Wednesday, 27 July 2016

The Quest

In one way or another, we as a race are in search of beauty. The physical beauty in ourselves, the kind of beauty we connect internally with, beauty in the symmetry of life, beauty in uncertainty and above all the beauty in the mundane.  We endlessly and tirelessly pursue beauty openly or incidentally because beauty is the tangibility of love. Just as the definition of love eludes us, beauty too cannot be outlined into a singularity. This long explanation boils down to the simple phrase ‘beauty is in the eye of the beholder’; which has been taught and drilled into our heads as children. However, as I get older I realise that for something said so often and learned so early in life we as a species have failed to recognise and accept that everything is beautiful.

It’s amazing how lately I’ve been coming across people who don’t love themselves. People who loathe themselves! It rakes my brain all the time. The saddest are the ones who don’t even “like” themselves. Every now and then I hear or read about people who had to go through hell to finally acknowledge the existence of their beauty: internal and external. As if said beauty is the princess at the end of a super Mario game. It is who we are, not some treasure we are rewarded with upon concluding a quest. We are and will always be born beautiful; worthy and special. I know that, thankfully. However, this makes me wonder who or what has created such an outbreak of self-doubt and displeasure? Who is/ are to blame for people who feel bad about themselves? For people who do not deem themselves worthy of the word ‘beautiful’?

                “Often times, the world both, directly and indirectly, tells us that we shouldn’t be happy with ourselves if we don’t fit a certain standard. Scars to your beautiful is a reminder that beauty isn’t only one look, shape, size or colour. It isn’t even always tangible. It comes in an endless amount of forms and we need to acknowledge that”- Alessia Cara, Scars to your Beautiful.

It is easy to blame mainstream media, after all, they only advocate a singular appearance, semblance, and look. It is always the slender, tall, fair beauties that make centre stage; and if you don’t fit the criteria they make you look the part. That has come not to bother me rather it has become common and ordinary; because even forever loses its appeal if you are guaranteed immortality. I wonder if these standards of beauty started out to make those with these attributes feel good about themselves? Are these beauty standards used to marginalize and control beauty itself or just to commercialize it? I wonder about this because historically every human tribe and clan had its own sui generis definition of beauty. And the fact that somehow today beauty has been trimmed to one or two variations is a thought we all should ponder upon.

I sure do not have answers to these questions. In actuality, I don’t think the answers truly matter. What I do think matters is the highlighting of the infinite faces of beauty in our societies, and celebrating them with equal vigour. This is why every campaign or initiative whether Dove’s beauty campaigns or DNCE’s Toothbrush music video is a step towards the right direction. It is so easy to forget and push away reality when it comes to our own beauty. However, one must remember just as light cannot exist without darkness, that ugliness or our perception of it cannot exist exclusively without something of beauty.

Tuesday, 12 July 2016


There is no topic of conversation that is as sinfully delightful, scandalous and full of taboos as sex. From the age of 10, it becomes virtually impossible for one to go an entire year without a heated discussion exploring the most primal and essential of human acts. However, No matter how numerous sex comes to our mouths, we (especially those under 25) still are just riding the wave with no real knowledge or guidance. Therefore, it wasn’t surprising when I was given a radio production assignment in my university I choose to talk about it.

I and my gang of eager sex talkers found our way to the outside the auditorium. We sat on the lush grass in the midst of a busy day, with the distant sounds of a Haryana road behind us. My co-anchor and I started the discussion casually, by asking what the guests (our friends from the campus) thought about sex. It was a general question with a general answer but what was common was the understanding that sex is the most intimate act between consenting individuals. It is neither to be shunned nor hidden because the cycle of life doesn’t complete itself without sex.

 As we got further and further into the conversation we settled on Sex Education. For all of us there, Indian and international citizens, sex Ed. was not thought in school neither was sex openly discussed over kitchen tables or without closed doors and confidants. What really shocked us was the mentality in which it was discussed whenever the topic did arise. For us, the international students, talking about sex meant learning and figuring out what is so coveted about it. We discussed and shared stories if anyone had first-hand experience or a near encounter. We as a society were openly honest and detailed about it whenever the conditions were right. This made what the Indian representative (the group had people representing different countries and demographics) said about the mentality of Indian youths towards sex shock us. Sex is a taboo: plain and simple. And talking about it in detail or with curiosity isn’t even normal. No matter how close individuals are it is uncomfortable to talk about sex except as a form of satire. I instantly opposed the idea, because I had personally talked about sex with Indian youths, so it couldn’t be true. The reality was, the ones that have these conversations were always considered the immoral ones. And when talking about Indian youths, the metropolitan top 10% hardly represent the majority. It wasn’t that sex wasn’t discussed, it’s just that the population of youth that does discuss it was near inconsequential in a nation as large as India. Upon hearing this, the only Masters student in the group told us one of the instances in which sex became a major issue even in our university. As a bioscience student reproduction and all its sub-elements is a fundamental part, and in one of their courses which entailed the mechanics of human sex; parents of the students protested against the course forcing the university to eliminate the topic from the curriculum entirely.

This revelation shifted the course of our conversation. Indeed sex is not a subject to be taken lightly because it consists of many psychological, emotional and physical factors, however, treating it like a time-bomb hasn’t really helped anyone, especially the youths. The rules of prior centuries can in no way continue to govern something as indispensable as sex and sexuality. We live in a world where sex and sexuality are at the forefront, and one of the best and most effective ways to combat the confusion is to educate. Sex Ed. is now not a luxury but a necessity to combat issues like sexuality, gender identity, sexual orientation, population control, body image, gender equality, respect within opposite genders and finally respect in a relationship. These will further reduce social issues such as rape, molestation, gender discrimination etc. however, it is important to understand that the sex Ed. needed isn’t just the general ‘birds and bees’ conversation which is generally provided. A detailed and less clinical approach has to be taken which will educate the young as well as comfort parents. This means that sex Ed. is to be looked at as a means to educate and empower not create promiscuous young adults. Furthermore, sex Ed. as a course should not be restricted to teenagers under the age of 18. Universities and colleges should also provide a deeper and broader continuation to the sex Ed. provided in secondary schools. At the end of the day, all this will help develop adults with cognitive, emotional, social and physical functionality (collectively one’s self).

It is understandable for parents and guardians to want to shield and preserve the innocence of youths from the mature nature of sex, which was easily achieved initially by keeping the topic in the dark… for as long as possible. Unfortunately, we live in the 21st century: an era of globalization, internet dependency and usage of sex for advertisement. No matter which rock one lives under, sex is no longer as opaque as it used to be. Rather than allowing mature substances like porn, erotica, the Kardashians and swimsuit models (on hoods) rule the future perception of such a delicate and fundamental topic we should enforce an environment which will handle sex appropriately. In simple words, we should insist on sex Ed.

Frank Zappa said, If you want to get laid, go to college. If you want an education, go to the library”, expressing the need to acquire a knowledge of sex not just in the act. Our discussion, in the end, was not aired but it made me and my friends realise the fight for sex Ed. is one we all must be part of.