I managed to get late for a virtual meeting which I could practically do in my pajamas and without a bath. I mean I did skip the ‘getting ready’ part, but still had to run to the study table, quickly adjust the table lamp and open my laptop to find chocolate stuck to the keypad and bread crumbs scattered across.
Well I guess my Hansel and Gretel left their trail here, and sometimes I feel they really push me into becoming the witch. Hurriedly cleaning everything off with my sleeve, I clicked the link and before I lifted my head up (as I was now trying to lick the sticky remnants glued to my sleeve), I heard everyone giggle. One of the men said, “Madam, where is your coconut?” This was obnoxious! Only Chotu Maasi has the liberty to comment on my coconuts. I was ready to retort, but looked up to see myself sitting on a beach with palm trees and blue water. Now my mind could be playing tricks as I have, like the rest of the world, been bombarded on social media with pictures of celeb visits to Maldives but here I was in my chocolate-stained shirt and not a two-piece ‘biggini’.
With a sheepish grin, I tried for the longest time to pop myself out of this virtual beach before calling Hansel who was eating a jam sandwich with Gretel towing behind. They fixed my screen with their small, sticky, pudgy fingers and I was back to being the normal harrowed mom trying to have a professional life.
A few days later I watched Krrish with my kids, hoping to imbibe some of his speed and multi-tasking accuracy since our hair is of the same length now…if that counts at all. But my time management skills still sucked and I checked in late for another Zoom meeting. I opened my laptop hesitantly. Relieved to find no food trail, I clicked the meeting link. As I was opening up my script parallely, a producer said cheekily, “Saying you are priceless is better…this is a bit tacky.” I couldn’t understand the joke until I saw my new screen name — “I am free”.
Despite dire warnings not to touch my laptop, a bored Hansel and Gretel had been at it again. Their antics may seem innocent enough but with bumbling me trying to pull up another window as well as my flimsy shirt, “I am free” almost took on an “I am available” connotation. Embarrassed, I renamed myself but not before stumbling across a “touch up my appearance” option in the settings.
Flattering ring lights, webcams at the right angle, virtual backgrounds and now this! I was genuinely taken aback at how strong the pressure to look good was even in a pandemic. I did a quick google search and found popular apps like FaceTune which let you treat your face like play doh, enlarging eyes, adding lashes, plumping up lips, sharpening jawlines, and thinning noses, tweaks that psychologists say are causing increased body dissatisfaction, and lower self-esteem. Guess why? Because it’s not really you!
To be fair, the idea of looking perfect, especially for women, predates the pandemic and is deep-rooted across different cultures. Marvellous Mrs Maisel fans will remember how in the initial episodes she woke up before her husband, fixed her hair, dabbed a little makeup, pinched her cheeks and went back to bed so that when the husband got up he would find a perfect sleeping beauty. Well I don’t know who is the dumb or the smart one here but this was the no-filters era with the same pressures. To understand a little more about how women felt in the pre-Insta and filter era, I facetimed my amazing Chotu Maasi. “Of course the pressure was there,” she said. “I belonged to an era when we all wore pointed conical-shaped bras. The pointier it was, the sexier. They looked like they could drill holes in walls or at least our kurtas, and even push the doorbell when your hands were otherwise occupied. I could only breathe when the poor souls got to wander around freely in my nightie.” While I tried to control my laughs over the volatile Dante’s peaks, the conversation meandered towards the pandemic as all conversations do these days.
The pessimists are still counting the number of Covid cases and the optimists are anxiously deciding which vaccine is best. I don’t exactly know which category Chotu Maasi falls into but she extolled the advantages of apps that give you digital facelifts over the scalpel, the former being not just cheaper but perhaps wiser in these Covid times. With news doing the rounds that one of the coronavirus vaccines causes allergic reactions in those who have used Botox or had fillers, many who had aced the art of subliminally filling up their cheeks or creasing out their foreheads are running scared of the shot. I chuckled and said, “Maasi, I was just imagining what if these guys given the vaccine turn green! We’ll have a few broccoli heads amidst us”. But instead of laughing at my jokes, I saw her bring the phone closer and give me a piercing look. Self-conscious, I glanced towards my points which were doing just fine and neither did I look I belonged to a cruciferous family. Confused, I looked back to see her head shaking in disapproval.
“Do you know you can still fix your…” she suggested. “This has to
stop Maasi, my cup size is just fine.” “Fine toh nai hai beta,
but I have given up on that. What I was talking about was your nose. It’s a bit crooked.” “But I’m not getting any surgery,” I protested strongly. “Arre, who’s saying plastic surgery, try the Kendall and Kylie filters on Instagram na, nose ke saath saath lips bhi bade ho jayenge!!” Arghhh…some mindsets you just can’t filter out.
Views expressed above are the author’s own.