December 23, 2018


I was watching TV the other day when it struck me how majority of our commercials ranging from soap detergent to diesel oil feature a fair, slim, attractive woman promoting the said product.
India, the land of changing trends has, since time immemorial, been obsessed with size zero, fair skin and silky straight hair.. From mythology to matrimony. From fantasy to fiction. While in reality, the common Indian woman often has to bear the brunt of these expectations.
So it was indeed a refreshing change when a leading beauty brand, like Naturals hair and beauty salon, decided to welcome and celebrate the real Indian woman,.

However, as I set pen to paper, I found my own self stuck for inspiration.
Who was the one woman who could encapsulate all that I wanted to say the beauty?

Khalil Gibran’s words came to mind.
“Beauty is not in the face. Beauty is a light in the heart.”

It was just then that my maid saw me frowning, biting the tip of my pen...something I often do when I’m thinking hard.
Malati has been working at my place for the past eight years, and by now knows to read into my every expression.

“Something wrong, didi?” she asked.

I thought I’d just take a breather and talk with her for a while. She always managed to get me smiling with her uninhibited enthusiasm.

“Umm...I’m trying to write about someone who is truly beautiful. But I can’t seem to decide who...” I told her, keeping my writing pad and  pen aside.

Malti looked at me for a second. Then a strange expression lit up her face.

“Then you can write about me, didi,” she laughed, tossing back her head.

And in that precise moment, Malti’s life flashed in front of my eyes.
What Malti had said in casual jest, was not a joke but the absolute truth.

Who else could represent real beauty better than this warrior-woman standing in front of me. In no way could I say that she was conventionally beautiful, in fact she was far from the superficial standards of good looks. But there was something about her that stood out. Draped in an old yet freshly washed sari, her hair neatly oiled back, her dark skin glistening with confidence, her eyes shining with hope, her laughter infectious,  smiling through the odds life had thrown her way, Malati glowed from within.

She did not possess much, but made the most out of what she had, ‘sans’  complaints. And that was what made her beautiful.

Looking at a Malati made me reflect on what beauty is really about. True beauty is not something that could be obtained by cosmetics and hair products. It cannot be attained from pampering and polishing the outside. Beauty parlours and skin spas can undeniably make you feel better about yourself, and look good, but only for a while (maybe until  your next hair wash or facial).

But real beauty runs deeper than skin. It lies in the core of a woman’s bones, in the spine that she  possesses, in the gut that she reveals in difficult situations. True beauty comes from humility, from courage, from kindness and compassion, from integrity and self assurance.
And I could see all these traits in Malati.

Image source: Google

I recalled the first time I met Malati. She must have been hardly twenty one in search of work, fragile and faint, with a child on her hips, trying hard to conceal the bruises left on her skin by an abusive husband.

While most people in her situation would have gladly accepted the monetary help that was proffered to them, Malti had kept her eyes on the floor, and refused to touch the money.

“No didi,” she had said. “Give me work instead.”

Then realizing that I had noticed the bruises on her arm and back, she looked up at me and said.
“I am not going back to him.”

There was a kind of finality in the way she said it. A confidence in her voice that told me that here was a woman who had made up her mind. I asked her if she knew house work and would work at my home, and she readily agreed.

Since then, she has been working for us. She had been attentive and quick to learn and soon managed to impress us with her dedication towards her job. In the last eight years, she made a place not just in our home but in our hearts as well. She almost feels like family now.

Malati represents the indomitable spirit of the common Indian woman, who has had to face more than her fair share of troubles...from bullying to street harassment to financial strain. But not once did she allow herself to break. Her positivity is  inspirational.

I have seen Malti grow up to be an assertive, strong, and independant woman.
I have witnessed her sensitive side when her baby was burning with fever and she rushed to my house late at night and asked me to see him. I have witnessed her integrity and dedication when she worked extra hours for some home industry after leaving my home every evening, in order to earn a few extra bucks but refused any kind of monetary assistance from others. I have felt her pain when her child was denied admission at an English Medium school, and have shared her pride when they ultimately relented because she stood her ground firmly and demanded to know why they wouldn’t accept him.

Malati is someone who is well aware of her rights as a human, as a voting citizen. She discusses the news with me. She can now talk complete sentences in English and this has boosted her confidence to a large extent as well.
She attends every open house meeting at her child’s school with her head held high. And understands and respects the need for a woman to be financially independent in today’s world.

On days when I’m feeling low, she even lectures me on what I’d once taught her.

As I reflected upon the trajectory of her life, I realized that here was a fighter, a winner, a mother, and most importantly a embodiment of Stree Shakti, someone who had proved her mettle in all her different roles and has made adversity bite the dust.

“Life is too short, didi,” she recently told me, “to keep thinking about the mistakes of the past.”

Malati is dedicated, doting, and self reliant. She is a survivor, a warrior,  a rising Phoenix who does not believe in looking back at her ashes.

Malati may not have lustrous hair and clear skin. But those are tangibles that can be easily fixed. What she has within her, however, is an intangible beauty...the virtue of living unapologetically and loving herself just the way she is. Imperfectly perfect!

I believe every woman has TRUE BEAUTY within her in all the roles she plays. For over 18 years across 650 plus salons across the country, Naturals has been helping the Beautiful Indian Woman get more Beautiful.
Today Naturals Salutes the Beautiful Indian Woman.
Presenting Naturals TRUE BEAUTY…

...true beauty that lies in the strength to brave the storm, show off every scar as a badge of victory and lead your life with dignity.

Over time, Malati has persevered to change her every vulnerability into virtue. From the timid twenty one year old to a feisty young woman who fights her battles alone, she has come a very long way.

When I look at Malati, I don’t see just a woman, but a powerhouse of positivity. She is kind, diligent,and honest. An epitome of courage and empowerment.

“Malati, you are right,” I said to her. “You are indeed truly beautiful.”

“I was only joking, didi,” she grins, a little embarrassed..

“But I am not, Malati. You are beautiful in the way your eyes light up when you talk about your baby, in your uninhibited laughter when you are happy. When most women are afraid to bare their soul, you believe in voicing your opinions without pretense or manipulation. You are beautiful in the way you make others around you smile with your infectious vibe. And what impresses me most is your relentless thirst or knowledge and perseverance, and that is what makes you truly beautiful. “

Malati smiled. She did not say anything. But her moist eyes spoke for her.

Then when she thought I wasn’t looking, she beamed at herself in the looking glass on my dressing table.
I smiled, hoping she saw in it, not just the reflection of her face but also the sparkle of her soul.


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