lay there as heaps of ashes and by the time the fire could be extinguished, lots of damage had been done. Thankfully, no fatal casualty had taken place but many lay injured. Reya was the worst hit. She had about 25% burns and one side of her beautiful face was charred.

Reya was hospitalised for about a month. Ruhaan was in a state of trauma. Their dream line, ‘The Stitches’ and its showstopper, both were badly ruined. It was their hard work of years and now that they had become so successful, came this massive jolt. There were rumors of a relationship between Reya and Ruhaan too which neither of them had acknowledged yet. Reya too was shattered beyond words and her sister, who lived in Canada, took her away with her, for an indefinite period. Ruhaan, after somewhat recovering from his trauma, decided to just go away somewhere unknown for a while. He booked a ticket to Sri Lanka and landed there. He hired a car and set out on an unknown road trip, all by himself.

Ruhaan kept driving around unknown places, into the wilderness. Even the sight of people, scared him. All the time the visuals of the shows, lights, clappings, the beautiful Reya’s stunning face and immediately after, the damaged face after the fire, would keep coming in front of his eyes. They had dreamed together to make it to Milan, for the fashion show and become an internationally acclaimed clothes line, but alas! the terrible had happened and all their joy had vanished into thin air with no hope of reappearance ever. The visuals kept haunting Ruhaan and he knew no peace. No place could give him any solace. He kept moving , moving till one day while driving, the earth seemed to shake and turn upside down and everything blacked out for Ruhaan.

Ruhaan felt a seering pain on his head. It was an effort to open his eyes. He groaned, he tried to move, when he felt warm, soft hands on his fore-head and the sweetest of voices speaking into his ears. He had no clue of the language spoken but it was so comforting that he slowly opened his eyes. His eyes met a pair of eyes close to his face and he screamed. He shut his eyes again. The face bent over his was a deformed one. The comforting hands did not stop though and their warmth helped him open his eyes again. The woman with comforting hands and deformed face smiled at him. He lay still. It was the most beautiful smile that he had ever seen; a smile filled with love and comfort. He sat up and soon some other people came on hearing the woman’s call. To Ruhaan’s shock, every one was deformed in some way or the other, but each one of them, oblivious to their deformity, had such love and happiness dripping from their faces that Ruhaan was wonderstuck.

Only one or two of those people of that unknown community, could converse in English. From them Ruhaan could gather that that village fell on an active volcanic line where there were active volcanoes that kept erupting very frequently and due to the close proximity to the burning lava and other gases that came out, every one born there was born with some form of deformity. Ruhaan was taken aback when he was told that for them, there was no concept of deformity. It was just how they were and that was normal for them. Ruhaan was shaken up by this disparity in perception. Something that qualified for an adjective like ‘ugly’ for a vast majority and was undesirable, was actually ‘different’ for these people and accepted as normal. Ruhaan could see how joyful of themselves, these people were with what ever they had, with how ever they were! What an amazing revelation it was for Ruhaan! And what was Ruhaan running away from? With this new perception, it was a new world for Ruhaan. He enjoyed their hospitality and care and soaked into their happiness. They had very simple lives.With their love and care, they nursed Ruhaan back to health. It was already a fortnight that Ruhaan was among them. His mind was throbbing with new ideas. He called Reya and spoke to her about his ideas. It was a new Ruhaan now.

Six months had passed from the time Ruhaan had returned from Sri Lanka. He had plunged himself into work. Reya had joined him shortly. They were preparing to take part in the competition to be held shortly. The day of their dreams arrived. ‘The Stitches’ was all set to show case its new clothes line. Everyone was very curious to see what they had to show on their comeback. The showstopper was a secret. In a packed hall, the announcement was made,

‘ And here comes ‘The Stitches’!

The models entered the ramp. There was pin drop silence. One after the other the glowing, confident models in stunning clothes walked the ramp lighting up the room with their joyous smiles. They were the girls and boys from the community in Sri Lanka, where Ruhaan had stayed. Their deformities supplemented with their dazzling smiles gave tough competition to the best of beauties there. Then walked in Reya, the showstopper, with her grace and bewitching smile on her scarred face. The hall burst into a deafening applause as the models of ‘The Stitches’ flooded the stage and won each single heart present there with their simplicity of style. They looked beautiful. They carried the outfits with such elan that even Ruhaan himself found unstoppable tears streaming down his eyes as he walked in front, holding Reya’s hand to take the final bow.

Author of the book “The Heart Speaks”, Medium writer since 2018, top writer in fiction, short stories. Loves writing, dance, music, children. Learner for life..