She was telling me about how she'd found work in this experimental theatre group and I was very happy for her. She was surprised that I'd chosen to study medicine, thinking I wud have chosen to pursue more "literary inclinations" as she'd called them.
I told her that I quite frankly admired her gumption about having chosen to follow her passion for acting while pursuing a Batchelor of Arts degree. She told me that she occasionally modelled to earn some extra money, becoz "As everyone knows there's not much money in theatre unless you're Naseeruddin Shah, and even then it's a struggle."
She seemed to be in this strange confessional introspective mood, she kept telling me about how everyone, even in theatre, was more than a little obsessed with good looks. "It's not enuff that you're talented. You have to appear striking."
I pointed out that on the stage, you can be almost anyone almost, irrespective of what you look like. And it didn't really matter anyway becoz she was quite lovely looking herself.
"Thats just the problem, Karishma! I dont know if the people that say they like me, like me becoz of the way I look or becoz of who I am!"
I thought that all this was coming from someone in particular and I asked her that. She nodded, frowning a little. "Yeah. I dont know if thats why he liked me."
I didnt know how to respond to this, except to assure her that that cudnt be the case, at which point she said something that surprised me completely, though I cant say I was shocked.
"Its so different for you, Kari! People like you always get other people to like you for your mind. You're cute but you know what I'm saying. I mean, its just different for me."
What she left unsaid was plain to me. I wasnt pretty like her. She thought that for some reason that that worked to my advantage, becoz I knew people genuinely liked me for my, ahem, my thoughts and "my nature", apparently.
I wud be lying if I said the thought stated in words was a little hurtful to me. But it is the truth after a fashion.
Besides, being a friend, I had to offer comfort. So I said to her what I firmly believe, "It doesnt matter what you look like, atleast not after the first few days. The people we love become beautiful for us. Honestly, if you met someone you liked right now, you'd smile and feel this warm rush of emotion for them. You wudnt really take time to notice if their hair was messed up or if their shirt was crumpled. That's secondary. What's beautiful is the person."
I dont think I managed to convince her. "Yeah, but what about that very first time? Most people have already judged you by then. Love enters from the eyes and leaves through the eyes, like de Bernieres said."
"I dont believe that." I told her. "People who judge you the first time arent really worth all the trouble."
She looked directly at me, and I cud see contempt on her expressive face, "Yeah, well, atleast that's true. Anyway, Kari, you're too idealistic!"
The conversation came to a rather premature stop while we sipped masala chai and then, she met a friend of hers who called her away. I sat under the tree for a while wondering about how other female mammals had it so much easier than us. In the animal kingdom, only the males worried about vanity. How had humans got it all reversed, then?
The answer must lie in the exaggeration of the ideas of beauty that humans indulge in. So much so that even the very beautiful are bothered by these ideas. And if that is true, thenI do really wonder if beauty cud be more than a little over-rated. Guess I'm not that idealistic after all.