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Updated: August 4, 2010 16:49 IST

Go get a new face!

SHEILA KUMAR
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Bollywood actress Koena Mitra, sporting a tattoo on her back, walks the ramp at a fashion event. File photo
AFP Bollywood actress Koena Mitra, sporting a tattoo on her back, walks the ramp at a fashion event. File photo

In an extension of the look good, feel good, reap good philosophy, young men and women are going under the plastic surgeon's knife quite heedlessly

One almost wishes this could be dismissed as some crazy one-off fad. But it isn't. Reports from at least two of India's metros, Mumbai and Delhi, suggest that a new nose, a deep dimple, the banishing of male breasts and suchlike are just what youngsters want before joining university or starting a new job.

A new personality obviously equals new confidence to take on the world for these people. When it comes to inspiration, they seem to be vulnerable to all sorts of influence, be it the faces of the cookie-cutter telly serials or articles in the media on how the better looker is awarded the better job.

At which point, one must bring up the case of Debrahlee Lorenzana in the U.S., who in June this year filed a suit against her office, a prominent banking outfit, charging that she was fired for being too beautiful.

This, then, is a twist to the cosmetic surgery boom that prevailed across the country from Bangalore to Bhopal, Jabalpur to Jhansi. A few years ago, it was all about liposuction, male breast reduction, rhinoplasty but the parameters were also clearer: it was the middle-aged man or woman who went under the knife. Which meant it was all about adults taking some kind of informed decision.

Today when one hears of people in their late teens and early twenties who would rather work on their face than their skill sets or CV, it is a telling statement on the state of society today. South of the Vindhyas, however, getting your appearance fixed still seems to be a strange notion. Says Vijay Nagaswami, Chennai-based psychotherapist and relationships consultant: “I haven't observed such a trend and all I have to say is that every generation has its own pet body peeve and the need to make a statement. However, when this gets carried to extremes and is no more a fad, but related to one's self-esteem, we have a problem on our hands. For instance seeing a plastic surgeon to re-shape a nose, especially when it's not broken, or trying to surgically sculpt Jessica Alba's face on to one's own just to please a boyfriend — that's when one realises that all's not well with the world.”

The doctor further says, “Unfortunately, the attitude seems to be, if I'm not born with it, I'll pay to get it, whether this applies to a nose a chin dimple, or whatever. This puts us on a slippery slope. It means we derive our self-esteem from what we look like and not who we are. If this becomes the rule rather than the exception, we are going to require plastic surgical makeovers every few years. But if we learn to accept and love our faces and bodies, the way they are, then we can really start loving who we are as well.”

Says Ritchika Dsouza, in her early 20s and working for an NGO in Bangalore: “I have not heard about stuff like this happening, not here in Bangalore, not when I was studying in Mumbai or working in Hyderabad. Then again, I'm not surprised about stuff like this happening in Delhi; I think girls and boys in Delhi can go really crazy about their appearance!”

Megha Radhakrishnan, in her twenties and working in Chennai, is charitable when she says, “Personally, I do agree with the ‘look-good-feel-good' maxim. But to what extent can you play with it? If you were applying for a job as a model, actor, a media-based role, maybe (and I still say maybe) you would think about stuff like this. But for university, for a new job? That's stretching it a bit too far. I have to ask: where are your values placed? In your skills, the kind of person you are, ability, credentials... or the shape of your nose? I guess it shows where we place our focus.”

And when it comes to skewered focus, one cannot escape the responsibility of parents, either. Children consciously or unconsciously emulate the ways and beliefs of their parents. A healthy sense of self-esteem is one vital asset parents can hand down to their offspring. Contrarily, feelings of body inadequacy is a debilitating liability children sometimes pick up on, with devastating and far-reaching consequences.

This wannabe fad can be caught before it becomes a trend. All it takes is a healthy dose of self-esteem, accepting what we look like, discerning that our personalities are not shaped by our appearance, playing to our strengths. It's not easy but then, nothing that is worthwhile in life is easy.

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