Liberty is a myth. Rousseau was so right when he said, ‘Man is born free but everywhere he is in chains.’ Women are too.
They have clamoured for liberation the most in recent times. And their struggle has borne fruit too. They are free to walk shoulder to shoulder with men and partake in the same opportunities of employment as well as enjoyment. They don’t have to bow to unnatural social expectations any more..... or so I thought, until a visit to a beauty parlour shook my complacency. Every section of the establishment was full, and ladies were waiting their turn. Ah the torture that they endured has to be seen to be believed. Pouring hot wax on body parts, ripping hair off the skin, cooking the face, gouging out blackheads, squeezing ripe pimples, pulling the hair – ! Besides the women spent hours with their faces or hair painted with chemical cocktails. A killing bill strikes a final blow. It may seem ironical, but I seriously think that the burqua could truly liberate a woman from these social evils, if she took to it of her own accord of course. Sarkozy be da.... be denitrified.
After spending so much time and money and suffering such agony, the women come out pleased and confident that they look like every other woman. Like soldiers in uniform, they all sport straightened hair that looks brittle enough to break, bleached clean-shaven faces and long nails that would be the envy of any rakshasi. Fashions do come and go but the concept of beauty has itself changed beyond recognition. Compare a Ravivarma beauty with a size zero glam golliwog. But perhaps that would be an unfair comparison. What I’m trying to say is that there was a time when a woman’s face was her fortune, today we would probably recognize a starlet by her belly button. Maybe I exaggerate, but I find I myself prefer an underclad Shreya to a clothed one! You cannot blame me for losing my balance – all this while I thought I was firmly rooted in tradition.
Indians had an absurd fixation on fair complexion. Now they've dropped it despite the tireless efforts of fairness cream ads; only to replace it with a height fixation. Won't women ever find happiness in the way they are?
The experience in a hair saloon in China was more pleasant. There young, pretty male attendants (not all Chinese men have protruding teeth!!) did the hair of the women customers and females (not necessarily young or pretty) attended to the male customers’ head. They concluded the session with a shoulder massage and they even cleaned out the ears. In the west beautifying could be disastrous, the result of the treatment is more gruesome than the treatment itself – just look at the botox injected and silicon implanted specimens. And poor poor MJ. Sooner than later these beauty (????) trends will capture the Indian mind no doubt.
Years ago it was rumoured that the consecutive Indian Miss World and Indian Miss Universe was a deliberate strategy to open a market in India for international cosmetic companies. Those words seem prophetic. The girl who sold jasmine garlands in the street corner has shut shop and is now working in – would you guess – a beauty parlour.