People Ruin Beautiful Things

Travel and tell no one, live a true love story and tell no one, live happily and tell no one, people ruin beautiful things.

– Khalil Gibran

She wore her pink earrings. The bright pink ones, that looked like tic-tac clips hanging from her ears. She wore her yellow kurta and her white leggings, her blue eyeliner and her red lipstick. And after she was done wearing everything she wanted to wear, she examined herself in the mirror.

Not bad, she thought, proud of her new creation. She enjoyed it, this intuitive mixing and matching of parts to create a new whole. It was the reason she enjoyed cooking; throwing ingredients together to create something unexpected.

She twirled in front of the mirror, appreciating how the clothes fit on her curves. Her mother would say she’s not conventionally pretty. But then Meera never wanted to be conventional.

“Are you done?” Mother had popped her head into the room. “They’ll be here any second!” She paused to give Meera a disapproving look, before rushing back to the kitchen. She had asked her stubborn daughter to wear something nice, something that would make her look beautiful and feminine. But Meera insisted on being her usual flamboyant self. “Not that there’s anything wrong with that”, her maternal instinct reared to protect her daughter from her own criticism. “They should like her for who she is.” The mother just wanted her odd child to be happy.

Meera was still admiring herself in the mirror when mother called her outside. She burst into the living room like a blast of air, to find a roomful of people staring at her. Taken aback a little by the sheer number of people (she’d expected 2-3) and the silence that followed, she tiptoed to the only empty seat in the room, right next to her mother.

Once she had settled herself comfortably, the questions began. How old was she? What was her plan for the future? (This one was asked by the boy) She turned to him with glittering eyes and a passionate voice and began talking about her hopes and dreams. By her third sentence she saw his eyes glaze over; a blank expression now stood in those intelligent brown eyes.

Meera’s voice faltered, unsure of what she’d seen. The woman to his right, presumably his mother, took this opportunity to ask the next question, cutting Meera off mid-sentence. “All that is fine beta. But you’ll be taking care of our son as well. We’re a modern family, so you can work part time if you want.”

Meera turned to the woman with creased eyebrows. “You can cook, right?” the woman persisted.

“No.” Meera stared defiantly into the woman’s eyes. Her mother suppressed a smile. Meera had made her decision.

Every question after that was met by staunch opposition, and obstinate denials for things that Meera could do, and did in her own house. And when that intelligent brown eyed boy tried to sneak in a question of his own, her eyes bore into his with a blazing defiance, causing him to stutter. Her mother observed the growing tension in the room with growing amusement, making no efforts to diffuse the situation. Her daughter seemed to have inherited her knack for making people uncomfortable and watching them squirm.

The outsiders could finally take no more, and politely announced the end of the meeting. Finally! Meera sighed as the guests headed for the door. “This is a good thing.” she heard an uncle whisper reassuringly to the boy’s mother. “She’s a bit fat for him, don’t you think?”

Meera headed for her room, and positioned herself in front of the mirror again. She took a long look at herself as she began to wipe the color off her lips.Her cheeks were a little too chubby, her kurta a little too bright, her body a little too big, her breasts a little too small. She smiled, as her critical eyes found fault in every part of her body. “People ruin beautiful things.”

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I’m a Prisoner of Kaajal, and I Love It!

My tormentor has many names; eye pencil, eye liner, eye color. Sometimes it looks like a pen so you can’t call it eye pencil, and the advertisements call it kaajal, but it’s apparently not kaajal. But let’s not delve into the confusing world of eye makeup more than we have to. For the sake of my sanity, and yours, let’s just call all of it kaajal. Because I’m a prisoner of that (mostly) black curve we draw under our eyes, and sometimes over our eyes, to make them pop, whatever that means.

Now I’ve never been one to high dive into the pool of makeup products and trends (as is evident from my earlier mini-rant). I was the girl who would be happy with dipping her toe into the water and calling it a  day. I’m talking about black kaajal and lip balms. And of course, flavored lip balms for those days when I felt a bit adventurous. I kept it simple, because I was fortunate enough to consider myself fairly pretty. And I was too lazy to make an effort.

Then I went to stay on a campus, and things changed considerably. When you live with people your age 24/7, you lose all sense of shame and decency. And because they see you at your most hideous (think uncombed hair, unshaven legs and armpits, bra-less and possibly covered in food crumbs), you lose all motivation to look good. But somewhere down the line, applying kaajal became as routine as brushing my teeth. Because those were the two things I would do before rushing for an early morning class.

But I didn’t realize how dependent I had become on this tiny little stick, until tragedy struck. A few months ago, I underwent Lasik surgery, to correct my eyesight. And just like I had to abstain from technology for a few days after the surgery, I had to abstain from wearing kaajal for a month.

Yes, a month. And although it seemed like a small price to pay, that month was, for lack of a better word, disastrous. My confidence decided to jump off a cliff, leaving me alone with self-image and body issues that I never knew I had. I would look at myself in the mirror with critical eyes; my eyes were too baggy, my face was too dull. I would actively avoid stepping out of the house, because I didn’t feel good about myself. And if I did, I would keep asking my sister or friends if I looked ‘bad’.

I know all this sounds superficial, but this insecurity stemmed from an idea that I wasn’t good enough as I was. That I needed something extra to me make me look even presentable. That anything more than the little black line was too much, and implied that I was trying too hard.

