Seven-year-old Amali came to live with our family a short time after her mother started to work for us. Her mother had to leave little Amali in the care of her grandmother as she struggled with life as a single mother. In time, this gangly little girl used to spend her school holidays with us and my own daughters accepted her wholeheartedly. As the bond between my own girls and Amali grew, it seemed logical to invite her to live with us permanently so that mother and daughter could be together. It worked out well.
Amali would go to school from our home and return home in the afternoon to a normal household. The four girls would do ‘girl’ things after that, watching TV or just hanging out. I kept a vigilant eye on Amali’s academic progress because she was not a very dedicated student. I took over every aspect of Amali’s life – and in return, this amazing girl gave me a brand of love that I could not define. There were times I had to get tough with her, but Amali never retorted nor showed dissent. She would retreat until I showed her that all was well again.
School holidays meant out-of-town trips together. There were many of those, including several Christmas occasions. This young girl blended into our family easily. She fine-tuned her English language and other skills. However, I realised as time went on that Amali was struggling academically. Having missed out on her first years at school, she was unable to cope with catching up.
She first displayed her hairdressing skills with all the Barbie dolls lying around, twisting the synthetic hair into intricate styles. Being intrinsically artistic, Amali would often style my own daughters’ hair, weaving and winding their strands into artistic forms. I took note of this. When I realised that school life was wearing her down, I enrolled Amali into a hairdressing course at a reputed academy.
From thence on, this beautiful young girl shone stellar-like. She dedicated herself to gathering every bit of knowledge she could. She would visit orphanages and aged care homes to cut and style hair so that she could gain practical experience. Many of my friends would seek out her services when they needed to style their hair. She bloomed like a bud in the morning sun. Watching her style hair – anyone’s hair; used to fill me with a sense of fulfilment. Her eyes would sparkle as her hands deftly flew over strands of different qualities of hair. Amali had found her niche. I was content.
As with all things, Amali had to experience her rite of passage. She graduated from her hairdressing academy with flying colours. In time, she fell in love and broke her heart in customary youthful rebellion not heeding the advice I gave her. She took a job at McDonalds and spread her wings as I watched. And then the day came when she had to leave the confines of the nest I had provided for her. I knew that day would come inevitably, but I did not steel myself for the emptiness I felt at her departure. This young girl had pervaded my life inexorably – she was tied to me with some unseen bond of love that was painfully palpable.
Amali soared in her career. Joining an upmarket salon at a swanky Colombo shopping mall, she imprinted her unique brand of love and caring on her clients. On off days she would drop in to visit me and update me on her adventures and experiences. One day, she phoned me and breathlessly told me that she was offered a salon job in New Delhi and asked me what I thought of it. I was a bit hesitant. Amali was a beautiful girl. I was not sure about New Delhi and its dodgy record for women’s safety. I did not want to quell her enthusiasm though.
She began working in New Delhi for a reputed hairdresser chain. In typical Amali-fashion, she made her impression there and her reputation as a skilled hairdresser grew. She then applied to present her concept for the L’Oreal Hairdresser of the Year award for the year 2014/2015. Drawing on her unique talents, Amali presented her concept that was highly recognised and accepted.
The process of eliminations in the competition progressed and Amali found herself climbing further and further up the leader board. Vast India, with its many states and many talented hairdressers were no match for this little girl from Sri Lanka.
It was a glorious day for this young woman from Colombo 9, when the overall winner for The L’Oreal All-India Hairdresser of the Year Award was announced – Amali had nailed it! As the confetti rained down on her and she beamingly accepted her award, in the photos, I could see the glimmer of humility and gratitude in her teary eyes. Along with the award came an all-expenses-paid trip to Paris and a heap of other opportunities.
We meet up whenever she jets into Colombo and spend quality time together. There is one thing that sets Amali apart from so many others – she had the beautiful gift of appreciation and modesty. She would never fail to snuggle up to me and remind me always that I had a hand in her success. It was an endorsement of pure love that welled from deep within her.
Amali is on the threshold of buying into the business that she works for as the chain of hairdressing stores has offered this opportunity to her. In time, true to her character, she will no doubt make a success of her venture. I have that faith in her ambition and drive. Just like faith in her undying love for me.