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What is beauty, anyway?

December 30, 2017 09:54 AM Pratistha Kandel


I vividly remember we were all seated in a room that smelled of all sorts of colors, there were sketches hung all over the walls, canvasses displayed with paintings; ravishing ones, hyper realistic portraits, shelves full of crafts and clay works and a certificate that hung next to the door. I had attained serenity in the midst of an overwhelming chaos that was drowning me from weeks by simply existing in that particular room. Our art teacher Mr Limbu was teaching us the basic techniques of water color painting. It was my second day in the painting course. 

Then, a new girl appeared. Perhaps, it was the new girl; I just hadn’t seen her the other day. And call it a fate or a mere coincidence; she happened to have the same name as mine. Though we exchanged glances and smiled, it was awkward to have a person with the same name as yours seated right in front of you.

My mind was invaded with the uncanny resemblance, thoughts swirling all above my head and I was trying hard to sweep it away. Soon enough there arouse chatter about portraits that pulled me out. I don’t remember much of the discussion but I do remember a particular line my ‘namesake’ had said. She had said she preferred drawing portraits of ‘beautiful’ people and not of any ‘ordinary’ looking ones. I wasn’t much acquainted with the people so I had kept quiet on the whole discussion and passing on a judgment to a stranger I’ve just met was so unlike me.  

However, this particular question has haunted me since, what is beauty, anyway?

The pre-confined idea that the rest of the world has imposed on ‘beauty’ bores me. The term is narrowed in its sense. I’m not amused by the ‘perfect’ body, the spotless glowing skin, the intangible hair, the ‘perfectly’ sized nose or the filled lips. That concept of beauty people have imbibed right from infancy is shallow. For me, ‘perfection’ is superficial.

When I show them my portraits, people often ask me, “Why do you draw those ‘spots’? Wouldn’t it be better if you didn’t draw them?” 

Perfection intimidates me. What attract me are flaws. But then, I wouldn’t actually call them ‘flaws’. The ‘spots’ they call, the galaxy of freckles embedded on their skin, the wrinkles, the scars, the marks they’ve lived through, I think ‘imperfection’ is what beauty is. And as quoted by Edgar Allan Poe, ‘There is no exquisite beauty without some strangeness in the proportion.’   

I’d simply smile at them and reply in my head, “If I erase these spots, I destroy their vitality and their beauty will eventually vanish.”

The way their hair tangles in the wind, the nose they think is too big for their face, the lips they reckon to be small, the cheekbones they’re ashamed of, the crooked teeth they want braces for, the constellations of freckles across their tanned skin, for me their face is the beauty in its purest form, beauty in its eminence.

How absolutely boring perfection would be? I’m glad we’re all grey, imperfectly perfect and beautiful wrecks. 


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