Friday, March 08, 2013

Every girl and every woman is beautiful. Post for Women's Day, 2013

Every year hundreds and thousands of beauty pageants are conducted all over the world. While I am not arguing that the participants in these pageants aren't beautiful, to accept the winner of a pageant as the one single and most beautiful lady in the world (universe/earth whatever) for that year is sheer absurdity. What if there were many girls and women who simply did not choose to participate in the event and those who were more beautiful (by the standards of the pageant) than the winner? Can beauty pageants then, really define and judge the beauty of a woman? I am not advocating a ban on beauty pageants but it is commonsense that such events can never fully appreciate the beauty of women let alone cover all of her beautiful virtues. Also what one woman lacks, another has. Every girl, every woman has something beautiful in her. One woman may have more beautiful things in her than another. How can a pageant gauge and judge all this?

I recall at school my classmate Sarayu (name changed), always being scolded and punished by teachers for not faring well at her exams. The system in those days was harsh towards students who did poorly in academics and like pageants that decide beauty in women, was a poor yardstick to decide how bright a student was. I was made to sit next to her once and while she was out for recess, out of sheer curiosity I took a look into her "rough note book". I just couldn't believe what I saw. Unlike the mundane math sums and English words and games in my "rough note book" Sarayu's book was filled with drawings of  pretty flowers, trees, birds, butterflies and nature. It was alive like an "Amar Chitra Katha". Her handwriting was almost art. Today's schooling systems would have promoted her into an artist but unfortunately in those days the frequent scolding and punishments only took a toll on her. She was already a senior and repeatedly failed several years of school and ultimately withdrew into a shell but come drawing competitions and she took the top honours. Another girl Arya (again name changed) would be the first to volunteer to sing whenever there was a free class. She was such a sport that I cannot recall her in an unhappy mood unless it came to studies.  If teachers were unhappy with the academic results I only wondered if they ever considered Arya's singing and Sarayu's art as their real talents.

Mothers, Grandmothers, sisters, cousin sisters, aunts, teachers, girl friends, girlfriends, wives, even ex-girlfriends and ex-wives all have several beautiful things for which they have been admired. Some of them are endowed with an abundance of beautiful things that are either ignored or simply taken for granted. With a little patience it is not difficult to find at least one very beautiful thing in every woman. In fact there are almost an infinite number of ways girls and women can be beautiful. It is just beyond the scope of this post or this blog to document and extol all these beautiful things.

I'll allocate the final paragraph to a woman I admire and respect deeply, my grandmother and particularly on the subject of strength because women for several wrong reasons are addressed as the weaker sex. Blame it on evolution or creation I have even wondered why she is called the weaker sex when it is she who goes through childbearing and labour. And on the subject of strength it is unfair to compare every woman to a Hercules because all men aren't compared the Greek hero.  Anyway here are some of her feats. I call them feats because as a man I am sure it will be impossible to emulate them. Ammumma's (grandmother) life i.e from pre-teens and almost upto the age of 80, when she died, was a life of hard labour. This included cooking three meals a day for upto 8 members, sweeping floors of the two storeyed ancestral home and surrounding areas and also mopping. In the days before red-oxide and later tiles were used for flooring cow-dung was used extensively to smear areas of the home both as an insecticide and for aesthetic purposes. And because of this extensive hard labour she like other women of her times were physically very strong. I am told that Ammumma could extract a coconut from the fruit by tearing out the husk using her bare teeth. Mother would tell me of their large appetites that stemmed from this hard labour - Ammumma and her siblings could consume an entire jackfruit in one sitting. But to top it all was her observance of the fast on MahaShivrathri day. According to grandmother, observing even half a MahaShivrathri fast religiously was equivalent to observing a 1000 Ekadasi fasts. The fasting would begin from the previous evening and would last all through the MahaShivarathri day and the night. Grandmother would even mention that swallowing saliva was taboo on that day. The acid test was the 6 mile walk from Aratupuzha up to Cherpu to the Sivan temple with a tender coconut in hand for "Abishekam". There they would stay awake all night chanting the Divine name and listening to stories and plays. At 3:00 AM the fast is broken with a small intake of the holy water, just a small sip. She would then trek back 6 miles to the Aratupha river, take bath, again visit the Shasthavu temple there and head home, all on foot. I am told that by the time she would arrive at home she would be absolutely frail, famished and weak from exhaustion. After consuming some gruel she would rest. Grandmother would observe this fast every year even in her seventies. Only old age would prevent her from undertaking the fast during her final years.

On mother's day today I bow down to the Divine Mother embodied in all women who are beautiful in some way or the other.


Susan Deborah said...

Compared to your grandmother, the work today is nothing. Thanks to shrinking houses and gadgets. Though I can admire her sheer physical strength and grit, I don't much like doing house-work and chores. It is drudgery. I wonder what your grandmother would have thought about me - Maybe just another of those modern types.

Women are always defined and admired by the amount of work they do. I wonder if any of you knew your grandmother beyond her abilities, for the person she was. What were her dreams and desires.

Joy always,

Deepak Raghuraman said...

Good one Subash Sarath Lakshmi !! Its a wonderful journey into your memory... Good to read the real life incidents..Also good to read about Grandmaa... My best women in my life is also my Grandma... Good post !!!

Deepak Raghuraman said...

Good one Subash Sarath Lakshmi !! Its a wonderful journey into your memory... Good to read the real life incidents..Also good to read about Grandmaa... My best women in my life is also my Grandma... Good post !!!

Prashanth Ashok said...

Nice one Subash :)

Subash S L said...

Susan, Deepak and Prashanth, Thanks for your comments. Sorry to have approved them so late.