Friday, October 7, 2011

Mirror Mirror on the Wall, Who's the Fairest of Them All?

"Oh, how I wish that I had a daughter that had skin white as snow, lips red as blood, and hair black as ebony", cringed Snow White's mother. And her wish was granted for the drops of blood that fell, when she pricked herself with a needle, fell on the white snow on the ebony window sill.

And then we know the story, blah blah blah, vetti step-queen with way too much time on her hand and suffering from the same SOS (self-obsessed-self) disease as me, admires her carefully crafted looks in a truth-telling-mirror until her step-daughter surpasses her beauty. She tries to get her killed, instead of sending a Golden deer, she sends an over-sentimental soldier who lets her escape. Snow White meets seven guardians who will all go to work but draw a Lakshman-Reka anyway to protect her. Then, in true Tamil-villain style, she dons one big macham on the left cheek and a evil grin and tricks her into eating a poisoned apple. 

So we build a glass coffin as they don't want to bury her. Who will save our damsel in distress? Enter prince Charming stage left, who falls in love at first sight and delightfully marries when the apple gets dislodged. The queen dies of heart attack.

And all the good people lived happily ever after.

OK, this was one of my favourite stories when I was small, but let's review the characters shall we?

The Queen: By far, the most realistic character in the story. Apparently she didn't grow up in India, where chants of "idan na mama" will claim to drive every particle of self-obsession in your body. Anyway, scheming/plotting/revenging is quite exciting in Kaliyug but for what? The oil fields of Kuwait.. nope.. to be Miss Universe with no competition.

Snow White: Beautiful, serene, child-like and innocent. Completely cute except for the child-marriage ending. And if she really fitted the descriptions, she'd look like this

It's kind of scary even with a smile attached.

Dwarves: We're supposed to believe that these little descendants of Vamana are completely careless but caring. Honestly, the first thing they say is if you will keep house for us, and cook, make beds, wash, sew, and knit, and keep everything clean and orderly, then you can stay with us, and you shall have everything that you want. And they don't bother to stay at home anyway. That doesn't sound caring. That sounds like, "Machi, this cute girl does all the homework for me da!".

Prince Charming: Convenient person to marry Snow White. All secret-female-infanticide-practicers probably pray for Prince Charming. All you'd have to do is doll your daughter in shoe-polish, paint her lips red and black hair is the norm anyway, lay her in a casket and voila!, a no-dowry asking, promptly falling-in-loving guy will be there to relieve you of your "burden". 

Let's come to the twenty-first century. A land imprinted by Einstein, Gandhi, Nelson Mandela and so many other revolutionary rationalists, where spirituality and science tend to a delicate balance.

Apparently black hair, white skin, red lips are not enough to fall under the category of beautiful women. So, if a guide to look beautiful for twenty-first century girls/women came out, it would be like this.


The skin must be completely blemish free. No spots/pimples/pores/acne (and these are all very different things mind you) shall disgrace thy face. And, yes in true OOP concept, we inherit the white-as-snow skin as well.

Well happens to people born with an overdose of skin-cancer-preventing-melanin. Not to worry, to attain the spiritual realm of perfect skin to cater to your spiritual societal needs, cosmetics, a trillion dollar industry, is there to help.

So we have toners, cleansers,  conditioners, foundation, concealers, moisturisers and sunscreens (and again these are all very different things). That's just for the skin. You also have lipsticks, lip gloss, rouges and other make-up a well. Apart from these wide range of oh-so-magically-convert-#deb887-to #fffff, you have beauty parlours. 

Beauty - the quality present in a thing or person that gives intense pleasure or deep satisfaction to the mind.
Parlour - an audience chamber

A beauty parlour - like a compound composed of elements - does not exhibit any of these characterisitcs. It is a catalyst that does absolutely nothing to an individual's beauty but increases the speed of understanding prettiness is far different beauty and the law of expansion - the price of the service will expand to the size of your wallet.

So anyway, you get facials - of type saffron, gold, platinum, diamond, flowers, and add-fancy-greek-names.
Have we really changed?

Ancient priests believed diamond dust will cure bubonic plague.

People believe that diamond dust will cure societal plague.

Now the face is composed of eyes and eyebrows. Eyes shall be perfectly outlined in kohl. Eyebrows shall be perfectly shaped by the process of carefully selecting each mischievous naughty hair out of place, placed caressingly in the fond embrace of the loop of a thread, only to be betrayed and violently jerked out.

And as if all this isn't enough, we have waxing, the wonderful cure for removing body hair. Why? because its beautiful. And no force on this planet can convince me to lay myself as balikadu, anoint me with strips of wax and rip the paper on top. Come on, I had enough of that mini-version when my luxurious hair on my hand got caught in cello-tape.

Waxing meant:


Witch Torture Involving Hot Wax


It shall be curled, straightened or teased to the whims and fancies of rich,old,heavily-made up ladies who dictate fashion. It shall be tangle free, thick, lustrous and shiny. You have shampoos and conditioners and dyes. You have hair spas as well.

