Thursday, April 26, 2007

Beauty is Power??

Scene I : Rasanmeet is to submit her Social Studies project work. She is supposed to draw a picture. She asks me and I suggest her to make any of the pictures that her chapter on THE WORLD OF GROWING KNOWLEDGE has in it. It has Gutenberg standing near his printing press. It has a picture of Indus Valley seals, an old man reading by the light of lantern, Rasan chooses the picture of a blind girl reading a book with the help of Braille and draws it on her notebook. I don't see the relevance of asking the kids to reproduce an image from the book onto a notebook that they will throw away anyway at the end of the term. Still I manage not to criticize the system of the school. She asks me what should the caption be of this picture. Her teacher has asked them to use a new slogan, and not the caption given on the book. I suggest, "Knowledge is Power" and explain how it would become a power for such a person who cannot see.

Next day, she comes home with a star on the page, a treasure to her, and a matter of pride to me.
A few days later...
Scene II: On TV-this young girl-with-a-slightly-dusky-complexion's dad has a theatre which has now failed and she wonders how she could revive it. She determines to do it anyway. Lo and behold, a cream comes to her rescue. She uses it, becomes gori over a period of 8 weeks after massaging it on her face in the movement of 8 and in her own words, gora rang and thode latke jhatke, and she is successful. Needless to say, the theatre is overwhelmingly crowded and she gets a standing ovation for I don't honestly know what. And the given slogan is , "Khoobsoorti Shakti hai", "Beauty is Power."
It was a Famous Fairness Cream advert. This cream has been promising all the Indian girls for years now that they all will become gories. And whats more, they have launched one for men too to make them Fair and Handsome. Wow!! Whatever happened to that tall-dark-handsome conveniently abbreviated as TDH by the college and university girls.
I have also been using this cream for ages now. Not that I manage to draw crowds to a theatre. It acts only as a barrier between the day to day pollution, or does it? Maybe its only for a mental satisfaction that I use it-replacing it now and then with other over the counter beauty solutions. However, let me not digress with the description of my beauty :) now.
I am not a committed feminist, nor am I against any cream. But I was horrified at the advert having been aired on POGO TV, an all Hindi cartoon and kids show channel. What is the message that is being given to young impressionable minds? That you can conquer the world if you are pretty, fair, good looking? What becomes of the knowledge part? Or you have to keep knowledge subordinate to looks? Many of my friends would say that a good combo of the two virtues would make you a winner all the way. What would happen if you had a lot of knowledge but were not gifted with the looks that kill or the physical charm that attracts others?
Is Knowledge secondary to Beauty? Is fairness (gorapan) really the key to success?

Monday, April 09, 2007


IT was about two months ago that I first discovered it. I was taking my scooter out of the parking shed of my college. Peering close to the rear view glass, I wanted to admire my looks before covering the face in the daku-hasina style. However, I was in for a shock. The upper eyelid of my right eye had a grey eyelash. I thought I was mistaken. It was perhaps a reflection of the light. Perhaps it was shine that made it look whitish. Nooooo, I inspected it closely and there it was, staring me in my face. My feet went cold, my hands went numb, and my brain went dull.
A grey eyelash?
Right away?
In the thirties?
Aint it too early?
Well, but there it was, the bitter reality. With leaden feet, I kick started my scooter, absent-mindedly put on my glasses, and forgot to drape my mulmul da dupatta over my head. Who cares for the damned complexion when you have a grey eyelash? Let the dust get into the skin.
A grey eyelash?
I tried to shrug it off, so what, the grey hair have to catch up after all. And sooner or later, I was going to have one of those dreaded grey eyebrow hair, but a grey eyelash?? However much I tried to wean my thoughts away, that grey eyelash would come back – a horrid view sure it was.
I wanted to call up Mahesh then and there and yell “ Mahesh, I got a grey eyelash.” Then thought the better of it. Let him discover it. He wouldn't mind giving me a patient hearing but I was having mixed feelings. What if he starts to view me as an old woman? After all, no man would like his wife to tell him that she has a grey eyelash. Moreover he has his own struggles with the graying of hair. He inherits it from his mother, I from my father. Perched on that seat of scooter, heading home, I thought of the day when I had first discovered a grey strand in my head. It was in 1992 I guess. Shocked sure I had been, but I attributed it to studiousness, and dexterously covered it with henna (those were the days when hair color was considered a “bad bad” thing). I often tell Mahesh that by the time I am 40 most of my hair would have turned grey and then I will not color them red or black, I will color them grey, as would become a graceful old lady. And then people would come and say, your skin is so young, you don’t look a day older than 40.
How good to look one’s age!
But a grey eyelash????
I could not resist telling him, though I told him only about a month later. His reaction was, "acha?" And thats it. And it prompted him to console me by telling that he understands how horrible the first discovery can be. Bless him for that. My Knight in Armour always comes to my rescue !!!
Everytime I see the mirror, I want to avoid it. But somehow it sometimes fascinates me to see that grey eyelash that is known only to me, and now to Mahesh. Well, I have made peace with my grey eyelash since. I am ok with it now. Guess it will have more friends soon. Very chivalrously I wait for them.

Did someone mention aging gracefully…??

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Jai’s Worries

They say, worries start as you grow older. Jaiteg is going to turn 5 this April 11th. He is already worried. He is worried about the content of sugar in the foods that he eats.
It so happened that one day his didi and I were talking about the bad sugar- sugar that might kill if habitually taken in large amounts. And Jai was close by, he immediately shot a question, “does one die with sugar?” “Yes,” I said, “but only if you take too much of it. And it kills slowly. It’s not like it will kill one today”. But a child is a child. Everything else got awashed from his little head. The “killing nature of sugar” stayed back in his mind. He said, “Mama I have eaten sugar today. Will I die?” Oh dear dear. I wanted to hug him and tell him “maa sadkey, why would you die.” But I told him “no, you won't. Because you keep walking and running about so it gets burned by your body and it wont do you any harm”. But boy, he was worried. And the devil of a didi he has got, she said, “Yes Jai, the sugar is not good for you”(she can herself consume chocolates in wholesale if given the opportunity). Jai was upset, visibly upset. So he started to take extra precaution. That night, he took a stroll. It was so funny to watch him take a walk in the living room with his small legs while we dined. He was walking briskly to and fro - in an obvious effort to burn any kind of sugar that he might have in his system.
And this was not all.
He had overheard me telling Rasan that too much of salt, especially the one we consume with chips and packaged snacks, and the salt she likes to lick with her fingers after dipping the wet finger in the salt container, is bad. Here was another cause of worry for him.
This is all what happened bout 15 days back. Then onwards, he likes to make it doubly sure that the food does not contain either sugar or salt. He has stopped eating chocolates, samosas, chips, and, by God, every kind of junk because they might contain sugar or salt. He does not want cold drinks anymore. Even while he can see his didi or her friends and even his friends sipping away at the fizzy drinks, he makes no show of any greed. Last weekend, when I offered him some soda drink – just so the paneer pakoda he ate could be digested easily, his response was very grown up. “I don’t take any junk food, tuhanoo pata ee ai na.”
If, by chance, he has no option but to consume sugar, he makes sure that it is God's sugar (natural sugar) and not insaan wali cheeni. He always want to know if the salt contained in what he is eating is in moderate amounts or is too much.

My tragedy is that I cannot laugh, for fear that it might make him feel he is not being taken seriously. I know he will grow out of it. But it makes me feel good that he is watching everything that goes into his mouth.