ByÂ Anjora Sarangi:
I realise, that in this crazed, glamorous, glitzy urbanised world of ours, beauty is everything and perhaps the highest virtue worth acquiring. The caked up fair girls with puckering, glossy, blood red lips, shadowy kohl eyes, perfect hair and perfect size 0 bodies, long shapely legs and feet encased in 6 inch glittery pink stiletto shoes in films and TV shows define ‘beauty’ for us. Men are smitten by them and women are envious of them. Today men too, strive for physical perfection. Don’t men with waxed chests, six pack abs, muscled fore arms, low waist jeans and ‘macho’ looks make millions of us girls drool and ogle? It comes to no surprise then that skin care products, hair products, make up material, Botox treatments, pedicure and manicure sets, creams, lotions, gels, designer clothes, branded overpriced shoes, exaggerated accessories sell like hotcakes and ordinary citizens like you and me too get reluctantly seduced by the charm of beauty.
Think back to the fairy tales you read as children. Cinderella, Sleeping beauty, Rapunzel, Snow white and the Seven Dwarves, each subscribed to the traditional notions of beauty; the damsel in distress meeting a handsome prince and living happily ever after reiterated over a million different stories and books across innumerable generations. It established the fact that if you are beautiful, you can be salvaged from any condition of poverty, distress or malaise.
I remember, as teenagers in school when the trend of low waist pants and skirts, ankle length socks, and untucked shirts had just struck our generation. It was first adopted by the ‘popular’ kids and within days the fashion spread like wild fire. Soon, if you didn’t comply, you were branded as a ‘nerd’, ridiculed and humiliated in front of your friends and ostracized from all social interactions. For a shy, bespectacled girl in a new school, this was a culture shock for me even though I had always lived in Delhi. Rules were meant to be broken and teachers were meant to be disobeyed. Nobody questioned these ‘norms’. They merely followed the herd. Over the years I managed to find that fine balance between what I believed in and what I was meant to do to survive.
The other day, I read in the newspaper that girls as young as 8 and 9 years were dressing up for their dates and boyfriends on Saturday nights. The pictures displayed promiscuous children in halter tops and high heels with curled, streaked hair. I felt dismayed and shocked at this gross violation of innocence. What happened to the toys and books, stories at night by your grandma, exciting games of football, hide and seek and dodge ball? These children have lost their childhood to fashion and good looks regularly falling prey to peer pressure.
Mediums such as cinema, music industry, T.V. shows, reality shows, and the biggest pool of all knowledge, the internet frequently set the fashion trends going. So teenagers groove to songs like Rockstar and watch movies like Mean Girls and make them benchmarks to figure out life. Bollywood is not too far behind. It sets the standards for what is ‘cool’ for youngsters all over the nation. With actors reaching new heights of physical perfection through complex procedures like tummy tucks, Botox treatments, face lifts, liposuction, breast enhancement, hair grafting, plastic surgery and other such horrific methods, the standards of beauty are spiralling and the current generation needs to go an extra mile to look like their physical best; what they possess by birth is unsurprisingly not enough. The general perception is that altering your body with invasive surgery isn’t a big deal, like getting lipo at ME Clinic down the road is a matter of doing something on a lunch break.
Today, we live in a world where marriages are based on colour of skin, girls are rated on a scale by men, children participate in beauty pageants, ‘love’ happens on the basis of looks, and it has been so for eons. The notions of beauty change with time; colours, clothes, shoes, accessories, brands and cuts come into fashion and out, fashion icons become a rage and fade away, the media adapts to new styles and trends, but the physicality of beauty remains untouched, stagnant, the definitions static.
Is beauty only skin deep? It definitely seems so.