Lauding Those Who Favour Their Inner Glow As The Only Form Of Make-Up
This is just about the strangest encounter I have ever had. Our son is visiting from overseas. We have gone to Fabindia’s lovely, newly designed section for organic products in Vasant Kunj. A woman in white, of a certain age, with radiant skin, which almost outsparkles the solitaires in her ears and fingers, stands near the counter, almost caressing a bottle of pure coconut oil. When I inquire why she is waxing so fulsomely and passionately about this coconut oil, she takes me aside — out of earshot of my puzzled son. “You can use it on your face and body, gargle with it…but you know what else it is magic for….” And here, dear reader, I have to play censor. The lady’s larky voice descends to a whisper as she tells me in great detail where else in the female anatomy this oil can be put to good use. It has been, she explains, with accompanying appropriate gestures I can’t describe here, a blessing that has “changed her intimate life”.
Glow of happiness
There is a reason for this rather digressive preamble, other than the hilarious and unexpected nature of this conversation with a total stranger; a first for me when it comes to public intimacy. The coconut oil lady, who is comfortably ensconced in middle age and possibly a grandmother, has glowing skin and thick hair: the wrinkles barely visible beneath the natural varnish. Her ensemble, white on white, is fetching but not exceptional. It would not quite make it to the Best Dressed category of this publication.
But her glowing face could easily land up on a list of best-dressed faces. Increasingly, intricate and in-your-face maquillage is being sidelined by visages which seem to glow from within, with scarcely a trace of make-up. It could just be the result of subtly and laboriously applied cosmetics. But tastemakers and icons of today are more prone to flaunt good health in both their faces and their bodies. Just look at the selfies and Instagram pics posted by celebrities these days. Most of them have almost ‘naked’ faces, dressed by an inner glow: it is attitude and fitness that they appear to be projecting. Wellness may well be the substitute for beautiful.
Actor Gwyneth Paltrow, 44, doesn’t disguise her biological age with cosmetics. Like a growing number of celebrities she appears radiant with good health. Singer-actor Jennifer Lopez (as famous for her complexion as her well-publicised derriere), Wonder Woman Gal Gadot, model Demi Lovato, singer Alicia Keys and countless others put forth unadorned faces: for them fitness and visible good health is what dressing up is increasingly about. Most of them even advocate the newish mantra: you are what you eat. Broccoli and kale anyone? As you eat, so shall you reap.
Yoga also dresses you up, from within; it is yet another beauty enhancer. So, good hair, strong nails, clear skin and a halo-surrounding face (rather than hovering over it) pumps up the well-dressed quotient. Years ago in Delhi’s Deer Park I used to see a rather plumpish woman going for a walk each morning. Some months later she was hardly recognisable. She wasn’t much thinner but there was an ethereal glow on her less-lined face, and a sparkle in her eyes which I hadn’t noticed earlier. When I remarked on her appearance, she said it was all due to yoga and drinking gallons of water the first thing in the morning. The clothes she wore were not very flattering, or even vaguely à la mode. But her beaming face was ornament enough.
Think about it. A best-dressed cake is seldom the yummiest. Or for that matter an interior of a home or office. What is the point of an intriguingly shaped cake with all kinds of colours of icing, topped up with sparkle and sculpted chocolate figures, if the cake itself is less than ordinary, doesn’t have any taste or, worse, is stale.
Take Italian cuisine. It depends on essentially just four ingredients. And the secret behind the much-heralded taste of their sauces or dishes is the quality and freshness of the ingredients — not the number or the expense. Closer to home and more down to earth let’s look at the homely roti or chapati. Fancy restaurants offer layered parathas and mile-long naans but how many desis, especially men, hanker after the simple, perfectly round rotis which were made by their mothers and grandmothers and puffed up like balloons? Everywhere, and through time, it has always been about mamma mia.
I suppose the same principle applies to interiors of homes and offices. The best-dressed — and perhaps the most enduring ones — are increasingly minimalist. You don’t need too many things but what there is has to be of good quality. It has to be in harmony with all else in the home, including the personality of the person whose home or office it is.
For me ‘best dressed’, whether it applies to a face, a body or an interior, has to do with a spark of individuality coming through. A personal signature if you will: designing your look or that of your home or lifestyle must perforce have something that cries out ‘Me’. The ‘I’ factor. And when it comes to the face, of course that elusive inner glow. If you have it, not much dressing is needed. If at all!