Monthly Archives: June 2011

She’s beautiful. Truly.

What’s real beauty to me? Not a simple question.

Many clichés come to mind, but I reject them all. I think, till, I stop for a moment and think some more. Now thinking, most often, for me at any rate, has a positive result. What’s wrong with clichés? Are there any rules about them? Should one not use them only to sound intellectually superior? Nope, I think.

So, I tell myself, stop all this intellectual bravado, don’t worry, for a moment, about sounding trite, and think. More clichés. Sigh.

I know I want to say something about inner beauty, but what? I am not going to use a cliché!

Then, none other than Marilyn Monroe pops into my head. Gosh! Is that it? Am I so superficial? Fortunately, it’s not her skirt-flying-oh-look-at-me image that comes to mind, it’s what she said about beauty – “Imperfection is beauty, madness is genius and it’s better to be absolutely ridiculous than absolutely boring”. Ironical that she should have said something like that, and I could not agree more.

Imperfection is beauty. I like that. And this is my cue.

Let’s rewind a bit: 1994 Miss India Competition, we sit glued to the TV – little girls and beauty competitions, there’s a direct connection there. (Not that I was little, but the connection starts, much to the consternation of the parents, when girls are little)

I remember it clearly. The competition, it is now quite evident, is between the two, then unknown, aspirants – Aishwarya Rai and Sushmita Sen. The former is blue-eyed, apple and peaches complexioned, straight from the never-written-yet-read-by-everyone beauty book. Yet, something seemed missing and I could not put my finger on it. Don’t get me wrong, I found her beautiful, not to deny that even in my most ah-beauty-is-about-inner-being moments. Yet, like I said, something was amiss, and it was not her puffy hairdo. The latter is beautiful too (they are all, just by the fact that they are at a beauty contest!) and yet, her beauty, for reasons I did not think about then, seemed almost tangible, like you could touch it. It seemed real.

Through the event Aishwarya wore a cat’s-got-the-crown look, something that, ironically, cost her the very crown she coveted. I remember thinking that she was beautiful, yet, I found it difficult to appreciate her beauty. Sushmita, on the other hand, may not have had the conventional looks (whoever defined those) but to me she was stunning. She had the spunk that, eventually, took her to the top.

Fast-forward to 2011: Now I think about those two women. Aishwarya has earned accolades, more than any Indian woman probably, for her physical beauty – her perfect face, her lovely eyes, her smile, et all. She’s probably forgotten that 1994 loss, or maybe learned from it. But that’s not the point.

Think, for a moment, about those two women today. Sushmita’s beauty has manifested itself in a way that Aishwarya’s simply cannot. How many women, and single women at that, do we know who have adopted girls and given them a loving home? Not many. Sushmita did not need to do that, she is rich and successful and could, like mostly everyone around her, live in her own little world, concentrating on herself and not much else. It’s easy to lose sight of reality when you are famous. But Sushmita seems to have her feet firmly on the ground.

Kudos to her, I say. She, to me, is truly beautiful and defines what real beauty is about.

And, I am sure she makes a beautiful mother too. Maybe we should ask Renee and Alisah about what Real Beauty means to them? They’ll probably have the perfect answer.

Here I quote Zadie Smith, who says that beauty is found where you would not expect to find it : “Pulchritude–beauty where you would least suspect it, hidden in a word that looked like it should signify a belch or a skin infection”.

Who would’ve thought that a former beauty queen would have so much beauty inside her that it would overshadow the one on the outside?

(PS: This post is written for a Dove Real Beauty Contest and may appear more relevant to people from India. My apologies to my readers from overseas, this one time!)

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Perfect Honesty Is Not Always Good For Childen.

Childhood, I believe is about happiness. Children need not know the truth about everything. I think we as parent sometime get too caught up in doing the right thing. What’s the right thing anyway? How do we know that is not better to bend the truth than to tell something to a child that he or she can’t digest?

I’ll tell you why I say this.

A few days after the earthquake in Japan my five year old daughter came to me and asked me what an earthquake was. It was a mama-what-does-this-word-mean kind of question. Now, whenever my daughter asks me a question,  I try and give her a detailed answer. In fact, we play a little game around it,  with the aim that she remembers the answer. It mostly works. So,  when she asked me about the earthquake,  I drew a little diagram, got out the globe, cut an orange to tell her about the earth’s crust and layers etc etc. She loved it.  That was that.

About three days later when I was putting my daughter to bed at night, she sobbed and sobbed and refused to sleep in her bed. She said that an earthquake might come at night. I told her that it won’t. She asked me how I could be so sure. After all, if the tectonic plates could bang into each other under Japan, the same could happen under India! I winced. Great,  I thought,  in my enthusiasm to teach her I’d given her too much information!  I’d gone and scared her.

Damage control, I thought. So, I launched into logic. And zones. India is in a zone that is not really prone to earthquakes, I told her (true) and that there are some countries that are more prone to them and we are not one of them. She seemed a little mollified, though not entirely. Phew!  (Still refused to go back to her bed). I had dodged a tricky question.

Unfortunately, there was more to come.  A few days later she asked me (and this is some sort of a recurrent theme, we’ve talked about this before, in snatches) about death. Agh. Not again, I thought. I was not in the mood for this.  But she was, and her questions were not general, they were specific. “Can babies die?” she queried. I decided to lie. “What about dad?”. I told her that only very old people die (One day, sometime ago, when I’d told her, on one of these bedtime question and answer moments, that mamas can die, she’d wept uncontrollably and clung to me for days) . So I decided to let her believe happy things. Why cloud her little five year old mind with unpalatable truth? Dad will be with you till you are as old as mama, and even after that, I said. “And you?”. Ditto, I said with a straight face. She thought, then she smiled. Not sure if she believed me entirely, but she liked the reassurance.

Like I said, and many may not agree, childhood is about happy things. Truth is for grown ups.

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