Wednesday, January 17, 2007

The most beautiful?

I had written a post long ago on the subject of beauty, Aishwarya Rai, celebrities, etc. here.
In my humble opinion, the whole idea of "the most beautiful", "the sexiest", etc. is a ridiculous notion. Consider this: a celebrity magazine decides, based on very debatable polls, that so-and-so is the most "beautiful woman" or the "sexiest man" in the world. In the WORLD!!
Their list of the top ten in 2005 may be:
1. Eena
2. Meena
3. Deeka
4. Seena
5.Xena and so on.

Those of you who have such real names, please, this doesn't refer to you and is in no way meant to offend you.
Come 2007 and their list reads as:
1. Xena
2. Meena
3. Eena
4. Seena
5. Deeka

Come again? Did Xena get transformed into the most beautiful woman in the world in the span of two years (unless and until she went under the surgeon's knife to get herself 'sculpted')? Whatever happened to Eena, the-most-beautiful-in-2005?
Now, the part about the poll. I agree that some people appear more attractive to a lot of people as compared to others. But, when it comes to the most beautiful, there are bound to be different opinions.
Secondly, what do you mean by "the most beautiful"? Among whom? Maybe, among the famous actors/models/pop artistes of that time. These people represent not even 5% of the population in a country. Even if one assumes that only 10% of the world's population is good-looking, then, too, how many people would have had the opportunity to see even a tenth of that?
Thirdly, there is no way you could compare a celebrity who takes very good care of himself/herself, wears great outfits and has the best stylists at his/her beck and call, to an average Joe/Jane. Imagine if the average good-looking non-celebrity was nicely dressed, made up, coiffed, photographed under the right lighting, from great angles and the result were converted into a glossy wallpaper. You would have a star-in-the-making. Can such a thing be accessible to the millions who toil under the sun, who don't have the resources to slather on sunscreens, anti-aging creams, the latest hair colour, etc.? Nope.
Beauty comprises of two parts - the natural, God-given looks and one's own input in the form of a healthy diet, exercise, grooming and , yes, happiness and inner peace that reflect on your face. Sometimes, we see people naturally well-endowed when young, not getting their due notice while some others, who might have been average-looking in their teens, soar to popularity later. Of course, blooming into the youth of the 20s happens. But, a lot of times, a pretty-faced woman who dresses like a rag, does not bother to maintain herself, becomes frumpy and fades into oblivion whereas a slightly-above-average looker works out, eats right, has oodles of confidence and steals the limelight.
As they say, it's not just what you got but what you do with it, that matters.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Can we compensate for this?

The horrific tragedy that took place in Nithari has been reported in various news agencies such as the Times of India and and some bloggers have also presented their opinions - one of the illustrious denizens of the blogosphere is

The government is now giving each of these poor families Rs. 5 lakhs (5,00,000) as ex-gratia. Now, one can understand if compensation or ex-gratia is paid to workers of a factory who have met with an on-the-job accident or to people who have lost everything in a natural disaster. That money is meant to help the devastated families rebuild their lives and stand on their own feet. It does not certainly mean that the loss of human life has been made up for. In the former case, it is also a liability cost borne by the employer.
But, what do you do when a child has been killed? That, too, by a criminal? Will paying Rs. 5 lakhs in any way mitigate the grief and loss of those hapless parents?
If I were a poor parent whose child was a victim of a well-publicised crime and I received an amount of money that is quite an amount by my standards, would I feel guilty about using it for my own betterment or for my loved ones? Legally, a child cannot really be an earning member of a family so what does this ex-gratia mean? The parents may still continue to live but for many, that life would seem bleak and empty.
Money to a dead child's family seems like weighing the child's life and worth in terms of money, the possibilities of what he/she could have blossomed into, is reduced to an economic statistic. Another reason could be that the government is apologising for the gross negligence in handling the case due to which many preventable deaths occurred. In that case, these families should be suing the government. Even in that case, the people in charge will only feel the pinch when the mooolah comes from their own pockets. They usually get away lightly, emptying the public coffers while merrily ignoring their own incompetence. What we really need is a better law and order system with more sensitive and responsible, honest police officers, those who don't
harass family members of victims when they approach them for help.
Secondly, the Nithari case is now well-publicised as it is a shocking, unheard-of case with crime being committed on a large scale. Hundreds of children and adults are unfortumate victims of terrible crimes in our society. If this is what we do in one case, then all those families deserve ex-gratia. Police negligence, after all, cannot be unique to only this case.
Thirdly, there are some situations where you cannot blame the government or even the society for what has happened. Natural disasters are one such instance. But, the compensation given to those families is for an entirely different purpose. It is more under the category of aid. As for victims of riots, well, society and the state can prevent them or at least control them after they have broken out. But, individual crimes? Some person kills someone, out of mental disease or malice or pure accident. Neither the state nor society can always prevent that. They are not obliged to pay for it and cannot possibly do so for everyone. What they can and should do is take steps to nab and prosecute the culprits and deliver justice to the families.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Needed: A new age-bracket

Those were the times when there were only four types of people, agewise that is: children, the youth, adults and the elderly.

Recalling my school history textbooks, India's ancient forefathers had it all neatly divided:
You had the kids going to school to study. No, you weren't supposed to be checking out attractive kanyas (young girls). Knowledge was what you sought full time. This was Brahmacharyashrama, 'Brahmacharya' meaning celibate.