Now I’ve become bolder, and my collection has widened to colorful eye pencils and lipsticks; lots and lots of lipsticks. I’ve received flak for wearing them, because I’m not supposed to be a “girly girl” who likes dressing up. Because it’s my intellect that makes me interesting, and my IQ drops every time I color my eyes and lips. Because I’m giving in to consumerism, and beauty ideals propagated by patriarchy.

But it doesn’t matter. Because now when I look in the mirror and apply that black curve, I do it for me. And sometimes when I don’t apply anything, I still look beautiful to me.

The Lake

I’ve seen it many times.

I’ve been there many times.

With different people

In different cities.

 

Yet it remains the same.

This lake. A body of still water.

Blue, green or a shade of grey.

It simply reflects the beauty around,

Hiding the dangers that lie underneath.

 

And yet, tiny ripples form on the surface;

Visible only for a moment or two.

A glimpse at the world within.

Visible to those who pay attention.

 

They say still waters run deep.

How deep is a question

Unasked and unanswered.

The lake beckons me.

Invites me to enter its realm of eternity.

 

For if destiny exists,

Then destiny has spoken.

A watery grave lies in front of me.

Moments

I was walking on the road when it happened.

It was Ganesh Chathurti. I was in Pune city, having made plans to meet a couple of friends for lunch. I was making my way through the crowded street, when I noticed a rangoli drawn right in the middle of the road. I was amused at the inconvenience it was causing people who would have to walk around it. But no one dared to step on the rangoli itself. Even Pune motorists, who drive like they would not hesitate to plough through you, carefully swerved to avoid driving on it.

A few steps ahead was the culprit, drawing another rangoli. I stopped on my tracks, filled with a sudden desire to take a picture of him; a symbol of intense devotion and public disruption. I could hear the sounds of a Ganapati procession in the distance, with drums and trumpets and the sounds of people shouting and singing.

I shrugged and started walking ahead. A few minutes later I reached the procession, which was slowly inching forward. Men and women danced in the front while kids took pictures with the life-sized versions of Ganapati and Hanuman.

I stood there watching the procession and clicking pictures, chuckling as I watched the antics of children. How happy they all seemed! Brought together by this shared illusion of worship.

That’s when I realized it was starting to rain. There was a sudden change in my surroundings; the air I breathed was fresher, the wind was gentler and cooler, everything seemed brighter and somehow more beautiful that it had been moments ago.

I started walking again. But this time there was a spring in my step. Water was pouring all around me, and within seconds I was completely drenched. Yet I kept smiling, walking at a leisurely place.

People I passed by on the road stared at me as if I had lost my mind. With dripping wet clothes and hair plastered to my face, I was grinning from ear to ear like an idiot!

But I didn’t care. At that moment, I was happy. Happier than I had been for a long time. Happier than I would be for a few days, maybe years. I was happy because the world is a beautiful place. Because there is no order or rigidity, just impulse and surprises.

But mostly because I didn’t need a reason to be happy.

Am I Beautiful?

I just found out about this campaign called ‘Stop the Beauty Madness‘. It challenges the narrow definition of beauty that’s imposed upon us by the society and by ourselves. In a time when being ‘beautiful’ is considered more important that being smart or good-natured, this campaign is an eye-opener. Whatever age, caste, color, race or […]

Happily Ever After…? Part II – The Beauty Ideal

There are so many things wrong about fairy tales, that we don’t even realize. I don’t even know where to start!

P.S. If you’re confused, you should probably read my previous post on this topic – Happily Ever After…? Part I

If you already have, carry on.

Take the Beauty ideal, for example. What do these women really do in their lives, to have such happy endings? Just sit there helplessly and look beautiful? Simply looking pretty gets the prince to fall in love with them, whether they are awake, asleep or dead! And then they live happily ever after.

So basically, since childhood we’re being taught that we need to be beautiful to be happy. Really?! And it’s not even your own standard of beauty. You have to be what the society considers beautiful. Back then it was long hair; black or blonde, sometimes red with super-fair skin and red lips. Now, it’s being super skinny!

But what if I don’t want to be skinny? What if I consider myself beautiful and am happy with the way I am? Does that mean I’m not gonna be happy in life?

We girls/women (whichever you prefer 😉 ) sit and watch the world tumble around us. We see girls, pretty girls, waste away their lives trying to meet someone else’s definition of beautiful.

We see ourselves being labelled every single day by men, by society. Heck! We label them ourselves!

We make fun of girls who put on way too much make up. Fat girls are ugly. Skinny ones are bitches. Athletic ones are manly. Feminine ones are girly. Bulimic girls. Girls who eat their pain away.

We try different hairstyles; straighten, curl, iron our hair, use a variety of beauty products, wax, bleach, wear tight dresses, uncomfortable heels for what? Just to be called ‘beautiful’? I’m not saying that we only do it for male approval, or that we shouldn’t do it at all! Making that little extra effort to look good makes me feel confident too. But why go through physical pain for all of this?

Let’s get this clear in our heads. We do not need to look ‘beautiful’ to be happy. We’re all beautiful, and we all deserve to be happy!

It’s time we unlearn this idea. Because it causes immense unhappiness.

Don’t believe me? Just look around.