Tuesday, November 20, 2012

FDI in Minds

At the cost of being ridiculed, laughed at, or whatever, I must announce that I have come to the conclusion that beauty, per se, is  a state of mind.

 What changes  through the ages, is a society that slowly becomes gutless in the face of what passes for globalization, and what I call FDI (Foreign Direct Interference)  in an individual.

For various reasons, in the sort of society in which I grew up, people were not obsessed with the confirming to some declared beauty standards.  There was a lot of emphasis on clean skin, using natural ingredients during bath times. No-nonsense oiling of hair, traumatic removing of knots, and two tight plaits turned up and tied with bows behind your ears, was the norm.  Hair was left open, only when you washed it and went about in the Sun so that it dried. Girls who went around flipping back unruly hair from their foreheads and eyes, and looking up at people from under bangs,  were frowned upon. There was no fashion  as such in clothes, because of a lot of what we wore was either school uniforms, sports requirements , casual home wear like skirts/blouses, and traditional wear like ghagras and stuff.  You never really aspired to look like an actress in films, with the possible exception of the actress Sadhana . Insecure types, were inspired to cut their hair in fringes on their forehead after huge disagreements at home.

My mother had a box full of a mixture of ambehaldi, and various ayurvedic powders which were mixed with besan and milk, sometimes fresh cream skimmed off the top of the boiled and cooled milk, and this paste was used instead of soap during bath. You never locked yourself in bathrooms doing surreptitious beauty treatments, because there was one bathroom and folks were waiting to have baths and go to work, schools etc. 

Sometime , approaching our twenties , eyebrows threading got approved,as a worthwhile effort of improving upon a tangled original. Though I still have friends who revel in intersecting eyebrows and are doing quite well , thank you .  It was about being yourself, revelling in your own confidence,  loving your own hair, nose, or whatever, and realizing there was so much more to life.

For some reason, time spent in beautifying/maintaining oneself  was not an obsessive amount, and being a beautician was not a choice profession. Although many folks then treated it like being an air hostess,  where they ignored the glamour and always thought it was about rushing with bags to folks who threw up in aeroplanes.

Cut to today, with commercial television reminding you about your fading beauty, whitening hair, dark complexion, and underweight constitution, not to mention teeth with cavities and yellow tinges.  Your hair has to be strong enough to pull a truck from a pothole, and smooth enough to give a slip to a kabaddi player trying to stop you by pulling your hair.  While the ability of the Sun to warm and tan you has not changed in decades, today you are stupid if you step out without slathering on sunscreen lotions.    

Combs gave way to brushes, brushes bow before curling and straightening irons,  and instead of curling up with a great book after work, or say, doing some minor fixing of a dress or putting a "fall" on a saree , the young ones now sit plugged in, with hair caught between two flat plates, constantly moving them, all this in the interests of straight hair.  The same young girls throng beauty parlours to get facials and bleaches, pedicures and manicures, and wear black nail polish a la Dracula , simply because someone famous in some magazine does that, Everyone aspires to flat straight hair,  skinny jeans, short tops, occasionally jackets and heeled footwear that traumatise your quadriceps, and make the leaning tower of Pisa jealous.

While our traditional textiles, get rarer and more expensive for common citizenry due to diminishing support, their art is exploited by the fashion designers, who barring a few, have completely bizarre, over priced exposure oriented design sensibilities, more suitable for the overseas market.     

For someone who grew up  believing that hard work and a sincere attitude blessed you with a job,  the already stunned eyes have opened wider on learning that applying Fair and Lovely for seven days, has the employer pleading with you to return back on the job. It has also been a revelation to learn that choosing black as your choice in a game of chess, is a guaranteed way to lose, thanks to some white beauty face wash, and to hell with watching and listening to Vishwanathan Anand.

