September 28, 2010
My earliest memory of being conscious of beauty was that it came from postcards. Cherry blossom and cuddly babies and snow-capped mountains. It must necessarily be something far away – at a distance made distance mythical. Round the corner, at the grocery shop, at the moss-lined doorways of kitchens, on pencil-scratched walls, chipped mirrors, narrow alleys of course, there was never any beauty. This was the real – comfortable and ugly. It had a place for me in it. Similarly, beautiful people had no place in my immediate world. The neighbor, the domestic help lady, the grandmother, the school-teacher – with fat arms, double-chins, crumpled saris, and the smell of garam masala - represented the world as it was - comfortable and ugly. And then fairies danced on TV in the evenings and told you how the world was not. Of course, you avoided any thought that your world would ever have ‘beauty’ of the postcard or TV-fairy variety. You lived many many years toiling through the musty, moss-lined world. Traces of the postcard world whizzed past you sometimes, so you could manage just a quick sniff. And then, there came a time, when you found that the postcard and TV-fairy worlds had merged with your world. There were cherry-blossoms and picturesque mountains and prettily cooked food and fairy-like women everywhere. Somehow, the real world had merged with the ethereal distant world. It was now possible move back and forth between the two – in fact, it might have begun to be possible to live entirely in the postcard-world. This is wonderful. And I am now in it. In a postcard. Waving every now and then at other passing postcards. It has created a gnawing pain though, a disgust for all those I have embraced in keeping with the fraternity of this beauty era. It triggers a short, sharp cry for the smell of moss. A quiet cry for the asymmetric. It is embarrassing. The moment it is uttered in words, it assumes the postcard-beauty of nostalgia or some such beautiful thing. It must be felt on an utterly straight highway, and wished away.