I am beautiful – and by beautiful, I mean the kind of beauty that swamps one’s mind with warmth, the warmth of Christmas mornings, the warmth wafting in classes between veritable, unfeigned ‘I love yous,’ the warmth in the aftermath of intense love-making with the one. The kind of beauty that lights up your world when you see a chuffed mother break down on her beloved son’s graduation day, and such contagious light is this that one who has had his hopes dashed and his heart torn apart sees the ghost of hope when he looks into your eyes, hope that makes him believe that he might be able to amass heartsick shards of his soul and feel, laugh, cry, fume again; hope that makes him believe that one morning he might be able to open his eyes and not wince-just because he would have to give living a shot, yet again. The kind of beauty that you see when you’re sauntering down the shabby, narrow by-lanes in the heart of Old Delhi and you witness a five year old mendicant splitting a fragile Marie biscuit (which she had probably procured from some kindly soul) into five sorry pieces, in order to fill up, albeit however little, the bellies of her sisters and brothers – and you look into the child’s eyes and find only joy, joy that the clamouring in her siblings’ stomachs wouldn’t be as loud as they toss and turn on their bed of rags that night. The kind of beauty that wells up in the eyes of a mother, when she sees, quite astonished, her son, an expatriate, at her doorstep, unannounced just in time for morning prayers.
I could go on and on, for there are several such heart-rending, beautiful instances that do justice to the effect that life is a magnanimous gift bestowed upon us by God. The word “beautiful” has another meaning, though. A meaning bereft of much depth, a meaning that crinkles corners of the eyes of one easily pleased – just for a few moments or so (not that those moments go by unappreciated, though) – only to later fill up one’s mind with doubt tugging at the edges as one stares back at what the mirror shows her or him. That’s not beautiful. You don’t feel beautiful when you gaze at your reflection and a pair of hypnotic, bewitching wide-set eyes stare back at you, and you wonder why people swoon over and envy this reflection of yours and refuse to acknowledge all the witty retorts you come up with, or dismiss all the hours you spend pouring your heart out onto paper when the only thing callous ignoramuses find in themselves to say is, “So beautiful – oh,yeah, and she writes too.” Does not their blatant disregard for anything but your peaches and cream complexion or your tinted lips make you, if not profoundly then just a little bit, loathe the beauty you were graced with? Beauty is in the pride (not conceit, mind you), and confidence that expands your chest to the point of bursting when they say your words paint a pretty picture, not your mien.
That, dear reader, is what beauty is all about – and wouldn’t you rather have someone feel beautiful because of you, than be beautiful?
For all the people, men and women and distraught youngsters alike who have felt inadequate in the way they look. Words of encouragement regarding self-esteem and confidence in being who you are shan’t be doled out – this was just one of the few ways to show you, who is living in the selfie-crazed and cosmetic-obsessed 21st century, that the word “beautiful” is ambiguous-and the other interpretations this word is open to will prove themselves to be so much better, holding loads more value, in comparison to the more obvious one in the years to come.
~Rhia Pandey | Edited by Farrokh