Blue Lotus, the blogger with an exotic name writes with intensity about simple day-to-day events as seen through the eyes of a young girl/woman. What makes her posts endearing is the dash of humour in them. I had requested for guest posts from my blogger friends about a childhood incident that has stayed with them. Delhizen came up with her Little Drummer and now Blue Lotus, the sweetheart that she is, has sent me just the one!
For someone growing up in India, the first and foremost criterion for being called beautiful is being fair. So what if Rekha is successful actor,” She is black, like a horse. It’s all makeup, shake up and camera tricks.” Oops, nobody mentions her beautiful eyes, glorious skin and luscious pouts. Acting prowess? Excuse me. Who cares?
Growing up is not always fun. Especially when some your relatives tell, “She is dark; not like her mother. Her mother is fair; beautiful. You should see her hair, long and black.”* They continue after much ooh-aahs,“Look at her curls. OMG. Like a bird’s nest.”
With a retinue of cousins, fair as moon and charming as Cinderella, I was stumped. I thought I am the ugly duckling and secretly wished I would one day turn into a swan.
It is on vacations when one meets the rest of the brood. These dreaded vacations reminded me most of ugliness. They tell you how tall you have grown.
How you were so tiny and sallow and you look healthy. How your hair has grown. Moreover, in my case, sadly, how dark I have become.
[My mental picture showed a pink ball growing into a brown coconut.]
“Ask your mother to mix turmeric and coconut oil and apply everyday. It helps.”
Add to this, the inane comment, within my earshot, “Oh well, the girl is a replica of her dad, no wonder. Girls from our family have always been fair.” So what if I was a topper in class and could do mental math like Shakuntala Devi?
I hated my brown skin and my wild curls. I applied layers of Cuticura talcum powder in a futile attempt to lighten my skin. I tried tying my hair tight in order to tame my curls. All in vain. Much to my annoyance, I looked like a house done with Birla white wall care putty and hair very similar to a dog’s tail — curled. Then came my valiant attempts with turmeric powder. A few skin-burning nights later, I quit on this enterprising alternative.
I spent hours, staring at the mirror. “Would fair and lovely work?”
Amma retorted, unable to gauge my desperation, “Why do not you try holding an umbrella? And stop running around in the sun?”
Amma could never assimilate the situation. She was beyond the realm of worldly pleasures or dilemmas of little mortals.
”Drink your bournvita. It is getting cold. Stop making those faces and DO NOT WASTE FOOD in THIS house.” She bellows.
I was dark and ugly; the last person who seemed to care was Amma. She never supported any skin regimes I wanted to take up. “A total waste of time that is what this is all about. Spoils your skin as well. Daivame,Ethu engine oru mandi aayallo ** ?”
[I hated her for not having passed her skin and hair to me.]
Dejected, I reached out for my dad. On an evening towards the end of my summer vacation, I posed a question.”Acha, Am I pretty?”
His nose delved deep into machine drawings, replied without looking up,
“You are the prettiest thing in the world. Now where does this pipeline come from? Hmmm.”
“Acha, I meant am I really pretty? Not just for you?”
He looked up momentarily, “Did someone tell you other wise?”
I sat up straight and solemnly replied,” I am not fair like Amma.And they all say I am dark. So does that make me ugly?”
I try hard not to cry. Trust me trying to act brave is very difficult. He closed his files and thought for a moment; “Being dark or fair does not make a person beautiful or ugly. Having a beautiful mind is more important. Being polite, truthful and respectful makes you a beautiful person. Having a perfect face and a wicked mind is not the concept of beauty. The beauty you are talking about is only skin-deep. It will fade with time. Real beauty comes from within. It reflects in every action you make and every word you say. This is much more endearing. Be intelligent. Take care of your skin. However, do not be vain. Learn to recognize people with beautiful minds and not just pretty faces.” He added, smiling at his innocent ten year old daughter, “…and that way you are beautiful.”
Well that day, that lecture did me little good. Before he went back to his pipeline and power plant world, I was in the bathroom experimenting with sandalwood and turmeric. Ammomma tells me sandalwood will cool the burning sensation of turmeric and help lighten the skin.
I did reflect upon his words years later. What defines your beauty is not just your face. The character and attitude makes one charming. Having a pretty face is God given but being a beautiful human being is our choice. And I choose to be one, a beautiful human being. Being a dusky girl with a mop of curly hair doesn’t make me a diva, who cares? If you are fair and beautiful, I will not envy you. You are blessed. You are blessed even more if you have a lovable heart. That lovely heart would endear you to me than the zillion divas of this world.
PS: I still got to parlours. The difference is I want a healthy skin. My mind as you all know is very beautiful. I call it a package deal, beautiful mind and healthy body.
* The mime of touching their buttocks to show the length of Amma’s hair follows this. I glow in pride for Amma, momentarily forgetting my humiliations.
** God! This thing is such a half-wit.