Beauty is skin deep: Sabrina Iqbal Sircar

SABRINA IQBAL SIRCAR

The world is a shallow place. Well, at least most of the times, it comes across as like that! And among one of the shallowest things that the people and society obsess about is looks and appearance. The society is bowled over by anyone who looks good, and the coming in of the social networking has taken this obsession a notch higher. But the fact of the matter however is that, this fuss about how people look is not really working well with the people in real. In this age, when feeling confident about oneself if prime, feeling lesser confident about the way one looks can hamper the self respect of a person.
 
In the recent past, there have been numerous incidents when girls posting their pictures on Instagram, have had to face humiliation, because there were abuses hurled at them either for what they were wearing, or because they apparently did not have the ‘body type’ to sport or wear particular types of clothes. The comments can go from light abuses to body shaming, making the person feel like dirt! Recently, there was an instance, when a quite proclaimed Indian woman writer  had criticised Kate Middleton, when she wore a saree, because again, apparently, she did not have the curves that a saree requires! The writer was quite explicitly criticised on the social media for making such fickle and trivial comments. The point that I am trying to make is that, such comments and statements, amount to body shaming, but most people continue to do so, without realising the intensity of this capricious activity. Such insane insensitiveness has driven a lot of young girls and women to eating disorders and anorexia, because they, want to be called beautiful or good looking!
 
Beauty or good looks for that matter has become an ordeal for people. The society has created beauty as a qualifying criteria for the women, both in the private space and the public space. Well, there are jobs where the women have to be beautiful, take the example of air hostesses, actresses, and women in the media; and that’s not all, these professions again have a ‘shelf-life’ for the women, this again implying that, once they age, they are not good enough for the job anymore because the wrinkles and fine lines on their faces, act to their disfavour. The men are also not left out of this vicious trap, the expectations from the men to be rough and tough and macho can be a little misleading and stereotyped. The nature and appearance of the sexes, especially that of the men and the women, has been kind of fit into water tight compartments and any kind of deviation from those standards becomes unacceptable for the society.
 
What is surprising is the fact that, as the world is moving towards more technological advancement and scientific progress, the people are increasingly losing their human quality to them. We are in 2016 now, but we still have advertisements of height growth and fairness creams on television, we now also have fairness creams and face washes for the men, as apparently, we are now over the ‘tall, dark and handsome’ cliché , it is now the times of the ‘tall, fair and handsome’ cliché. It was expected that as society and civilization progressed, the people would become more intense and humane humans. But it apparently, has not happened like that.
 
The fact that beauty or looks are superficial and will one day fade away is often forgotten by people. When you have a ‘beautiful’ heroine walk down a street in a movie, and the hero, sings a song, in appreciation of her, ‘blue eyes’ (though in most cases they are black or brown!), and fair skin, and pink lips, these movies are once again reinforcing some stereotyped notions of beauty, which then the whole of society aspires to attain. Another thing which strikes me is that, the reduction of beauty to ‘hotness’! It has become very frequent and commonplace on television to compliment a woman by calling her ‘hot’ or ‘sexy’,  and this is supposed to be taken as a compliment or an appreciation, but I feel that this is more of a squalor than a compliment! It would explicitly mean that the person who has made that remark is in a way marking that woman on a scale of physical attractiveness or physical attributes. While being beautiful may not have anything to do with physical attributes at all!
This statement that I made may surprise many, that how can being beautiful have nothing to do with physical attributes at all? Surprising but true, we have all forgotten about being beautiful people. In Japan, there is this practice called ‘Kintsugi’ or ‘Kintsukuroi’ , which actually is a tradition of repairing broken things, especially pottery with gold.  This is basically inspired from the philosophy that breaking is a part of history of an object and not something to be disguised or hidden or for that matter something to be disgusted about. It also has origins in the Japanese philosophy of ‘wabi-sabi’ , which inspires the embracing of the flawed. It is also based on the belief that when something is broken, it becomes more beautiful. Now, how beautiful is that! That is exactly, what I was trying to talk about. We are humans, ergo bound to be flawed. We all come with some history and baggage to ourselves, in short nobody has a clean slate! Like they say, everybody you meet has a history, so be kind always! The point that I am trying to make is that, when we go through so much as individuals, when we fall down, get up, and still get going and write our own stories, we become beautiful individuals and if we have never been broken, we have not become more ‘beautiful’ than what we were before. Beauty for that matter is not in you or not in me, but it is in our stories, and in our journeys. So when people expect you to look good, tell them your stories, tell them what you’re made of, and that will tell them how beautiful you are.
 
Beauty, if you ask me, has never been physical. It has always been the soul and the journey of the person. It has been the spirit and the approach that a person has towards life. Your face and your body is hardly, a part of your beauty. And like the Japanese philosophy of Kintsugi, being broken, is not something we should want to hide, because being broken, is what beauty is all about. The journey from being broken to being mended in gold, tells us that broken is beautiful. And even if after hearing your story, someone still thinks you aren’t, ‘beautiful enough’, just turn away and meet others mended in gold like you. There is plenty beauty around you.
 
So the next time, someone in your surrounding talks about beauty, ask them their stories. Whether a person is tall or short, fat or thin, has a particular body type or for that matter if they fit into the conventional modes of beauty, are hardly any criteria for being beautiful. We so need to unlearn, the stereotyping of things around us, and we should start by unlearning the conventional idea of beauty. Beauty of course lies in the eyes of the beholder they say, but along with it, it lies in the person and their stories, not in their faces, but in their attitudes and their journeys. It lies in their survival and their moments of crisis, it lies in how, each time, we rise from our virtual ashes, like the proverbial phoenix and continue our fight each day to survive, each day to live, and to live to the fullest! That my friend is what beauty is all about! Cheers.

Sabrina Iqbal Sircar

Sabrina Iqbal Sircar

Sabrina Iqbal Sircar is a writer and a faculty in the department of Political Science at Cotton College State University, Guwahati.