Years back, when I’d been living in Kochi, we had an Onam get-together in our apartment block. One of my friends brought with her a visitor – an American girl in her late twenties. In our little world, she was an exotica, so many of us took turns in asking her questions – the usual ‘intellectual’ ones about what she felt about this or that in India. She seemed as interested in us as we were in her, and so she replied with an honesty that seemed inherent to her. The talk turned to the concept of beauty, and she said that she liked the Indian concept of beauty – and named a few actresses whom she found stunningly beautiful. I was mildly surprised that Aishwarya Rai (this was before she turned Bachhan) did not figure in the list, and I said as much. Our visitor dismissed Ash with, “She tries too hard!” Then she shrugged her shoulders… and that was that.
I don’t know what brought that episode to my mind, but I recalled it after a conversation (pretty much one-sided, I admit) during a Moral Science class. The discussion on the effects of consumerism led to fairness creams (my pet peeve) and how beauty, confidence, success and all things good are now synonymous with fair skin. I have very strong feelings on the topic, you see; I never let go of a chance to bring it up.
Isn’t it a crying shame that we, as a race, have become so shallow? That we, as a race, have not gone beyond colonialism? That while the world claims to be moving forward, we’re actually stuck in a medieval world of heroines with pale skins?
Doesn’t beauty go deeper than the skin?