Lipstick on his collar | india | Hindustan Times
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Lipstick on his collar

india Updated: Dec 05, 2008 23:54 IST
Shobhaa De
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Yes, Mr Mukhtar Naqvi. I do wear lipstick. But no powder.

And I do live in South Mumbai in what is considered an ‘elite’ locality (though ‘elite slum’ is a more accurate description). I also frequent five-star hotels closeby, notably the magnificent Taj Mahal. I unashamedly refer to it as my second home — for that it has always been.

My lifestyle can be loosely described as a privileged one, by most standards.

So bloody what?

I have worked long and hard for these perks. I have earned them through honest means. I did not inherit a fortune and was raised in a middle class home. Like every Indian, my parents dreamt of giving their children a better life by educating them. We fulfilled their dreams…. and a few of our own. Is that a crime?

I proudly pay my taxes…. and my bills. Which is more than what can be said for most of your tribe — the real ‘elite’ today — politicians with zero accountability and all the advantages they criticise in others. I refuse to be apologetic for the way I live. As they say, living well is still the best revenge.

<b1>Unlike a lot of so-called netas, I do not have a criminal record. When I leave home, it is in a nice car, but not a mobile fortress with a cavalcade of State-paid gunmen to protect me. Traffic is not diverted along the routes I take, inconveniencing others. And I am frisked at airports, like everybody else.

So Mr Naqvi, how dare you put me (and other women) down by making such an impertinent and uncalled for remark? We are professionals doing our jobs to the best of our abilities. Can you claim the same? Whether we apply lipstick, cake our faces with powder, wear wigs or fake eyelashes — that is our exclusive prerogative and business. This remark only displays your pathetically biased attitude towards women — particularly a class of urban careerists who defy the stereotype as determined by the likes of you.

The subtext of your remark (and that of other self-styled intellectuals who have discovered a new sport: ‘elite bashing’) comes at a time when our attention should be on more vital matters — survival under a siege. To target people who belong to a more affluent/educated segment of our society, is to display a perverse narrow mindedness.

My voice is as valid as that of the anonymous vegetable vendor — we are both citizens of India. Are you trying to say TV anchors sans lipstick and powder are better at their jobs? Should women in politics shun cosmetics in order to be taken more ‘seriously’ (by men, of course)? Should female public figures dress down so they can add to their credibility factor and look the part assigned to them by society? Does lipstick take away from their contributioncompetence?

Must ask Condoleezza Rice, a woman who tops the world’s ‘Most Stylish’ lists year after year. Must also ask Sonia Gandhi, who is nothing if not impeccably turned out at all times, and definitely wears lipstick. Oh, and how can I forget my new best friend, Jayanthi Natarajan?

It is a great pity Naqvi brought gender into the present crisis and trivialised the issue. George Fernandes lost the plot when he decided to wage war against a cola. Perhaps Naqvi’s battle is against poor lipstick?

A pity that the nightmare suffered by Mumbai has been reduced to some sort of a class war, in which the elite are supposed to ‘defend’ themselves and say, “No, no, no, we feel equally for the lives lost at CST.” Come on. Grow up. Tragedy is like that — it is personalised and intense when it hits home as ferociously as these attacks did. Tragedy too, needs a ‘face’ or an ‘image’ that encapsulates collective grief. It so happens the Taj Mahal Hotel became that image, that icon, symbolising the horror of this incomprehensible tragedy that has left the nation reeling in its wake. Why bring class divides into it?

Don’t our politicians insist on the best rooms (gratis), at five-star hotels? At least, the rest of us pay the hefty tariffs ourselves. Don’t India’s Unwashed, scruffy jholawala intellectuals quaff gallons of moofat Scotch, whenever and wherever? First pay your own booze bills, guys, then save the world.

It is believed Narayan Rane’s sons drive around in a Bentley with eight commandos to ‘protect’ them. Who pays? Suckers like us. It is our billionaires and Bollywood stars we flaunt internationally when we need to boost our country’s image. It is also the elite who donate generously towards rehabilitation efforts in a crisis. I am sick of being told off by the likes of Naqvi. I am sick of attempts to somehow make me feel ‘guilty’ for being who I am, looking the way I do.

Sorry, Mr Naqvi. Read my lips: Much more lipstick! Darker and brighter! You are welcome to borrow some.

Shobhaa De is the author of Superstar India