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Beauty and the rest…..

It was a few days after the much publicized PFMI Beauty Contest. Photos of beaming girls were splashed all over the newspapers. On my way through the building compound I saw a group of 5-10 year olds strutting about sending flying kisses to an imaginary crowd cat walking a nonexistent ramp. It was an amusing sight since children are ever so receptive to their surroundings and it was better to see the equally young boys gape at them than play their terrorist- policewala game. Just then 5 year old Mahima elbowed out her older sibling Ritu all of 9 years, saying she was dark and didn’t stand a chance.

My immediate reaction would have been to laughingly admonish her as we are neighbours but before that her mother shocked us by condoning it and even asking Ritu to get out of the way to allow Mahima to strike a pose for the Cell phone camera.

Too many issues here I said to my daughter as we made our way up the stairs. My heart went out to Ritu. In my head I was already working out a way when I could just casually meet her and pep her up a bit.

Would you call this being in step with the times or going retrograde? Physical differences in the human race came as a result of years of living in a particular set of geographical conditions.

Nature did it so God could tell an African from an Asian and Japanese from a Russian. Jokes apart, a lot of these features serve specific needs arising from their kind of climatic conditions for e.g. the thick curly hair of the African natives is probably Nature’s buffer against the blazing equatorial sun.

When physical/facial features are so different among territories of the same country or state, each clan / tribe/ race has a particular combination of features that they consider beautiful, more so in the case of women. But Nature never intended it to be adjudged. In fact there is no conceivable purpose why somebody should be voted as the most beautiful in a city, state, country, world and the universe.

If we were to disassemble the media created beauty queen, we’d have nothing more than a bunch of designer props right from the fashionably casual hairdo to the acquired Americanized English accent. Without malice to anyone, the judges too are hardly the well rounded personalities that they say they’re looking out for. A lot is made of the seemingly profound and well rehearsed statements made on stage in response to the “tough questions” they’re grilled with.

The charade continues with all winners wanting to emulate some of the known philanthropists, visits to charitable institutions with endless photo ops and being christened as the glory of the country. All of it eventually boils down to smart business moves by the sponsors and shrewd tactics of the participants, practically all of whom have used this platform as a springboard into Films and the like.

As if such shows weren’t deprecatory enough for a lot of girls, they’re also being assailed by ads promising fair and glowing skin since that’s the only requirement to hook a worthy husband. Every now and then an advertisement is objected to, removed by the ASCI (Advtg Stds council of India) only to be replaced by one that is surreptitiously similar in content.

People usually find it flattering to be likened in looks to a film /T.V. actor or any celebrity for that matter. Since I found it most disparaging, I came up with a novel way of putting them off and also making them think before they shot their mouths off the next time. I’d counter question them if I really resembled the actress since I was definitely older and technically speaking she was the one who resembled me and not vice versa. Aren’t we through with this kind of certification of our looks?

You could expect such lopsided views on beauty from households that symbolically worship all girls as the Goddess incarnate but are specific in their requirements of a fair and beautiful bride for their son who may be dark, balding or even pockmarked. Umpteen matrimonial classified entries are testimony to this. A few years of working brought me in contact with many couples who’d look mismatched to the world with the boy being better-looking of the two and the girl nowhere close to our rigid notions of beauty. I was happy to see the attitude change because their compatibility quotient reinforced a strong sense of self-esteem among many others who didn’t rate themselves high on the looks scale.

However, it was also distressing to come across those who blatantly said they felt incomplete without make-up. It’s everybody’s prerogative to make an attempt to look presentable.

But I pity those who say they feel good only when they look good and that they look good when they dress good (fashionably) and for that they can’t bear to repeat an outfit after a couple of months.

Its sad because such seemingly well educated people also spawn the same negative tendencies among all impressionable people, not just their own children.

Not so long ago girls considered it a compliment to be told that they must cash in on their good looks and try for the job of an Air-Hostess! Today I wonder if that mindset undermined what people think of those employed in the tourism industry or in general contributed to this notion that that beauty is seldom accompanied by brains.

Legally, little can be done to end the sham in the name of beauty pageants. After all they’re on the lines of an animal fair anywhere in India. We have overzealous parents who spend exorbitantly to have portfolios shot and even make their young children bunk school for ad shoots and daily soaps. It wouldn’t be so much of a problem if the children concerned did it incidentally when an offer came their way but a local photographer says its appalling to see the kind of desperation some parents show in order that their child learns the ropes early.

I’ve come across some of these child–stars who may be nothing more than flash-in the –pans, but who‘re growing up with hackneyed notions of success. It’s difficult to insulate ourselves from the impact of the hard sell that the beauty business entails. Since charity always begins at home its up to well-meaning parents to make their children confident of themselves so that they work towards a healthy mind in a healthy body. Hopefully they’ll never have to depend on somebody else to tell them they’re beautiful because they’ll know they’re unique!


Posts by SpeakBindas Editorial Team.

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