Marie Antoinette - Later beheaded on the guillotine - Take a hint

Silly vetti queen takes a hair style, then silly vetti subjects also take the same hair-style.

Similarly, popstar takes a hair style, silly fans take same hair style. And pay for it too. 

Average hair cut for boys : Rs.75
Average hair-cut for girls - Rs. 300
Average hair-cut for barbed-wired-frizzy-long-haired-traditional-doofuses-refusing-to-reduce-length - Rs.500


Of course, a simple nail polish doesn't suffice. 

If thou art a girl, thou shalt be a princess.

You deserve the pampering touch of exotic soaps and cleansers and massages. You deserve the best nail-art in the century, you are special. Just as you allow your madly whirring brain, calculating the peculiar scents to be that of combustible acetone and cleansing ceramide, to slip into sub-consciousness, the bill arrives.

Manicure - Rs. 400
Pedicure - Rs. 300

This was the regular package madam, do you want to try our premium peppermint services?

*Insert appropriate swear word*


From aunties of previous generation: You are absolutely right, chellam. All I ever did in my youth, was empty the talcum powder box with cute powder puffs imported from Turkey (Or are there only towels from Turkey?"), touched up grey hair with mai(kohl), swathed myself in lipstick and a facial, only once a week. I wouldn't have dreamed of cutting my hair.

From my mom's colleagues:

Until I was in school : Sowmya romba chammathu, make-up laam interest kidaiyaathu, verum padippu thaan.
Now : I think she has a social disorder, absolutely refusing to enter a beauty parlour.

From my fellow college girls:

Category A: Hey ya, what you say is correct only but I use face wash because my skin is oily.
Category B: I totally agree with you dude, can't understand what all the fuss is about. (Autumn Sunshine)
Category C: Hey its my personal wish, I quite like it. Come on, it gives me confidence. I should like looking at me first.

These three categories are quite fine. The following categories irk me.

Category D: Girl obviously made up claiming haven't done a single artificial thing in life.
Category E: It is the destiny of women to suffer pain. If you can't bear so much for beauty...

My response: Precisely the reason I feel it is unnecessary to invite more pain

Category F: Don't you want to look good? To impress friends, family, enemies? Don't you want to look, to die for, unreachable, a prize?

Who the hell assumed I don't look good???

My fellow college guys:

Guys are far simpler. Only one category.

Hey there is a girl over there.
Matter over.


I am dark, body-haired, curly-tangled, pimpled/pored/acned yet I am beautiful. I do experiment with hair-styles, eye-liners and nail-polish for a change. It's merely a craving for change and some attention. Its not a norm or a necessity or a path to attain beauty-nirvana. Its the colour of your heart that counts, not your skin. And I believe, the people who I would like to be friends with, will notice me for who I am, and like me for that beauty. I find the money pointless. Its insane to expect men to change their attitudes about dowry and female infanticide and not teach women to evolve.

Even people very close to me has commented, that grace and beauty are not important in a man as it is in a woman. That's like saying, "Your record and observation are far worse than boys'". How on earth can you expect equality when such comments are in practise? Scold me for a bad observation. That is about the line I draw. What's with all the advertisements also? Fair girl gets noticed by all, dark by none? 

I believe in looking presentable. Because that communicates your willingness to communicate your intelligence, talent and so on. That includes a supreme level of confidence, that I ask every girl who is reading this to have, which cannot be bought by a make-up artist. And if make-up gives you that confidence, go ahead. A conscious choice is alright, not like a herd in a rampage.

Because, girl, with your smile, you are beautiful.

Agatha Christie
Helen Keller
Marie Curie
ME B-)


  1. "Girl, with your smile, you are beautiful"

    Killer line that, pretty much summing up the whole post.
    And oh, the world would be a more beautiful place to live in if only every girl thought like you.

  2. Wow. This is simply amazing. I really liked the conclusion part.

    "Fair girls gets noticed by all, dark by none" concept is applicable for men also now. Remember that SRK's ad in North and Surya's ad down South for men's fairness cream?! I thought girls liked only tall, dark and handsome guys but these days, even guys have the urge to be fair. Sigh.

    I simply like the colour of my skin! I have never used any cream to lighten my complexion. Foreigners spend a lot in saloons to get their skin tanned and I feel so good to know that I already naturally have that kind of complexion which they yearn for!

    Nice to know that you are also equally proud to be a brown-skinned-Indian-girl. And, trust me, you are beautiful the way you are! :)

  3. Candid post this one! Hey, you are not afflicted with SOS! You writing about the general path to beauty the unthinking majority takes ,includes satire in much the same way as Stephen Hawking about religiousness.Funny.
    And Of Course, you are a pretty, charming young woman, Sowmya!

  4. Really? OK that's, like you said funny, not sure if its good or bad. And thanks :-) I know it but it feels great when people say so anyway ;-)

  5. You know the snow white picture looks scary!!

  6. I like the line "Its the colour of your heart that counts, not your skin." Epic.