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Indian women do not use make up – period! And even when they do, they mostly do a shoddy job of it. If the tiny fraction of the population that haunts high-end malls in our Metros is ignored, as is the dash of kajal or kohl on the eye and/or a hint of something on the lips that most apply and run, I don’t think I’m too much off the mark.

I grew up in the ‘80s watching with fascination as my mother got dressed – either for work or for some social gathering. Today most women are educated, working and “aware”, which was not the scenario in the ‘80s.My mother, however, was all that and much more and to that extent, ahead of her times. Being a Professor of English literature she was well read, very fond of maintaining herself and her house and something of a diva in the small towns of Shimla and Dharamshala  where, my father being in the IAS, was routinely posted. By comparison, I was always a klutz, not bothered in the least about how I looked, what I wore or how I carried myself and this continued way into my 20s. I remember her trying to tell me not to thump up the staircase but to go up gently, daintily placing half my foot on the stair rather than march up army style. All that I could tell her by way of a response was that if I tried to do that, I’d simply tumble back. And therein ended her efforts of making a lady out of me. The reason I’m ranting on about this is to point out that despite not being a typical ‘80s house wife, when it came to make up, my mom drew the line at a lipstick. Not that she didn’t own eye shadows and blushes and foundations. She did. But they all lay neatly stacked in her vanity case. All that she used ever, be it to work or in the evening, was a lipstick. For a social event, she would at times put the good old Lacto Calamine on her face and that was it. I can hardly ever remember her wearing a foundation, except maybe to some family wedding. But even then, nothing too obvious.

Compared to that, times have changed no doubt. Today, it is not an uncommon sight to see many teenaged girls in full-blown make up. Liners and kohls are for school and college. Any social outing, it’s often much more than that. However, when it comes to the women in their 30s and thereafter, I have strangely witnessed a decline. Out of all the women I know personally, whether friends, acquaintances, colleagues or relatives, I can barely think of one or two who bother to wear make-up, complete with the foundation, concealer, liner, lippie, mascara. The amount and intensity varies obviously with the occasion.

As I sat thinking about it I realised that it had little to do with “not attaching too much importance to your looks” kind of attitude. While it is all very well to be at peace with yourself and not go nuts in trying to look picture perfect always, the reasons I realised are much shallower than “inner peace”. These are some that I could decipher. Feel free to add or correct me-

  1. Most women are hard pressed for time. Juggling between household obligations, work, children, the oh-so-recalcitrant shanta bai and the equally demanding husband, they barely have time to even put a sunscreen forget makeup. Taking care of self is pretty low in the list of priorities.
  2.  Make up is still seen as a vanity. Makeup, in the mind of the Indian woman, is for special occasions – parties, family gatherings, weddings. We Indian like not to place a high premier on the body, spiritually evolved creatures that we are! Why pay so much attention to body and looks that don’t last? Talk of spirituality gone wrong! Applying makeup on regular basis, apart from being time consuming, is seen as being vain and too obsessed with your looks and you can expect a few nasty comments to that effect. That this is not vanity but the way you like to carry yourself, is beyond most.
  3. Even in our minds, makeup is not for daily use. We “save” it for special occasions.  While I’m not in favour of heaping on piles daily either, but some coverage, be it in the form of a tinted moisturiser, a BB cream or some foundation and some minutes spent on eyes and lips not only makes you look well groomed, but boosts your spirits and confidence as well.
  4. Since women don’t use makeup often, it follows logically that most women don’t know how to use it. Foundation a few shades lighter than the actual skin tone, caked up face and a bare neck are a common sight. Sadly, except for the high end brands who have well trained SAs, most drugstore brands have SAs who know nothing about application or helping one find the correct shade. Till date, foundations are matched by applying on the arm, eyeliners are applied what seems is an inch above the lash line and blush stands out as it would on the cheeks of a Disney character. And because women, can’t apply it well, they shy away from it. It’s a vicious cycle.
  5. We Indians hoard everything, including makeup. Products may expire lying on the shelf, you may have long outgrown that particular shade or your skin may need something else but we don’t throw them away. We save even makeup for posterity it would seem.

Yes, it is good not to give too much importance to looks, as it is to be calculatedly cool and indifferent. If looking good is to be at the cost of your peace and equanimity, it’s not worth it. But if a few minutes a day can make you look and feel better, why not give yourself a chance?