Make it look whiter than it seems
Paint me over with your dreams
Shove away my ethnicity
She talks of a notion of beauty that she must comply with while being a star. And no, she doesn’t complain about having to paint her toes, but instead about having to do away with a part of her identity.
My sister and I were watching the 1994 beauty pageant where Aishwarya and Sushmita went head to head and I couldn’t help but notice the striking Jesse Randhawa, who was ‘Jasmeet’ then and decidedly punjabi in her ways.
I don’t know Jasmeet/Jesse and can’t comment on her and how things changed for her over time, but it did strike me then that all these lovely ladies at the time had a look that was quite unlike the other. I don’t know if it was the way they wore their hair, their accents or their skin tone. But there was a je ne sais quoi that set them apart from each other and gave them a story of their own.
A story, either of their roots or of the struggle or simply of the kind of exposure they’d had in life. The sway of Aishwarya’s hips talked of her already successful modeling career.
There was something that made them them.
A recent 90s-pop-love moment got me watching videos of Shweta Shetty , Suneeta Rao, Anaida, Mehnaz. Not one was like the other. I don’t know them personally, but they did have a look that certainly didn’t make them seem like they came off an assembly line.
I don’t mean for this to be a comment on the state of beauty today and how we’re all chasing the same ideal. (which we are by the way)
Instead, I wonder how much we’ve lost in terms of our ethnicity and our stories by straightening our hair and wearing it French. Or shaping our noses and losing our Kashmiriness? I don’t know.
Consider the young girls that Tehelka wrote about, who’re erasing their skin of marks and scars, almost erasing their stories too.‘A week before arriving at the clinic, the night when her nikaah was decided, she privately thanked Allah because she would now be able to wear T-shirts and short-sleeved kurtas like the rest of her friends. Her husband would know and there’d be no need to hide herself anymore. It was then that her parents announced their engagement gift for her — plastic surgery to permanently remove The Scar. In the clinic, mother and daughter talk in excited whispers — neither realising that Bilquis’ husband will never truly know his wife — that she’d been obsessed with exploring places as a child, that she hurt herself but discovered the other side anyway, that she’d spent her entire childhood worrying someone would see the most imperfect and most inimitable part of her.
True, celebrating our differences is easier said than done.
The world’s a global village with startlingly low patience for differences. And we may not want to cling to our roots all the time, but there’s something sad about having them wiped out altogether for the sake of beauty and the subsequent likeability .
For all our talk about individuality, sadly we’re more alike now than we ever were.