I was 8-9 yrs old when my father started introducing to me the concept of what makes thee beautiful!
I belong to a middle class family and my father , having risen from a humble background himself wanted for his children to be educated. But that education was not just about bookish knowledge, the education was about social behaviour, deep thinking and being able to take sound decisions.
We were brought up with music perennially running in the background of our daily existence. In the late 80s my father was posted in Africa to a remote country and for those 5 yrs we listened and re-listened to the likes of Hemant Kumar, Jagjit Singh, Lata mangeshkar, Asha, ghulam ali, Kishore Kumar and for an extreme soul searching we would switch to Hari om sharan. It was much later that we would visit India and buy the hip and happening songs of the time- chandni, Lamhe, Maine Pyar kiya, ram lakhan. Evenings would be spent gathered in our living room listening to mum’s rendition of some of our fav songs. Papa would fondly record and re-record her voice as she progressed. Me and my brother were encouraged to participate during festivals when we would decorate the temple and spend the evenings singing devotional songs. Religious festivities at the time would mean gathering at our fellow compatriots houses on thursdays and sundays for Bhajan and Havan, what i grew up understanding as the difference in the name given to a South Indian Puja and a North Indian Puja. Limited resources sometimes teach people a lot and I was blessed to have grown up in that environment. Money apparently wasn’t a problem but avenues for spending that money was. So well we were functionally poor
At the age of 7-8 I decided I wanted to dance on stage. Most of the big things in my life have been built out of an initial delusion of being great at what I do, and thank God for that😂 at the age you would imagine a pretty little girl dressed up in pink performing on stage to “mere Hathon mein “, well not me. I was a lanky dark disheveled ugly thing bobbing on stage in an orange dress and a pink hair band to rishi kapoor’s “oh meri chandni” – I still have muscle memory of the dance moves. I remember my skirt slipping off mid way and how I would take the time out every 10 seconds to bring it back to place and then continue dancing. So much for resilience!
I was otherwise a tomboy running around wildly shouting at the TOP of my voice. We lacked hair Parlour’s in the city, so for haircuts I used to have pots and pans of various sizes kept on my head to demarcate the portion to be cut , yes😎. Our clothes were hand me downs from our friends who had outgrown them. But we never thought less of ourselves and that was a blessing.
Anyways after my solo performance Papa felt that his girl had some talent based on the encouragement I got from the audience. So my delusion about myself lead him to put me into a bharatnatyam dance school. Soon I also joined classical singing. I have a keen sense of observation and I remember noticing the hand movements and general conduct of my dance and music Teachers. They sparked in me ,they don’t know till today, a lesson more valuable then dance and music, they taught me social conduct, they initiated me to the concept of grace , of beautiful over pretty. Of course even I didn’t realize it at the time. But it started an evolution.
At the age I used to spend a lot of time with papa, for me he was the most handsome and humble man in the world. I used to watch the bold humble man express himself to me about all his life’s observations and I used to try to soak in everything. We returned to India soon after and I was again put into a dance and music school.
Puberty hit soon after. I have come to believe that puberty is a very crucial phase in a person’s life , be it a boy or a girl. This is the stage where you suddenly become very aware about yourself. All your senses become alert to things happening within and outside you. As a girl you become very aware about the slightest of change in your body. You are easily broken and easily hyper active. Some how it feels like an age where you are soaking in everything from your surroundings- good or bad. This is a stage which can break you or fix you for life. Papa played a very crucial part during this time without realising so or maybe he did what he did, deliberately.
Papa would take me along to social gatherings and encourage me to meet elders and wish them. We would later sit in our living room with dad and mum pointing out how graceful a certain lady behaves and how beautiful she looks because of the certain conduct. In my mind I would think well she was not pretty, but if you say so , well ok. Gradually I started seeing those specific women in that light too. The way women talk, the way they conduct themselves, what they do as humans. I remember one particular lady who was my dad’s subordinate, she wore cotton starched sarees, carried a simple handbag, spoke confidently yet gracefully, sang classical songs in social gatherings, her Husband stood staunchly by her side all the while she went about doing what she did. I saw in my father’s eyes respect for this lady. My parents are still in touch with her and she has reached quite a senior position at work too. There were numerous other men and women that my parents pointed out for having exemplary social conduct and yet lived peacefully in their personal lives too. I stopped looking at acne free faces, beautiful bodies, etc as beautiful people , I started searching for beauty and grace in terms of social and personal conduct.
There are different kinds of people in the world, and I believe each individual should be allowed to be what and who they want to be. But I also believe that for humanity to get ahead, there is a universal code of conduct which incorporates mindfulness towards other individuals and which makes our environment liveable. Following that simple code of conduct , makes living and loving much easier.
Thank God for a father’s wisdom, now I know beautiful people!