lalita larking

An obsession with cryptic crosswords. Everything else falls in place.

Location: Kolkata, India

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

The best-laid schemes o' mice an 'men gang aft agely

"I never heard of 'Uglification,' " Alice ventured to say. "What is it?"
The Gryphon lifted up both its paws in surprise. "Never heard of uglifying!" it exclaimed. "You know what to beautify is, I suppose?"

Alice In Wonderland Lewis Carroll

Nowadays, whether it is for the Pujas in Bengal, or the holiday season in the West, people have this frenzy of dieting and prettifying themselves before the start of a season. But this fancy for self-improvement can strike anytime, anytime at all. You feel an urgent need to spruce yourself up and lose those extra kilos and look good for an event that is in the offing.

We all like to look nice for important events. Women, and I am generalising wildly here, I suppose, like to look their very best in new situations. When meeting a prospective spouse, when going for kitty parties or job interviews, when meeting friends after a long gap…all these situations involve a bit of wanting to look good.

We do plan for such events. If your monthly waxing, pedicure and haircut session will find you sporting unsightly fuzz, the nail-polish chipped or hair looking out of shape when the big day arrives, you'd rather postpone the session than go to that rendezvous feeling less than well groomed. It doesn't matter that it is all under a cover of clothes. You know you are waxed to perfection, your eyebrows are fine, your skin is glowing and it all helps in how you carry yourself. It translates as a confident manner.

A major event coming up and the first thing I think of is, let's primp. With two or more months to get ready for the nostalgia trip with my sisters, I had a schedule and to-do list all planned. Let's get rid of the permanent tan, let's get toned, shed those excess kilos and let's do something about the wrinkles and so on; the planning of regimen, the diet and exercise schedule, a new beauty routine - the list-maker in me went overboard.

I could change my yoga routine, add more repetitions or other Asanas. I could revive the potato juice, top of the milk and the humble chickpea flour thingie routine. I could brighten my face, lighten my permanent tan. I could groom my feet drop dead sexy enough for a foot fetishist, or I could shed those stubborn last three kilos I have been carrying around. I could sign up for a series of sessions at my salon, those that are guaranteed to work miracles; the possibilities were plenty, for a ten-week time frame.

But reality and life have a way of intruding. I already have a routine, and habit is hard to break.

No matter what beauty regimen I decide on, the habit of chatting late at night and compulsive web surfing has taken its toll. The shadows under my eyes have metamorphosised into dark circles long ago, and the faint lines are now fully-fledged bags under the eyes.

Winter is the time when I gorge on the seasonal delights, and three paneer meals a week won't help any exercise plans. Friends dropping in and long sessions of conversation fueled by booze can't be counter-acted by beauty treatments from the kitchen shelves. Dry skin is dry skin. The enthusiasm for the schedule is hampered by the cold weather, too. Applying cold goo of various kinds on your face is no fun when there are chill winds blowing.

As the denouement day approaches you find your plans haven't gone as you'd hoped. You are still carrying those extra kilos, and have added a few more. Your eyes aren't bright; they are shot with red thanks to the nights you stayed up talking to buddies around the world. Your tan has got worse what with sitting in the sun and enjoying the warmth.

And then there are setbacks and disappointments: a less than satisfactory cut by your usually good stylist, a broken nail that means the rest of them have to be trimmed to match, an outbreak of acne, the usual winter cold that leaves you sniffling and red-nosed and unable to stick to the face pack routine you planned on.

I called the trip nostalgia tourism and the phrase stuck. We sisters live in far-flung places and if we meet in any city we have a base, that sister will end up doing kitchen duty. So we planned to meet up in cities where we have no base, no contacts any longer, but have lots of old haunts to revisit. We decided dates, bought our tickets, made reservations and more. Starting today when the States-side sister arrives, we're going to indulge in heavy-duty nostalgia.

When you meet sisters who are beautiful enough to make you wallow in the sin of envy, you have reason to want to look good. That's what triggered off my make over plans, not that they amounted to anything. I'll be meeting my sisters on Monday and I am still the same size, still tanned, still have the same lines and wrinkles and bad skin and hair.

This urge to look good is strange. You want to look good when you are meeting strangers, and you can argue it makes sense. But you are meeting family, you've seen each other in the worst of times; the best of times too, but it's the worst times that haunt us. So you are off to meet family and you fret for a couple of months about how you'll look.

It is pathetic really, considering that they know you warts and all and still love you.



Anonymous Rajesh said...

Hooray, Lali is taking a break. Happy nostalgia Auntie Lali. Have a blast.

11:18 pm  
Anonymous Dipali said...

Amazing how vanity rules! ( and keeps one young at heart as well- my almost eighty-year old mother has a good relationship with the mirror, and is always neat and well-groomed). All the planned beautification is for oneself alone- whether it's done or not.
The joy in your eyes and the warmth of your heart are what render you truly beautiful....
Have a wonderful vacation, and happy sisterly bonding!

10:19 am  
Anonymous Ash said...

Do you really think it will matter how you look for a family reunion? Like you said, they know you, warts and all.

Have a nice trip, Lali.

1:49 pm  
Blogger Lalita Mukherjea said...

Rajesh- Less of the hooraying, and Child, I haven't left yet. What's with your insistence that I take a break, huh?

Dipali- Yeah, vanity rules. And as D week approaches, I feel plainer and uglier and fatter and... you get the drift. Not helped by comments in salon by thoughtless pretty young things suggesting bleaching and more. I might decide to wear the veil at this rate. :-)

Ash- I know it doesn't matter, but that doesn't stop the obsessing, is what I was trying to say. Thanks, and yeah, I plan to have a great trip.

7:31 pm  
Anonymous dipali said...

Let's meet, Lalita! We will bond and forget all the thoughtless pyts and their bright ideas, and you may leave for your trip on a happier, unveiled note! Given my size, you will feel positively slim
after meeting me :)

9:12 pm  
Blogger Lalita Mukherjea said...

Dipali- Let me relate a story.
"The first pun ever made is credited, logically enough, to Adam. Eve teased him, 'What's wrong with this little old apple?' and Adam answered, "I'll bite." The next day they were both bounced out of the Garden of Eden." Courtesy Cerf.

Of course we will bond, it's a case of been there, done that already, lady.

10:18 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Beauty is truth, truth beauty,—that is all ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.

Lali, you are beautiful and will always be so. Now gimme your number.

Secret admirer

10:26 pm  
Blogger Lalita Mukherjea said...

Anon- Bah! Get a name.

9:47 am  

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