Mirror, mirror, on the wall...

Last Updated 02 October 2015, 18:41 IST

Mirrors are getting smarter. Soon they will help us pick clothes that fit us just right. Sensors attached to the mirrors will show how something will look on us, without us even having to try them on! Human beings have always had a fascinating relationship with mirrors.

An ancient tale speaks of a magic mirror, which used to classify people as animals on the basis of their behaviour. The moment a person looked into this mirror, his face would be masked by that of an animal whose characteristic traits best matched the person.

What if such a mirror existed today? Perhaps, the embarrassment of being exposed will help man contain his unrefined instincts. Think of all those unsuspecting ladies changing clothes in washrooms or trying on new ones in trial rooms, who become victims to the
vicarious, vicious interests of people with a perverse mind. While the two-way mirror (which helps one see what is going on inside the room) may prove to be a boon to authorities keeping an eye on the public in crowded places like airports and railway stations, it can easily become a bane as has been observed in many sexual harassment cases.

In the beginning Man’s tryst with the mirror, perhaps, began at the dawn of civilisation. Our fables and myths have ample references to this wonderful article, which has the ability to reflect the object in front of it with impeccable honesty. In all likelihood, man was introduced to the concept of mirrors when he first saw his reflection in still waters. The famous Greek myth about Narcissus, a Roman god who happened to look at his reflection in the still waters and fell in love with himself, is one of the earliest chronicles.

Over time, man started using polished metals as mirrors. The glass mirror that we use today was a result of several experiments conducted over the ages. There are several beliefs and superstitions associated with the mirror, which has been a source of mystery and joy to mankind. While the concave and the convex mirrors helped man to laugh at himself, the surgical mirror helped him address medical problems. The rear view mirror used in vehicles helped prevent accidents.   

When we zero in to circa 2015, it is not difficult to see that not much has changed. Perhaps we are not looking into still waters to admire ourselves anymore. But that is because we have the luxury of full-length mirrors and pocket mirrors at our disposal. Despite having mirror options in our latest gizmos, have we not lingered alongside the mirror of a parked vehicle on the roadside or the parking area, and given ourselves a quick glance or smoothed our hair?

Fascination unlimitedOur rendezvous with mirrors begins as infants, when our images fill us with awe and wonder. As we grow up, the mirror helps us record bodily changes and experiment with our looks. The waking hours of our adolescent years find us stationed in front of these reflectors for indefinite lengths of time. Growing older does little to help us overcome this fixation. When the mirror sensitises us about the transient nature of life, each of us reacts differently. Some gear up to age gracefully, while others long to rewind the clock by carefully correcting their facial and physical flaws with its aid. And then there are those who wage a war against time and nature.

In case you are under the impression that this is a new-age syndrome, you couldn’t be more wrong. Remember how Snow White was tortured by her step-mother because of a magic mirror. The step-mother was happy with the answers of the mirror as long as she was pronounced to be the “fairest in the land”. The moment the mirror failed to commensurate to her anticipation, her dormant viciousness raised its ugly head. When all her evil plans failed, she shattered the mirror out of sheer frustration. Most of us are like the exasperated queen. Unquestionably, we crave to look presentable, if not beautiful, when we look at our images. It happens to be the quintessential requisition of man and his expectation of mirrors.

It’s not so much about what you see in the mirror as it’s about what you make of it. In the Ramayana, there’s a mention of Dasharatha, the king of Ayodhya, sighting his graying hair in the mirror one morning and deciding to coronate his son Rama as the crown prince.

However, it’s good to remember that the ‘mirror image’ is not really an exact replica of an object because it following the laws of reflection. Perhaps, it is a cue for us not be carried away by appearances. For, true beauty is reflected in the splendour of our souls, which mirror our very being.

(Published 02 October 2015, 15:15 IST)

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