So many multinationals, stuffing commercial time on television in India, with ads that might have been banned abroad , like whitening creams that have been banned in the US due to harmful ingredients.  So many multinationals that probably think they can advertise what they want how they want, given that liquor is advertised as cassettes and CD's, hard liquor is advertised by a winking man as Soda, energy foods supposedly make you grow twice as fast according to some vague fictitious lab, and there is no one that tries to stop this, obsessed as they are with discussing if folks in films should be shown smoking. 

If you don't believe this have a look at    Ministry of Information and Broadcasting   Content Regulation on Private TV Channels    Click on the first 5 links that pertain to advisories for advertising on private channels , warnings to those found in violation etc, and you will see that the URL does not exist.   

It is intriguing that this emphasis on physical appearance and falling in line with some vague pre set norms  , all followed in excess , has also resulted in a lot of insecurities in young people.  So many parents are ignorant of what their child is up to, because things are done secretively.  There are stresses when individuals and stories do not follow predictable paths like in commercials . You have young distracted people, giving up , and some uncontrollable types , being violent, as parents both work, to provide for the expenses demanded by the new lifestyles, sometimes  with undesirable results in their absences.

Is this the new world, where someone else tells us what beauty is ?  Is this the new world where people are tunneled on to a path with stars in their eyes, misguided money in their pockets, and insecurity in their minds?   Were we stupid in our time, because we never stamped our foot down and demanded something like our own personal hairdryer , when an old one was shared by the kids already?  Was it the height of stupidity and ignorance that we continued to live with that little black spot  and slightly non symmetric nose, and refused to get plastic surgery done ?  What is it that makes insecure women hanker after HRT  despite reports doubting its benefits ?  And is it the height of madness to insist on letting your hair grow a magnificent gray as opposed to a shining dyed darkest brown ?

Has this age of commercials, television, and globalization, actually done a plastic surgery of our minds ?   


  1. Very very true ...Beauty is instant fairness...beauty is momentary ...it has been reduced to a cream in a plastic tube sometimes to hide a dark spot or a stray pimple...beauty is just skin deep and whoever said "Beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder" did not know what he/she was saying

    A very thoughtful and timely post :)

  2. What a post! and so so necessary...I wish people could understand that entire drama behind advertising :(

  3. It's a "brave new world" Suranga! :D

    Times have changed- which is natural. Fashions change with every generation. That's natural too.

    But- as you have rightly pointed out- nowadays there is far too much excess in "this emphasis on physical appearance and falling in line with some vague pre set norms".

  4. Hmmm...so well expressed!

    I remember having to oil my long hair, going to the neighbour's house to watch Chitrahaar on Wednesdays and occasionally the Sunday movie and looking forward to the annual visit to the movies for two other reasons - we would get to drink Coca-Cola and eat potato chips!

    But we turned out alright, I suppose...

    And i console myself when confronted by the chaotic thoughts like in your last paragraph- this too shall turn out alright.

    This too shall pass... :)

  5. Above all this....we now have whitening creams for men too

  6. You have described the 'Insecure types' whher they belonged to those days when cutting one's hair like Sadhana meant being sophisticated or to those who ape the models in the ads thinking that they are real. I wish someone would tell them how those models are made to appear so with something called 'air-brushing' their images and concealing their flaws to make them look glamorous.

    You got to wear two plaits. I had to do with just one, because having two was frowned upon in my family as being 'modern'. And no frocks or any other dress than the lehnga blouse and later the 'half-sari' and sari. And coming to grey hair, I have to patiently tell my beautician that I like the grey in my hair, thank you no colour for me!

    We are indeed the prisoners of the FDI! Loved this post. :)

  7. Yep, me thinks there is great food for thought here.

  8. Let me give my humble opinion it is certainly not laughable or ridiculable the conclusion that you have reached that beauty is a state of mind ! :D

  9. I completely agree with you. Beauty is a state of mind.

  10. Plastic surgery on our minds? Yes it is so in the U.S. And being an old and wise woman I have watched this trend escalating for many years. I was enthralled when the feminist movement entered into our lives here in the US. Thought it would bring to a close the sexist values in commercial industries. But my observation is that it continues to increase. What a mess!!!!! -- barbara