Author Kiran Nagarkar’s ode to the female form
- IWB Post
- June 2, 2015
In his frank, yet gentle manner, Kiran Nagarkar shows women how to escape from their troubled pasts, find their true value, break free from the bondage of weight watching, and how to discover the woman behind the mirror.
How does one measure the beauty of a woman?
Let me start on a personal note. At one metre and 81 centimetres (one horizontal finger short of six feet), and 50 kilos, sometimes you could see me and sometimes you couldn’t. From the time that I was a gangly kid and then a young man of 18, I would do almost anything to avoid the mirror. I suspect pop psychology would brand my problem as a self-image deficiency disorder. College was in Pune, and at least three times a year I would have to catch the train at Dadar station. It’s curious; platform number two on which I had to wait for the train was where I was lucky to have the two or three epiphanies that have stayed with me till today.
Standing amongst the crowd one particular day, it struck me that however ugly I may have been, the human body was a thing of great beauty. Praxitelese’s Aphrodite of Cnidus, Botticelli’s Birth of Venus, Michaelangelo’s David, that exquisite sculpture of the lady tying her girdle in one of the exterior walls of the Lingaraj temple in Bhubaneswar, the Padmapani and flying apsara images from the Ajanta caves, they all celebrate the human form and so do the women one comes across on the street, in a restaurant, on the screen, and in a library.
Fashions are cyclical, and the past keeps coming back. But fortunately, beauty is eternal. In the last 20 years or so, both men and women have discovered the new religion of health and fitness. They’ve realised that along with yoga, a regimen of exercise and physical activity will certainly have salutary effects. But as we all know, new converts often tend to go overboard. One of the unintended side-effects of this new faith has been rather bizarre. Both our superstars and would-be stars have, for some time now, confused pumping iron and developing six packs with acting. Stanislavski, Lee Strasberg, Jerzy Grotowski and company, take note. Maybe you got it all wrong, and so did Olivier, Gielgud and O’Toole. The least you can do is to take your shirts off.The pursuit of eternal youth has become a central tenet in certain sections of society. It has become more and more difficult to tell where nature ceases and artifice or lyposuction, Botox, and cosmetic surgery take over. Who does one admire in such cases? The ladies themselves, the make-up artists or the scalpel? But there is a new attitude that’s sensible and pragmatic, which makes for so much inner peace and happiness. Not all of us can have terrific looks and bodies (look at me). But we know that this is the only body we have. So the most sensible thing is to embrace it, take good care of it and rejoice in it.
It’s doubtful if any other civilisation has been as upfront, exuberant and lacking in guilt as ours. Foreplay, sexual congress, unorthodox sex: our sacred art embraces the full range of sex as it does the deep philosophical significance of the stories of gods and goddesses. And yet, in the last few decades, the self-appointed guardians of our culture have chosen to be in denial. Like Adam and Eve, they have discovered shame and hypocrisy and will not permit our contemporary artists to dress our goddesses in nakedness. On the contrary, they forced an artist of the stature of the late Husain to migrate to Dubai. The good thing is that we Indians are such masters of double standards, all contradictions cease with us or are accommodated within us. Let’s just say that soft-core porn often pales in comparison to the prurient exhibition of skin, flesh and sleaze in the ‘item’ numbers in our cinema. Make no mistake, I am a philistine and I’m always happy to see lovely women, fully dressed, scantily-dressed, or in a state of undress, but please spare me the holier-than-thou hypocrisy.
The Oscar ceremonies in February 2015 had a new and unexpected slant. More like a revolutionary slant, really. Yes, there was the standard parade of the most expensive designer clothes and there was the laboured effect at humour and the shock value of seeing bad films walk away with the Oscars. What was special, though, was the best supporting actress winner, Patricia Arquette. She did not go berserk with emotion and hiccups thanking her great grandmothers and fathers, her mother-in-law and nieces and second cousins. Instead she told the audience—and I suspect, her biased macho paymasters—that it was time for women to be paid by the same measure as men. Incidentally, this came as a shock to someone like me. It would never have occurred to me that actresses got less—I am told much less—than the male actors. And it appears this holds true in all professions. It is now clearer than ever before that even in the so-called developed countries the men folk are terrified of women being their equals, if not, often, their betters.
Let me make one last point. I believe it is also the most important. We’ve spent a lot of time talking about physical beauty and how to enhance it. And we’ve ignored something far more valuable—the beauty of the human mind. It is astonishing, to say the least, that hardly anyone, especially amongst women, talks about the incredible value of the intellect and how it can illuminate almost any subject. Climbing the Everest may be the greatest adventure in the physical world but it’s not a patch on the adventures of the mind.How often has one heard of mothers telling their daughters that the sciences are not for them; that any higher education is meant only to rope in a husband. Again how does one explain the herd mentality that makes most young Indian women aspire to be models or stars?
The republic of the mind belongs to each and every human being. Let no one tell you any different. You are every bit as good and capable intellectually as any man in any field. Let no one dare deprive you of the excitement and beauty of engaging with the various sciences. Let no one deprive you of the intellectual audacity and daring required to break new ground in medicine, engineering, biology, philosophy, psychology, maths or any esoteric subject. There is only one thing larger than the universe. It is the human mind. Go then, conquer… one world at a time.