Age arrested, artificially

Age arrested, artificially

In this age that deifies delayed ageing, it certainly isn’t easy growing old gracefully, writes Chetna Keer

The summer of 2012 has seen an actress in the autumn of her life — the ravishing Rekha — making her debut in Parliament, a picture of graceful growing up and grooming.
Beauties of her generation, be it a Vyjayanthimala, Hema Malini or a Sharmila Tagore, epitomise a womanhood which wears its wrinkles as well as its unwrinkled kanjeevarams. These women have embraced public roles and social responsibilities with as much aplomb as they have age and autumn.

But by the summer of, say 2052, our wrinkled and grey haired public icons of beauty may be an endangered species, existing only in the mental archives of the collective consciousness, not in flesh and blood, at least not in un-chiselled flesh.

Blame it on the consumerist jungle that we’ve come to inhabit, which gets more and more dense with the proliferation of plasticity-endorsing products and age-defying artificial aids.

Blame it on Brand Botox, collagen-chiselled consumerist collages of new-age beauties and scalpel-shaped symbols of synthetic seduction. Blame it on anything and everything marketed to arrest that natural process for which our anatomies and biological clocks are programmed: ageing.

It certainly isn’t easy growing old gracefully in this age that deifies delayed ageing. Heaven save you today if you think hurtling down the age highway is going to be one ‘hell’ of a natural ride. Perish the thought about perishing with a creased countenance and a crowning glory that has shades of salt ‘n’ pepper in it and not a palette of auburns or sienna browns. In the current collagen-endorsing consumer-scape, you’ll end up, naturally not as much on the gates of heaven, as stumbling upon scores of dermatological speed-breakers to arrest ageing in the shape of lotions, potions and new-fangled notions.

God forbid if you plan to wear your wrinkles along with your Wendell Rodricks or Versace wardrobe. There’s a clutch of commercials from the God of Stall Things that’ll make you shelve any such unholy dreams with cacophonous consumerist screams — “Come, buy our anti-wrinkle creams.”

To this club of commercials belongs the ad which has a husband disinterested in his ageing wife, who is seated opposite him at a restaurant. But, of course, there’s no reason for the middle-aged wife’s face to be downcast. For, there’s just that perfect potion that’ll make her face her future, and her fickle hubby, with full confidence: the age-miracle lotion!

To hell with the horror of discovering the first grey area of your life: the maiden silver strand on your scalp. In this age of shade cards that cater not just to domestic concrete exteriors but also cranial exteriors, help is at hand to cover up that first grey strand.

This is what the young girl about to go on a first date in a hair colour advertisement will have us believe. On sighting the first silver strand on her skull, the distraught girl turns to big sis in a state of shocked lull. And the didi hands out the new-age Cinderella-esque cure: a hair dye that is apparently not only ammonia-free, but also stress-free!

The hair dye commercial is almost symbolic of Young India’s idea of a stress-free date and also symbolic of Youth’s denial of its first date with Age.

And for every woman who dreads making the transition from being addressed as didi to getting tagged as an ‘aunty’, there’s the commercial for a soap that shows Saif Ali Khan gaze admiringly at a petite girl in a public place, thinking her to be of marriageable age.
Just then, on to the scene scurries the lady’s little daughter, gleefully gushing “Mummy”. This ‘soap’ opera may well be a metaphor for a market-driven mindset desirous of arresting not only male attention but also advancing years by keeping ‘auntyhood’ as much at bay as is notionally, and potionally, possible.

And it certainly isn’t easy being an avid advocate of graceful growing up in this age of aggressive marketing that scoffs not just at ‘auntyhood’, but also at the natural approach to ageing.

That’s what another hair dye commercial would have us believe. A middle-aged woman gets labelled as an “orange baalon wali aunty” by her friend’s son when she visits their place with henna-coloured hair. But the next time, when she lands up with black dyed hair, the ‘aunty’ tag drops as easily as the little awestruck boy’s jaw!

In these market-driven times, where the commodification of beauty and the commodities for beautification are as much a corollary as a cause of the commercial collages of beauty that are being constantly churned out, there is indeed shrinking space for wrinkles, warts and waists worth the weight.

In the new-age assembly-line approach to beauty, that pushes a Shilpa  Shetty to get a nose job, Priyanka Chopra a lip job or a Rakhi Sawant a bust job, there is indeed little tolerance for asymmetry, ageing and all that.

In the cut-throat consumerist context, heaven save a beauty icon who doesn’t mask a creased chin or wrinkled visage with scalpel solutions. Aishwarya Rai would know this better than anyone else, for this actress in her late thirties recently let her double chin make a public appearance with her other anatomical angles not too thin.

Blessed indeed was the Generation-Ex of ageless beauties, the Hemas, Waheedas and Vyjayanthimalas who could embrace age without artificial speedbreakers. Blessed was our mother’s generation, which let the lines on the faces be the map of their milestones, instead of crushing the creases under cosmetic changes. Blessed were they for not being as spoiled for synthetic choices, for not being bombarded as much with Brand Botox.

For an entire generation of women, the likes of Waheeda Rehman and the late Maharani Gayatri Devi have been an epitome of ageing with grace, for they let their experience show not only in their work, but also in the silver fringes framing their faces.

But if in the autumn of their lives, the synthetic sirens of today have to sport silver streaks rather than the palette of hair dyes they wear in reel and real roles, they may think it a choice they’d rather die for!

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