My monthly visit to the salon plays out like a typical saas-bahu TV saga. The pedicure guy takes one look at my feet and starts weeping. With sad strains of violin playing in the background he looks up at me with sorrowful eyes and croaks, "Yeh kyaa haal banaya hai? What have you done to yourself?" I look shamefully at my calloused feet and croak back—that's why I have come to you, you dickhead! If I am in a mood to severely disappoint many more, I get a hair-spa and sometimes a facial. The hair-spa guy runs his fingers through my hair, shakes his head in slow motion and before he can open his mouth I say no, I will not go for the "ghost orchid soaked in rare oils mined from Russia and then ground to fine paste with hibiscus and tiger testicles" package. He looks heartbroken but I keep shaking my head like an autowallah who says no before you even say "Bhaiya?" A lot depends on my no. If I let the facial lady have her way, she'll pull off the outer layer of my facial skin to reveal baby soft bleeding skin. She looks appalled when I tell her with a smug smile that I'm perfectly happy with my tanned skin and won't do a thing to change it. Yet she tries to change my mind, every single time.
I get it—it is the salon's job to make me feel miserable about myself. But it is also my right to tell them to fuck off.
It's a bit of a dilemma for me. On one hand I am constantly being told by my Facebook friends who I haven't met about my gorgeousness. Then there are Twitter majnus who insist I'm the hottest thing to have happened since global-warming. And I believe every single one of them. So, you can imagine my consternation when I am told everything about me is sub-standard.
What, are you kidding me?
I get it—it is the salon's job to make me feel miserable about myself. But it is also my right to tell them to fuck off. Especially when I'm told the only way to beauty nirvana is a treatment that costs a king's ransom.
The beauty industry has built its fortune equating youth with beauty, slimness with desirability and a dark skin tone as banishing you to a future as hopeless as Abhishek Bachchan's career. We are told ageing is the gravest crime we can commit. Therefore, we must spend hours staring at the mirror, searching for fine lines, crow's feet, dark spots and then arrest them immediately by mummifying ourselves with anti-ageing lotions, potions and serums. It works mostly... the guilt I mean. Many of us start believing in the magical powers of fairness in a tube, eternal youth in a pretty little jar and salon-perfect hair in a plastic bottle.
What doesn't work is this—the tall claims. In fact they are as false as the nationalism being used as a stick to rein in dissent. If the claims did work, we'd end up in a world comprising assembly-line beauties with smooth skin and glossy hair that swishes around like a horse's tail. It's my crooked teeth, frown lines, greys at my temples that make me who I am. Also, imagine the confusion for the men if we all looked the same. They wouldn't know who to love, lust after or hurt.
The beauty industry has built its fortune equating youth with beauty, slimness with desirability and a dark skin tone as banishing you to a future as hopeless as Abhishek Bachchan's career.
Somewhere down the line we seem to have forgotten that creams, potions and scrubs are just conveniences stored in jars that can be bought off the shelf. Even though it's nice reading about DIY masks, conditioners, scrubs and soaps, not many of us are inclined towards pureeing and grinding our way to beauty. Especially at a time when women have discovered careers and a vibrant social life outside of their homes.
Also, what exactly is beauty? How does one really define it? As far as my limited intelligence goes, beauty has less to do with how you look and more to do with how you make others feel. It reflects through kindness, a cheerful smile and eyes that sparkle with life. No shampoo in the world can change your hair type from curly to silky straight. No lotion can change your skin tone and make you radiate like a 40W bulb. It's more to do with what you were born with, what you eat and how you live.
Damn, I'm sounding like my own mom!
As far as my limited intelligence goes, beauty has less to do with how you look and more to do with how you make others feel.
By all means, splurge, indulge yourself in that skin brightener infused with patchouli and 4546 rare herbs. But keep in mind, this industry's biggest nightmare is a woman content with her looks and who flaunts her daag, dhabbey, sagging skin like a badge of honour. Don't let the beauty industry dictate how to feel about yourself!
It's perfectly okay to look your age. Being called an aunty is not an insult even though the nincompoop who called you that may have meant it as one. Frizz is not something that you need to drown in gallons of conditioner. Freckles are cute. For God's sake, don't go on a punishing diet to get that perfect bikini body in just 15 days, because the miraculous tips are as fictitious as the photoshopped beauties your favourite magazine promotes.
If you have money and time is on your side, explore the world, discover new interests, make new friends instead. Believe me, nothing makes you feel more beautiful than a happy and content heart.
And till you start believing in the power of you, you have no idea what you are capable of.