Thursday, May 19, 2011

What does real beauty mean to me?

This is the first time I am going to write a self-ordered blog, that too for some blogging competition. Contests surely mean something to me but, more than that, the topic made me interested to put my thoughts here.

What does real beauty mean to me. As asked here.

Let me first narrate a story of Birbal, which I read in Amar Chitra Katha. Akbar and Birbal went around the city for a walk, obviously in disguise. They came to some place, where poor people lives (yes poverty is a global and timeless phenomenon). There was a baby playing with all his innocence there. He wore ragged clothes. He did not possess any beautiful feature that cosmetics guarantee you within a week. Akbar commented - "Look at the ugly baby". Birbal laughed and replied - "You are mistaken Jahapana. He is the most beautiful baby in the world". Akbar could not believe that. He had his training and understanding with beauty - as found in say a lotus or in Mehr-un-Nisaa. He represented an elite culture to dissect a visible object and he was confident with his capacities. Naturally, he disagreed. To prove his point, Birbal tickled the baby a bit. The baby did not like the intrusion of two disguised strangers and started crying. Akbar and Birbal quickly hid themselves. Appeared on screen, the mother. She took the baby in her lap and started shouting "who dared touch my moon, my beautiful son, my priceless diamond..." and so on as you can imagine. Akbar, stupefied, looked towards Birbal. Birbal said, "see - did not I tell you that he is the most beautiful boy in the world ?".

The oft-repeated quote is that beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder. Actually, the missing parts of the quote is "beauty lies in the bonding between beholder and the beheld". Now this bonding may change over the course of time and space. Nevertheless, this exists. Like the all-permeating Brahman proclaimed by Indian seers, it exists. When we find it - wee see the beautiful world. When we do not - the world pries upon us like a monster.

I was walking up the roads of Peling, near Sikkim. Together with friends. There were sylvan forests, clear blue sky. A friend, of a bit poetic nature, drew our attention to objects around and kept on repeating - "What a beauty". However, the sad fact was, the journey made us thirsty and hungry. Naturally, beauty vanished. We entered in a hut. A small makeshift shop for tourists. An old lady asked what do we want. We just said food. She prepared warm noodles in a large saucepan and kept on offering us till we were full. The food served with grandmotherly affection, the old lady - were beautiful.


So, I learned that beauty comes from the bonding. Independent of the golden ratio and all the mathematics behind the beauty. This beauty is merely perceptory and depends on how our brain alignment finds it easier to track objects of certain shape. I am sure, human mind is capable of surpassing beauty of that order and we do that everyday. So, thought I, beauty lies in the bonding.

I was away, in a land, far far from India. It was my first journey abroad. I could not speak the local language. I had very few friends. One morning, suddenly, I met some Indian tourists there. They even spoke my mother tongue. I did not converse with them, I was shy. But, I listened to the language. Not for the content. Just for the language. I had a deep bonding with it. I thought, the language is beautiful. So, I was convinced, beauty lies in the bonding.

And then..

A friend of mine had a beautiful pair of shoes. From a renowned brand, it was comfortable. On a winter night, he thought of growing attachment to the material objects. We were discussing renunciation. I jokingly pointed to the pair of shoes. He went up and left the room with the shoes on. I was afraid that I hurt him but, he returned empty-feet, all smiling. I asked what did he do with those ? He said - he donated those. I was shocked. He merrily said - "come on, I did not throw my clothes like King Harshabardhan did in Prayag..and you know - walking barefeet during a winter night is beautiful."

I learned, beauty lies in renunciation because, then the entire world bonds to thee.


The first picture is a scanned image of Leonardo Da Vinci's Vitruvian Man, where he demonstrated the physical propotions of a beautiful human body.
The second image is taken by yours truly on top of a mountain in Switzerland. Someone put those scarfs, commonly seen in Buddhist monasteries. A bonding between heaven and earth, perhaps.

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