The concept of beauty has intrigued me since forever. How the definition has changed over the years! What once meant fantastically beautiful to me suddenly turned into a monotonous banality over a period of less than a few months. I have often wondered…what changed? Why did I suddenly start finding something beautiful? Why did I suddenly start feeling that this had no beauty left in it anymore? Why do my opinions, however loud they may be, change constantly with respect to my idea of beauty?
It’s funny to reflect on these as I can literally spell out my personal trajectory to you.
As a teenager and as a novice to the hysteria surrounding fresh adolescence, I was one of the most devoted followers of skin fair products (the most popular one, of course). I used to rub the cream on my face, hands and legs rigorously in a bid to look just a tad fairer. I would have been addicted to foundation make-up had I not been allergic to it. Thus, the cream served the purpose of reminding me that I wasn’t fair and hence not beautiful. Plus, it also gave me the illusory confidence that I had suddenly turned more ‘clean’ and ‘pretty’ after application of the magic balm.
In some ways, the cream worked for me. It gave me the confidence to live with my complexion, which
was is decidedly not fair. I was supposed to be named Shweta but the name was dropped the second my folks saw the colour of my skin (‘shwet’ in Hindi/Sanskrit means white). I rubbed the fairness cream and asked my mum if I looked fairer with desperate hope that gleamed in my eyes. She nodded nonchalantly just so she could avoid further irritable questions in the midst of her kitchen work. I asked dad if the room just lit up coz I had turned oh-so-fair. He laughed and said it didn’t matter to him at all as long as I was with him. That made me smile but the mirror continued to frown at me.
It’s fashionable to deny it but I admit media does play a very important role in shaping our thoughts, ideas and beliefs. At least, at an age where you rarely question assumptions. Personally, for me, Bollywood and Indian cinema, in general, played a huge role in influencing my ever fluctuating ideas. Perhaps they still do.
Just when my teenaged life was driving me mad with the added annoyance of PMS-ing, Bipasha Basu happened. Today, when I see Raaz or any movie for that matter, it’s more about looking at camera angles, direction, sound effects and the plot. At 13, it was about oomph, fire, passion and the new dusky beauty that had just arrived stardom-Ms. Basu. Dusky and beauty together? I thought that was an oxymoron (though I didn’t know what that meant then). Basu had simply redefined my understanding of what it was to be beautiful. She wasn’t fair. Nor was I. She was dark alias dusky. So was I. So, how am I any different from her? As I began appreciating cinema more on the non-commercial side, actors like Konkana Sen Sharma, Chitrangada Singh and Nandita Das strengthened my belief. Of course, it took a “Bengali bombshell” like Basu to have an impact. But even so. I had won the first set.
I got specs soon after. It pissed me off to wear them coz I didn’t like an apparatus that simply hid my huge eyes. My specs didn’t have much power but my eye doctor, nevertheless, advised me to wear them on a regular basis, if I was to avoid that from increasing. I had to surrender, despite my hatred at the mirror that smirked when it saw me all geeky and nerdy. In 2003, Kal Ho Na Ho released, with Naina (played by Preity Zinta), a bespectacled woman, as its female protagonist. She was the lead actor in the movie and she wore specs! And she was obviously good coz she won the Best Filmfare Actor that year. Specs seemed sexier now. Set two conquered.
While colour and spectacles had taken a backseat, other attributes that I was born/blessed with strangely started emerging as my strength in the fiercely competitive beauty market. Thanks to my dad’s genes, my height shot up like crazy. Before I had turned a major, I was already needing longer pants, jeans and socks. Then, in 2007, when I was 18, Om Shanti Om released. I found the movie nonsensical and plain stupid. But, I realized how a certain Deepika Padukone had arrived in the most glamorous fashion. I never liked her acting. I found her fake and plastic (I still do, actually…strictly in terms of acting). But then, Deepika was all over the media owing to her pre-model history and her fantastic height. And to top it all, Deepika wasn’t particularly fair either! It struck me that not only was I deliciously dusky, like a certain Bipasha or a Deepika, I was also tall like them. That my height would be an advantage in the beauty game was a revelation of sorts. Plus, I could be spexy any time I wanted. Voila! Set three over. I had just won the game!
It’s funny to look back at all this now and reflect on how I looked at beauty, gave it so much importance and redefined it at several crucial points in my life. Of course, it’s never static. I’ll probably discover newer ways of looking beautiful as I grow old(er). Who knows? I might win a Grand Slam then. 😉
We had a fun class exercise recently, wherein we were asked to draw an image of how we wanted our bodies to be; whether we wanted to change anything; why/why not. I said I wanted to gain some pounds as I do not wish to be underweight and drew this:
I deliberately didn’t draw a face in keeping with my changing moods that would be heavily dependent on the book that I’m holding there. I wanted to give myself a skirt but decided to go with shorts coz I need pockets to keep my keys. My hair is loose coz I never get the time to comb them. The ‘Zzzz’ on my Tee signifies my procrastinating self and my affinity to sleep. Now, isn’t that beautiful? *_+