Dove is hosting a contest on ‘what does real beauty mean to you’. I have already submitted my entry for it, so this is not another version of the same.

But when I was going through the other entries, mostly by women, I was struck by how passionate they were against the idea of outer beauty. Of course, real beauty is ‘inner beauty’, but did people have to be so dismissive toward the outer package; calling it fake, unreal and frankly quite demeaning?

If that were true, then half the beauty salons in the world would shut down, instead of sprouting up in every available (and sometimes not really available) space, as they clearly have in the last decade. Plastic surgeons would be only left with disaster victims and would not own penthouses in Beverly Hills. The show ‘Bridal Pasty’ would be banned. Victoria Beckham would be in a hospital with Somalian kids and Kareena Kapoor would still be a non-vegetarian.

Clearly, the world isn’t as we pretend it is. In fact, it seems that the ‘realer’ we pretend to think, the faker we really are!

I call it ‘rose-tinting the nuclear war’ phenomeneon.

When we were kids, our moms and aunts were not interested in sugar-coating the truth like that. They just called a spade a spade and carried on with life after that. So if you were fair and had big eyes, you were pretty. Or else, too bad, study some more!

We say, ‘Oh no, not at all! Fair is not important! In fact, pretty is not important. Inner beauty, love- those are the things that count!’

And then we spend half our salaries at the plastic surgeon’s and half our personalities at the Gym. 

Our moms said, ‘Sindhis are kanjoos!’ ‘Punjus are show-offs!’ ‘Never marry a muslim!’ ‘Gujjjus are too shrewd!’ 

We say, ‘What nonsense! We’re all Indians-brothers and sisters etc etc’

And then we proceed to form little community clubs in offices, elect political parties with an agenda against an outsider community, silently promote juniors just because they are of the same caste.

Mom said, ‘Children need to be either Doctors or engineers. Everything else is nonsense. If my child doesn’t see that, I will make him see that!’

We say, ‘No, no, we will let our kid decide. It’s full democracy here. I talk to my kids, they are the most important people in my life. I will not do anything to screw them up!’

Then we get divorced and have murky custody battles in front of 5-year-olds.

 My point is not that everything that Mom did was right. Of course, we have made progress. There is more equality than there was, we’re healthier, we’re richer.

But atleast our parents had the courage and the good sense to accept the truth and work with it. Whereas we are so focussed in politically correcting the world in our own minds, that we lose sight of reality. And life, stung by this hypocrisy,  reveals an even uglier side. Which we proceed to shelve it in some new cupboard. Again.

We’re the ostrich in the stampede. If we can’t see the enemy, it’s not there.

So we harp on ‘Real Beauty’, ‘Real Beauty’ whereas our teen, subjected to peer pressure everyday, sees us as irrelevant and unrealistic. And starves herself even more.

If we had any sense, we would accept that being thin and pretty is important in today’s world and say, ‘Let me help you with that.’ And then maybe she could connect with us and have that oil-free, bajra-mixed chapatti.

If we had sense, we would say, ‘It’s natural to mistrust those that are different from us. WE ARE ALL RACIST! It’s normal human tendency.’  Then maybe we could be prepared for our reactions and work to control damage when such situations arise.

If we had sense, we would say, ‘I am what I am today, because Dad forced me to do an MBA. Maybe I’ve quit the corporate world to be an artist, but I couldn’t have afforded to do so if they weren’t savings in the bank. So sorry kid, but dream when you have the luxury to sleep.’

As I’m writing this, I realise that I’m extremely guilty of ‘rose-tinting the nuclear war’ phenomenon. My world is so bloody rose-tinted that dog-piss looks like rooh-afza to me (yuck! bad allegory, I know).

So here’s my effort to remove the rose-tint. Maybe the blacks and whites won’t pop out immediately, but I may start discerning the greys!

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