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The beauty of pretty

Back home now, the 34-year-old Hina Rabbani Khar is terribly upset because the Indian establishment has found her oh-so-pretty, writes Indrajit Hazra.

columns Updated: Jul 30, 2011 22:22 IST
Indrajit Hazra
Indrajit Hazra
Hindustan Times

The Punjabis — folks from The Punjab in Pakistan, as distinct from Punjabis who live on this side of the fence — are clearly smarter than they look. Take what they’ve done with Pakistan’s foreign policy at a crucial juncture when the country’s going through a pretty rough patch and isn’t really wild about breaking roti with the Indians.

They get a pretty foreign minister conducting a serious charm offensive in Hindustan.

It turns out, though, that back home now, the 34-year-old Hina Rabbani Khar is terribly upset. No, not because she had to undergo a session of humiliating photo-ops with SM Krishna’s quivering lower lip and the rest of the Indian foreign minister’s 79-year-old body. She was miffed because the Indian establishment has found her oh-so-pretty. The tag of Khar being a “fashion icon”, a sort of Bibi Gaga, hasn’t made Pakistan’s first woman foreign minister too pleased either.

Sure, the media is to blame. After all which sentence about Khar did you read more carefully? The one that quoted her saying: “I hope that these two countries have learnt lessons from history, but are not burdened by history, and we can move forward as good, friendly neighbours who have a stake in each other’s future, and... [zzzz]”?

Or the one that carefully reported that “her monotone outfit of blue, the colour of the season, tasteful accessories, Roberto Cavalli sunglasses, an oversized Hermès Birkin bag and glass pearl jewellery added a glamour to her look”?

Back in Lahore, Khar replied to the Pakistani media’s queries about her ‘newfound’ status as a headturner in Delhi: “You see, paparazzi are everywhere. Besides, you [members of the media] should not do such acts. Or I’ll have you summarily executed."

Okay, so she didn’t say the last bit about the execution, but you get my drift. She left Lahore airport for Islamabad in a huff, although choosing not to make a point by immediately donning a head-to-toe burqa.

I feel for Khar, really. Who doesn’t know the anguish of someone who’s not given the attention for what she wants paid attention to? But like it or not, beauty is distracting — even if only to support her, I must say I found her to be a bit too pasty-looking for my taste. Both for the onlooker and the onlookee.

When someone like former US secretary of state Madeleine Albright spoke, people would listen. If Khar quoted Albright’s famous words (refering to America’s dealings with China in the 90s) — “Engagement does not mean endorsement”— people would have mistakenly thought that she was talking about the days leading up to her wedding. Which is why, to my mind, good-looking ladies like Indira Gandhi (as opposed to Golda Meir and Margaret Thatcher) had to prove themselves many times over (by winning a war, testing a nuclear bomb, suspending democracy, etc) that they were more than just a pretty face/goongi gudiya.

Women (and men) use their looks in matters and professions pertaining to show business. So it stands to reason that they can choose to withhold — or, at least, be aware of — that trait when it comes to dealing with less external affairs. In which category does diplomacy fall into? I would think one that uses everything in the book to get things done, including the ‘what you see can also be what you get’ bits.

But have you noticed how we have registered Khar’s disapproval of Indians gawking at her much more than India’s show of “concern” about her meeting Hurriyat leaders from Kashmir? There can be only one explanation for this: SM Krishna isn’t as pretty to look at.

First Published: Jul 30, 2011 22:19 IST