The Brown Girl and Saheli phenomenon is old and complex. While the Saheli is Brown Girl’s biggest confidante, cheer leader and support system, I’m not sure the Brown Girl could say the same about her own allegiance towards the Saheli.
While the Saheli has given up a boyfriend just because he didn’t speak kindly of Brown Girl, Brown Girl herself can’t even give up a social event that is being hosted by the Saheli’s arch nemesis. Brown Girl justifies it as Saheli being old enough to fight her own battles and that Brown Girl isn’t going to sever ties with people just because Saheli can’t get along with a hundred percent of the human race. She insists on keeping friends with all the people who have hurt Saheli and insists that Saheli gauge her on how she is to her and not how they are with other people. To Saheli, this is part of their interpersonal relationship and die-hard friendship but Brown Girl doesn’t give two hoots about it therefore she assumes silence after the initial protest and actually helps Brown Girl dress for the party.
Brown Girl would love Saheli to have a husband. But not before Brown Girl scores one. She wants Saheli to be married to someone extremely handsome and just like the guy that Saheli has always wanted but he can’t be better than the guy that Brown Girl will have eventually as her husband . Privately Brown Girl thinks that Saheli would be lucky to even get married. But in the event that she does, her husband shouldn’t be better than Brown Girl’s. That’s a silent prayer that Brown Girl sends to the heavens frequently when a good looking guy looks in Saheli’s direction.
Saheli is attractive. In a quiet, deep, sophisticated way. She isn’t pretty in the quintessential way but still attracts men regularly. Brown Girl can’t get it. She thinks people like Saheli because they want someone stupid enough to exploit. She routinely reminds Saheli of all the skin problems that she has, her terrible style sense, her awkward social graces and lack of personal charisma.
Brown Girl’s mom is her biggest fan. She always tells her that she would be an asset to any man just because she’s so eloquent and smart . Then she gently reminds Brown Girl to not rely on superficial things only. She advises her to have the most becoming of all qualities, humility.
Brown Girl finds this advice boring. Why would humility be practiced by an accomplished woman? Humility is for losers, like Saheli. Brown Girl has the world at her feet. Saheli has to suck up to people. Brown Girl rules the world.
Brown Girl has guys throwing themselves at her. She can have anyone. But the man she wants is so elusive. He doesn’t seem particularly interested in her. Brown Girl makes Saheli her wingwoman.
Saheli delivers. She convinces him that Brown Girl can be a worthy partner.
He believes Saheli and now Brown Girl is his partner. He suggests that may be they should set Saheli up with one of his friends. He believes they’ll make a great couple.
Brown Girl is uneasy. Her boyfriend is talking about an amazing guy. Someone who’s totally out of Saheli’s league. Secretly Brown Girl thinks he may be out of her league too. She can’t have Saheli date and potentially end up with an outstanding man. Brown Girl tells him that Saheli would be much happier with a different guy. Someone not quite as good looking or well spoken. Someone who is as modest as Saheli is.
She explains that Saheli is a loser at her core. That she has never been great at anything. That the only highlight of her pathetic life is her friendship with Brown Girl. She has no social graces and it would be a disservice to that guy if they set him up with Saheli.
He understands. He can see how Saheli is so quiet and reserved. Now he gets it. He always thought she didn’t talk much because she was a little shy but now it all makes sense. She’s boring and probably doesn’t have much to talk about.
Meanwhile, Saheli helps Brown Girl prepare for her wedding. She becomes the Brown Girl’s wedding planner, outfit shopper, shoe picker, venue locator, photographer hunter and menu setter. She hopes to be the maid of honor as there is no one else as close to Brown Girl as she has been. She spends the three months preceding the wedding toiling after Brown Girl.
A week before the wedding Brown Girl announces the maid of honor. It’s another pretty, charming and stylish girl like Brown Girl.
Saheli is heartbroken but she doesn’t show it. She designs the outfit for the maid of honor. Maid of honor is busy with her own social life and so Saheli does all the work that typically the maid of honor does.
The wedding arrives and Saheli is one of the ten bridesmaids. She stands quietly at the back and is seen running around at Brown Girl’s orders frequently.
Brown Girl is smirking. She has scored a catch. She couldn’t be prouder of her luck. He had practically fallen in her lap. “With a little help from Saheli”, her usually quiet conscience reminds her. Brown Girl silences it.
Brown Girl and Saheli lose touch. They meet again a year later. Turns out Saheli is going to be the creative editor for a huge fashion magazine. Brown Girl watches Saheli be confident and stylish. “How did she change so much?”, she asks herself.
Saheli thanks Brown Girl for not setting her up with her husband’s best friend. She thanks Brown Girl for not arranging marriage for her. “There is so much to do before I get married”, she says enthusiastically.
Saheli leaves for another country. Brown Girl gets divorced a few years later. Her husband couldn’t deal with her narcissism.
She is flipping channels as she is struck by something on a business channel. They’re interviewing Saheli. She looks all nice and sophisticated and important. She doesn’t look boring at all.
Saheli is saying,
“I have always thanked my best friend for where I am today. I was really in awe of her until I found out that she told many people I was so boring. That ignited a fire in me. I was many things but I wasn’t boring. Guess my best friend never talked to me enough to know that I had so much to say. Her self-importance rarely allowed her to see beyond herself anyway. But to cut it short, she showed me that if I really wanted someone to value me, I’d have to be someone interesting. Like I am today. So I thank her narcissism for my success. She showed me how not to be”.
Brown Girl watches with astonishment. So Saheli knows? Guess Saheli always knew.