Thursday, May 19, 2011

Shining through the stained glass........

Indiblogger together with Yahoo India and Dove have invited entries for a competition titled ,"

"What does real beauty mean to you?"

This is my entry.

Sixty-one years is a long time, particularly if you are an observer of beauty norms in society.

That's a lot of watching....

Not that beauty is a speciality of mine; in fact, whenever I stand in front of a mirror, both my reflection and I are always looking everywhere else, except at each other. It's possible there isn't much to look at; it's also possible that there is way too much of everything to look at.

But let me start at the beginning.

In my childhood, no one really discussed beauty. Not that there were too many choices and options, but beauty was all about a clear "fair" skin, a nose comparable to a champa flower bud, long lustrous jet black flowing hair, preferably to your knees, and deep black eyes made even more beautiful with kohl/kajal.

Most folks who were born that way , remained that way, while those of us who were born with the wrong colors and shapes, simply stuck to daily face washes with chana floor,ambehaldi, and cream , and weekly tough hair washes with shikakai.

Efforts to wear kajal and kohl were abandoned by me after someone commented on how it made one look "cunning". Hazel eyes and kohl simply didn't work.

College wasn't much different. There was more emphasis on clothes. Cosmetics were not a big thing in the consumer market. There were no brand wars because there was really no one to fight with. Lipstick and rouge were things you wore, if you acted in the annual college play.

We had never heard of sunscreens and sunblocks . And what is truly intriguing is that although the latitudes and longitudes, and the Sun, of my childhood , all remain unchanged even today, folks now apparently get more tanned , and slap on lotions and stuff, possibly because some company in some commercial has a groom rejecting a dark bride.

Of course , there were exceptions, and folks like me were at the lower end of the scale, looking up open mouthed at some who wore full makeup, fancy hairstyles, deep necked blouses, and had fellows in crew cuts and suits, escorting them to Navy "balls".....

By and by , one traveled across the world for education, and later returned home to work. But while beauty and I would occasionally surreptitiously glance at each other, we kept standing on different train platforms.

Like so many others of my type, I eventually learned . Some folks needed some help, and some didn't. Sometimes, squeezing tubes to slather nice smelling stuff on your face, worked, and this was called "pampering yourself". When we did it by mixing stuff from first principles in banged up katoris, it was called "making do with something". ....

And so , it has happened, that today, beauty to me , is clean cut features, a smooth skin, an almost-not-there level of makeup, a neutral lipstick, and some amazing eye lining. Beauty to me, is also nice smelling clean hair, that happily and freely flies, and doesn't look like the dhobi ironed it. If there is an additional heartfelt smile factor, I declare you beautiful.

While these are what I would call surface "shows", observations over the last 50 years indicate that beauty , to me, has deeper origins.

And so beauty, is the shining, sweating, tearful face of a mother, holding her child close whispering to him, and comforting his trauma after a hurtful procedure at the Tata Memorial Cancer Hospital ; who knows what the future is, but to the child, she is it.

Beauty is a small grandchild rolling out a tiny chapati , roasting it almost dark, and serving it to an indulgent grandpa/grandma, along with a tumbler of water, all this on a huge tray shakily carried , and the grandparent taking a bite, shaking the head in wonder, while the little one puffs up in pride, and rushes back , to make another stiff chapati.

Beauty is a fair-ish mother with a wheatish complexioned grown up daughter , deliberately ignoring and downplaying her own face features during a family visit , because this is a world which has abused the meaning of "fair" and what isn't fair isn't lovely, as they keep repeating everywhere.

Beauty is an adult son, seeing you rushing at some emergency cooking, observing you making phulkas, and volunteering to roast them on the fire while you roll them out, because he feels he can handle the "technology", and it halves your work.

Beauty is waking up to a daughter exclaiming about your rough feet, and then she urging you to lie down as she massages some cream into your feet; there is an additional beauty ingredient in that cream, and the companies, including Dove, know nothing about it.

Beauty is the fruit seller, packing your fruits into your bag, looking up to see a young construction worker mother with a child on her hips , looking at his wares, and then he plucking out a small mango, and giving it with a smile to the delighted child.

Beauty is also a daughter agonizing about your grey streaks, and desperately offering to do a hair color treatment for you herself, and all the while you've been thinking that it makes you look wise, senior, and gets you priority entry whenever there are long queues....

And finally, Beauty, is also an 83 year old grandma, out with her daughter and granddaughter for a surprise birthday facial; the herbal stuff, the face and neck massage, young caring hands applying a mask, and when they ask Grandma to lie down to allow the mask to dry, she actually falls asleep and starts snoring, causing indulgent looks from the youngsters, and the beautician, who is actually missing her own Mom.....

And so the real beauty, is all in the mind.

You don't need to exhibit colors of the rainbow, waxed marble type skins, permanently surprised arched eyebrows, unnaturally long eyelashes, polished cheekbones, pierced navels, Dracula inspired nail color, or clothes that indicate a fabric famine.

I hear lipsticks now have flavors in addition to colors. I wonder if they have a batata-vada flavor lipstick.

