I’ll never forget the day I met her…
It was a drizzly afternoon in Delhi and sitting at the reception of my office was a woman clad in a white suit gathering stares from the passersby. It was not difficult to identify Sonali Mukherjee among the crowd, trying to re-arrange papers in a blue folder guided by a fragile, bespectacled man, her father, Chandi Das Mukherjee. Sonali was oblivious to the outright gawking and the many hurried furtive embarrassed looks thrown at her. Some even looked through.I was cringing at the various reactions while Sonali continued to sit there with grace, dignity and pride.
Her confidence…her tenacity as a survivor was visible. When she heard me come close, her beautiful voice broke through with “Namaste didi”. Many emotions gripped me.
Sonali and her family have had to suffer many hardships since the day three men threw tezaab on her face. All because she had rejected a local youth. She was disfigured and blinded in the attack. But she’s overcome every difficulty…For me this gritty young woman is the epitome of real beauty.
And my statement may be considered as juxtapose as compared to the prevalent trend in our country. A look through the classified columns and one can easily say that Indians are obsessed with fairness. In conjunction with how beauty is epitomized with fluttery eyelashes, lustrous hair and painted lips; it highlights a culture that eroticizes physical beauty.
So when is one beautiful? – dressed up with your hair and makeup done? – is that what makes you beautiful? Not by a long shot.
I believe women are suffering because of the so-called idealized version of ‘beauty’ and are damaged by the pressure to conform to it. I wonder what happened to the real meaning of beauty… now it’s more about men’s institutions and institutional powers.
Laxmi Aggarwal is another victim of such an acid attack. Suffering quietly in agony, Laxmi spent eight years of her life hiding her face from the inquisitive eyes of people. She was scarred for life in an acid attack by a boy she rejected, but when the whole country rose against the Delhi gang rape case last year she saw a ray of hope and came out full-fledged to support the cause. In fact, recently the Centre announced that it would come out with a stern policy to regulate the sale of acid in our country. And the declaration comes after years of fight by Laxmi. This is the mark of a true character and real beauty.
People believe that whose face or body have been badly burned, beauty could have little or no meaning at all for them. But Laxmi and Sonali both prove them wrong. And as for me they both are personification of beauty.
We women should learn from this and break the shackles of the objectification and voyeurism that contribute to a woman’s sense of self-image these days. Clearly women are victims of a false belief system where they look for their own identity and meaning in their lives through their physical appearance, which was recently proven by the recent Dove Real Beauty campaign. The campaign confirmed that women should break out of a stereotype by expanding what beauty truly means, inside and out.
The campaign brings about many ideologies of distorted femininity primarily where women are fixated on moles or wrinkles, leading to a disproportionate amount of their self-denigration.
I think the cause of the campaign is so big that I feel it should be taken to another level. Dove as a brand should extend its cause by highlighting the issues of acid attacks. According to me it is a starting point, which is better than nothing, but Dove has an opportunity to embark a ‘Feminist Revolution’. It has the opportunity to start a “for the women, by the women” kind of a campaign by empanelling female lawyers and plastic surgeons and seek their help in furthering the cause of acid victims, who constantly are in need of legal assistance and medical attention. It could also offer an option of fund contribution for acid victims to its consumers. This cause marketing will be very much in sync with what the brand stands for- real beauty.
For me I guess real beauty comes from within and weaves your reality. And I certainly believe everyone is beautiful. Inner beauty is the spark that lights up every corner of the world, no chemicals or weapons could take it away from you. It has, and will always shine bright.
Let your inner beauty shine