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Mirror, mirror on the wall ...

When they say that beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder it is because something touches a chord within us

Gulf News

It seems that everywhere one turns, there is someone who is commenting about someone else’s looks. (Don’t we hear it all the time at parties and other gatherings?) And in true modern style, we don’t limit ourselves: Why should we when the world is our oyster? So we say what we will about the looks of persons in the news and maybe go back a couple of generations and point fingers there as well. We forget that everyone is not walking the ramp for us, but could be in the public eye for other reasons. More than that, we forget to sneak a peek into the mirror ourselves.

I have often wondered why it is necessary to pass judgement on anyone’s looks. Why do we turn our eyes upon someone who is not visually appealing to us and say: “What on earth does she think she looks like?” Why don’t we, instead, shift our gaze to what goes down well with us (the key word in both cases being ‘us’) and appreciate that.

When they say that beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder it is because something touches a chord within us — it could be a smile showing uneven teeth, unusually expressive eyes or a sweep of lustrous hair — and we are hooked. Those are the beauties in our books. What we see is sometimes inexplicable to others — and vice versa. But, in any case, the smile, the teeth, the hair — none of it is going to stay the way it is in the relentless march of time. Does one not appreciate the person within?

How often do we comment — for all to hear — “Oh, she’s not a patch on her pretty mother!” or in reverse, “How did such ordinary looking parents produce such good looking children?” or “She stole the show from the bride — she was the best looking person around!” and so on ...

Considering the number of other bricks I let fall in conversation, comments on how people look is generally not among them. Not because of greater sensitivity or sensibility, but because I have usually been on the receiving end.

It started during those adult conversations we eavesdropped on — and I heard at a tender 12 or 13, when the promise of future blossoming had not yet fallen flat, that “luckily” I had “character” on my face! It was a puzzling statement and I had to get to the bottom of it.

I did.

And it took me some time to recover, but I did.

And by the time I was midway into my teens, all false hope was left behind. So what if I didn’t have Mother’s even features and slim build or Father’s green eyes? It was just a trick of those genes in the game of heredity. I didn’t have to look at me if I didn’t want to. I could direct my gaze at the beauty around me instead. In fact, if I was smart and wanted to continually have something easy on my eyes, I could make it an ongoing, proactive process and FIND the beauty around me.

So someone’s perky nose and almond eyes, the glow of a well-cared-for complexion, the grace of a well-worked out shape — all of these leap at me every day of my life and bring a smile.

And when I eavesdrop — as I am still wont to do — it gives me great hope when I hear some young thing, who hasn’t yet grown into herself, say with confidence: “I’ve got beauty and brains — and a big heart. What more do I want?”

What more, indeed — if you concentrate on that heart!

Cheryl Rao is a journalist based in India.