Might be , as some are fond of saying, a win-win deal for someone trying to lose weight and a company trying to think out of the (makeup)-box. (Dove, are you listening ?...)

A lady called Elizabeth Kubler-Ross, who happens to be a Swiss American psychiatrist and a wonderful author , knows exactly what I mean by "beauty", when she says :

People are like stained-glass windows. They sparkle and shine when the sun is out, but when the darkness sets in, their true beauty is revealed only if there is a light from within.

And so I continue to look for that light from within......

And that's what beauty means to me !

(If you wish to read thoughts on beauty by those folks who look beautiful 24x7, (eg. even when they sneeze, blow their nose, cry etc) please have a look at Yahoo Real Beauty....)


  1. Lovely post, I love stained glass and think the quote is super. Would add a blogger angle - beauty is recognized without even once sighting the person from the light of their thoughts shining bright in your day. Beautiful Suranga, thanks for that light! :-D

  2. Wonderful post! And this is so very true- "their true beauty is revealed only if there is a light from within".

  3. Oh Suranga, the way you make fun of yourself is so endearing! :). Ok, I had to say that, now will read the rest of your post. Hugs!

  4. LOVED it! Just LOVED it. Hope you win!

    "there is an additional beauty ingredient in that cream, and the companies, including Dove, know nothing about it." Awesome!!

    I agree, the light within is what counts.

  5. Awww! super cute post..I loved the batata vada laced lip stick you know which brand ;)

  6. Loved your list of beautiful people. Who says it is only in the appearance?

  7. Such an awesome post, as always!

  8. That is so beautiful post!! Beauty you have defined through ages...the real beauty you have brought through little life situations that make us smile or drop a tear with true emotions!!!

    thats a beautiful post :)

  9. 'Lipstick and rouge were things you wore, if you acted in the annual college play.'

    Spot on. I was also similarly tuned and trained. Wonderful entry. Hugs....

  10. I have been a regular reader and follower of your blog for some time now, though have never left a comment. I know that is bad on my part, but some how, couldn't really express.

    But this post has made me do that. I am left speechless! It's a beautiful post and brought tears to my eyes.

    Love your writing :)

  11. Fantastic - what thoughts and observations.

  12. Wonderful post. You are right in so many ways on what constitutes beautiful. One thing I know is beautiful are the headers you make for Sylvia's blog. She is really special to me and I have enjoyed your lovely artwork.

  13. super cute post.. it definitely needs a like and promotion.. i did the same.. here is a heart expressing what does true beauty means

    Someone is Special

  14. Very nice quote from the Elizabeth Kubler Ross.. a good touchy blog. Good luck for the contest.

  15. Beautifully said as usual... love it!

    I did my bit too - through a poem this time. I thnk it sums us what you are saying as well..

  16. Beautiful post Suranga :) Can relate to everything that you've written so beautifully!! Love the stained glass quote.
    Best wishes for the contest. I'm sure you will be a winner :)

  17. Beautiful post Suranga :) But when u mentioned tht part abt my Mentor and guru Mr Count Dracula, i felt a bit offended. :P :P hehehe.. I mean he was THE true prince of darkness not like those lame sparkly,skinny 'twilight' vampires tht these teenagers are mad abt nowadays.They are the ones who should be blamed for 'inspiring' these fake 'twilightifying' ideas.

    Hmm..Anyway,If i were to pick a nair color i would prefer yellow :D
    Btw this a cool looking blog tht you got here and eventhough the music startled me in the beginning,its kinda groovy.i think this is the first time im seein and listening to a blog at the same time..haha..Brilliant :)

  18. Absolutely beautiful post. One of the best that I have read on this subject and across Indi. My vote is for this one :-)

  19. Sangi Thank you ! And I didnt relize I was a source for photons . But feels good !

    Manju Thank you !

    Starry Thank you for the nice wishes ! And yes, its a lot of fun making fun about yourself. (There is a lot to make fun off ) !:-)

    R's Mom Thank you . About the fancy lipstick, I hope they have a buy one lipstick, get two vadas free scheme soon ....:-)

    Zephyr Thank you !

    Dipali Thank you and good luck to you to ...!

    Cindrella Thank you !

    HHG Thank you ! Those days were so much fun , na ?

    neha Thank you ! Even if you dont leave comments I am sure I sense the vibes ! :-)

    Nsiyer Thank you !

    Kavs Thank you !

    Mystic margarita Thank you

    Sally in WA Thank you and welcome to the blog !

    Someone is Special Thank you ! and good luck to you too...

    quaintkal Thank you. And swallow quickly ! Nice cup of coffee waiting for you !

    Farila Thank you and good luck to you too !

    Poet Mamma Thank you ! Good luck for the contest to you to ...

    Softypinkngloriousred Thank you for the nice wishes !

    Rakesh Thank you ! And welcome to the blog. And honestly, I wasnt thinking about the twilighty types when I mentioned Dracula nail colors. More like jet black nail color, with red edges. :-) (Your mentor may approve ).

    I hope you enjoyed the songs . Some of them are old marathi songs which are still popular with folks of my age. I guess i should call my blog audiovisual now !:-))

    Writerzblock Thank you for the nice words !