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.”


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.

Of Sexists and Feminazis

Bear with me. It’s a question that popped into my head during one of those times when you sit quietly and let your brain run wild. It’s a question that will probably lead to a lot of hateful messages and trolling. But I’m gonna put it out there anyways.

We accept sexism on a daily basis. Accept it as someone’s religion, faith, or personal belief. We make excuses for it. That’s just what they have been exposed to, we say. That’s their reality. Well, isn’t being a ‘feminazi’ the same? It’s the belief that women are superior; a belief based on their experiences and their exposure. It’s sexism towards men. So why don’t we make excuses for feminazis?

Then it dawned on me. Sexism is only acceptable as long as it favors men. Once it starts working against them, it’s equated to Nazism.

The Smiling Face

She awoke to the shining sun;

A day of wordless beauty,

Where birds chirped, and cars

Honked their happy melodies.


She smiled at herself in the mirror,

Smiled at her blinking phone,

She smiled at passers-by,

Brightening their day some more.


They responded to her kindness,

Grateful lips and nervous teeth,

Marvelling at the warmth radiated

By the girl with the smiling face.


And this warmth would never fill

The hollowness she felt within.

But her face could very well hide,

How blue she felt inside.


As her insides began to crumble,

She prepared for another day.

Because she wanted to be

The girl with the smiling face.

Why India needs Feminism

A few days ago, I was talking to a friend, and the conversation somehow turned to sexual harassment. (Yes, that does happen!) I asked him if he’d ever been sexually harassed. “Not as far as I remember” he answered.

I began narrating my first encounter with sexual harassment, as one of those incidents in your past that you look back and chuckle at. Before I knew it, instance after instance flooded my mind, and I began recounting every single time I had been sexually harassed: in school (multiple times!), in buses, rickshaws, crowded places, you name it. And this was without even considering the times I had been leered or whistled at!

As single incidents, they had seemed inconsequential, trivial even. Why get riled up about something that was now a part of daily life? But grouped together, they implied one simple thing that has been overlooked for too long. There’s something terribly wrong with our society.

I had always heard the stories, the statistics. Joked with my friends about how getting harassed in public places was a part of daily life. How it happened at least once to every girl. And since this was not going to change, how we had to learn to protect ourselves.

I still remember ‘holding the bag’ technique, which my mum had taught me that when I was barely 12, as men kept ‘accidentally’ touching my chest as I followed her around the crowded market. You basically maintain a guarded stance with your hand crossed in front of your chest and your elbow jutting out, under the pretense of clutching your bag. And whenever a man brushes too close by, you hit him with your elbow or fist, just enough to keep him at a distance.

I thought nothing of it at the time. Until last year, a friend from Chennai came to stay at my place for a few days, and I had to teach her the technique. “Warrior pose” she called it, laughing at my serious face as I insisted she maintain that pose whenever we were in a crowded place.

But “warrior pose” was an apt term for whatever that was. Because although we don’t realize it, we are at war. We’re at war if every time we enter a public space, we are scared, or worse, oblivious to the ‘male gaze’. We’re at war if sexual harassment is so common, we don’t even recognize it as harassment anymore.

And that’s why India needs Feminism. Because no person; man, woman or other, should feel uncomfortable or unsafe in a space that’s fundamentally meant for everyone.

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.

Happily Ever After…?! Part I

Fairy tales. Stories of magic and happy endings.

We all grow up with them. Especially the girls! Dreaming of colourful dresses and glass slippers, of being the fairest in the land and dancing with Prince Charming! And with the Disney films, we don’t even have to imagine how beautiful it all is! We watch these movies with wonder and joy, imagining ourselves as the gorgeous princess in her beautiful clothes.

It all sounds so rosy; a picture of perfect innocence. But is it?

Have you ever wondered who came up with these stories? These are folk tales from all over Europe, passed down from generation to generation, until they were recorded and compiled by the Grimm brothers.  If you read the original tales, which are easily available online as the Grimm’s version, you’ll see how gruesome they are. Completely inappropriate for the impressionable minds!

In the Grimm version, which could very well be the original version, Cinderella’s step sisters cut their toes off to try to fit into her dainty little glass slipper!

In Sleeping Beauty, the princess does not wake up to true love’s kiss. In fact, her ‘prince’ who is a married finds her asleep in the castle and ‘cannot resist the sight of her ravishing beauty’. In plain words, he rapes her while she’s asleep and goes back to his own kingdom. She becomes pregnant but remains asleep until childbirth, when somehow the poison is ejected from her body when her children are born. Yes, she has twins.  And she lives with them in that castle. One day, the king is passing by that castle and he happens to see her and the kids living there. So he brings them home and keeps them there, right it front of his wife’s eyes! Long Live the King!

And it doesn’t even end here! In a fit of rage and jealousy, the queen tries to kill Sleeping Beauty and her children. (Wouldn’t you?) But the king saves them on time. They kill the queen and live happily ever after!!

Such are the gruesome folk tales, that were passed down generations, to teach the women to be chaste, to be pure. To teach them the result of jealousy. To warn them of the consequences of not adhering to societies rules. To teach them how to behave.

You should be like the princess, innocent and happy to meet the king and go to his kingdom, raise his children. Not like the queen, who was jealous and hateful, or you will meet a horrible end just like her!

The stories have changed over time; their brutality has been masked with beauty and innocence. But those teachings still remain, lurking in the shadows. Which is even more dangerous!

They don’t explicitly tell us how to behave. But they create certain notions in our minds:

I need  a man to complete my life. Only then will I be truly happy.

Oh I’m in a problem! Not to worry! I will just sit here feeling helpless waiting for someone to come and fix my problems! Maybe a handsome prince! Or a fairy godmother?! Because what can I do by myself?

Oh how can I trust other women? Women are always jealous and hateful! Look at all the stepmothers and stepsisters. Is there a single story where a woman is nice to another woman?

Being the Damsel in Distress isn’t in anymore. We need to write our own fairy tales. We need to rescue ourselves.