Next, you got married, procreated, worked, provided for your family. In those ancient days, women probably did the bulk of the housework, cooking, cleaning, taking care of the kids, etc. In short, the father and mother built a nest and provided a good environment for their offspring. This was Grihasthashrama.

The third stage was retirement. Kids are grown up, married and settled. The husband and wife now retire to the forest, probably to a hermitage. This was Vanaprasthashrama, 'vana' meaning forest.

The last stage, the evening of one's life, was to be devoted to the Divine and the spiritual. This was Sanyasashrama.

These days, a child is not just a child anymore. Well, everybody knew the difference between a 6-month-old infant and a 6-year-old child even in the pre-modern era.
But, now, there are special age groups. There was the infant in diapers, needing to be fed by the bottle or the breast. Then there is the toddler, also in diapers, who needed to be fed nutritious finger food, stimulated with learning games so that s/he grows up strong and excels in school. Next comes the preschooler. So far, so good. Then, due to the peculiarity of the English language, there is the 'teenager', between ages 13-19. But, since legal adulthood was defined at 18, well, the 13-17 year olds are a special age group called 'adolescents'.
Wait, it gets even better.
Enter the modern era with all its marketing professionals and myriad products.
11 and 12-year old girls wanted to dress up like their older sisters and friends. But, they were not yet teenagers. So what to call them? Why, 'tweens', silly! Or pre-teens.
Now, if Hindi were as widely spoken as English, then ages 11-18 would be the English equivalent of 'teen'. Why, because after dus (ten), we have 'gyaarah' (eleven), 'baarah' (twelve) and so on till 'athaarah' (eighteen).
Actually, adolescence meant the onset of puberty sans the maturity of a grown-up. But, the age of puberty itself has been going down and now, 11 year olds are in the early adolescence stage where once 14-year-olds were.

Even in adulthood, there are different segments - 18-24 and then, 25-34 and 35-49. After 49, well, it does not matter whether you are 50 or 80, at least to some of the marketing people, never mind the fact that a 50-year-old is usually in much better shape physically and mentally than an 80-year-old. To others, it matters a lot. Because if you are 50, you might be aiming at retirement options whereas if you are 80, you may have certain health concerns and needs.
Now, the real reason why I wrote all this. The comments on this rediff piece are astounding.
The said item talks about the supposedly upcoming wedding of Abhishek Bachchan and Aishwarya Rai, two of India's popular film stars. Many of the commenters think that Aishwarya, 33, is too old for Abhishek, who is also somewhere around 30. 33 is old/ middle-aged aunty??!!!
You mean, there is no difference between a 33-year-old fit and fine beauty and a 55-year-old post-menopausal middle-aged woman, even if the 55-year-old is also a beauty? So, according to some of these people, once you reach that age 30, you are officially crossing over into the middle age bracket, which extends on till you are 60! Phew! So, if the average life span is around 75-80 years, only 12 years or so are called 'youth' as in the adult 'youth', namely, the ages between 18-30. The first eighteen are childhood and adolescence and the years from 30 onwards are middle or old age!
In the olden days, a woman who was not married till she was 25, risked being called an 'old maid'. But, with the need to pursue higher education and establish a career, both men and women 'settle' much later in life.
I feel that after 25, there sets in a new maturity. But, with a proper diet and some getting-yourself-off-the-couch, coupled with exercising those calves and joints, one can be reasonably fit and attractive at least till the forties. In fact, 25-40 can be one of the most rewarding periods of your life. You've got your degree, you may study for more, acquire new knowledge and experience and contribute immensely to the society and the economy, not to mention the pockets of marketers. This need not even stop at 40. This age bracket is the peak of Grishasthashrama, family and career swallowing a huge dollop of one's daily time.
This is the mature adult who is certainly not middle-aged.
I would call a perky 31-year-old Preity Zinta a mature young woman, not a middle-aged aunty, definitely not.
Anyway, the exact period of youth can be different, based on different parameters. And it may well be slightly different for different individuals.
(This does not mean that one can be twenty forever. After all, a 40-year-old woman may not be able to conceive as easily as a twenty-year-old.)
So, if are in your thirties and someone told you you are 'not young', tell them, you are in an age bracket called 'mature young':)!

Farewell, 2006!

You came and went. Suddenly, there will be no trace of you on our calendars, in our chequebooks, notebooks, computers, emails, documents, nothing. You will be a timestamp on old documents.
Things that happened when you were here will now be referred to as 'last year'. You will now be a memory, a pang in the heart, a longing for the good times, for the company of someone dear and perhaps no longer there, or maybe a joyful exuberance of delightful moments spent with someone who mattered.
Quietly, the sun set on a day called 31st December and took with it a year - you.
The next day, there was someone new called 2007 to look forward to. It was welcomed with gusto, with cheery greetings, holidays, wild parties, gifts and laughter. You were forgotten, although discussed in news channels. Those were your final moments of glory.
After 364 days, 2007 will say adieu, too.
My mother always believed that rather than just celebrating birthdays, we should also ponder over the fact that one more year in our life has gone by.
The same applies to a new year, too.
Why don't we pause and reflect on the time gone by, never to be ours again? Why don't we stop and think about how closer we are getting to our end, inch by inch, day by day, year by year?
No, we celebrate and look forward to something new, hopefully exciting.
Hope the New Year does bring something new to rejoice about. Hope we discover something new about ourselves, the world, gain more wisdom and live life better and, as they say, more fully. More importantly, may those of us lost somewhere find a peaceful home.
Welcome, 2007! Goodbye, alvida, adieu, sayonara, ta-ta, 2006!
You shall be wistfully remembered.