There Is A Prachi In All Of Us! Why, As A Society, Can’t We Look Beyond Appearance?

UP Boards Topper Prachi Nigam was trolled on social media for her facial hair; our obsession with appearance is harsh on young minds.

Prachi Nigam’s photo has been doing the rounds on social media for the right reasons. Well, scratch that- I wish the above statement were true. This 15-year-old girl should ideally be revelling in her spectacular achievement of scoring a whopping 98.05% and topping her tenth-grade boards. But oddly enough, along with her marks, it’s something else that garners more attention – her facial hair.

While the trolls are driving themselves giddy by mocking this girl who hasn’t even completed her school yet, the ones who are taking her side are going one step ahead – they are sharing her photoshopped pictures, sans the facial hair, looking nothing less than a celebrity with captions saying – “Prachi Nigam, ten years later”.

Doctors have already diagnosed her with PCOD in their comments, based on photographic evidence. While we have names for people shamed for their weight – body shaming, for their skin colour- racism, for their age- age shaming, for being a female- sexism, this category of shaming where one faces criticism for their appearance has no name. With that, it also has zero shame attached to it.

How does this impact young minds?

Young minds are fragile, and when they are at the receiving end of scathing comments for no fault of theirs or because they don’t fall within the criteria laid out by society, it can create an everlasting impact. As a growing teenager, puberty brought along with it abundant facial hair and hair sprouting from other parts of my body.

Until tenth grade, I could never get my eyebrows threaded or upper lip hair waxed. I still have my farewell photos, with me donning a big smile and a bright pink saree with the beginnings of a light moustache. Aah, those carefree days when I had not yet realized that I wasn’t attractive enough to grab the attention of the opposite sex and when I could let a guffaw or snort escape from my lips without worrying about the world judging me.

But I was also a part of the generation that grew up seeing The Princess Diaries and Jassi Jaisi Koi Nahin. When even Anne Hathway and Mona Singh had to rely on epic makeovers to appeal to society and the male gaze. It’s funny how each time when the fuzzy eyebrows become arched curves, the ugly braces come off, the horn-rimmed glasses disappear, and the wild curls are tamed into submission – they always elicit collective sighs and murmurs saying, “Aah, now that’s the ideal beauty”. Not that it matters that the person looks like a dismal shadow of their former self, shedding their uniqueness along the way and joining the bandwagon of look-alikes.

I too, hopped onto the bandwagon before I left school. The pressure of being a hairy girl amidst a sea of waxed and tweezed girls got to me as well. For a long time, my appearance was rather important to me and visits to a salon were an integral part of my routine. But then, bam came the pandemic! For nearly 18 months, salon services were out of reach for the common woman. I let my eyebrows grow wild then and the hair everywhere else because those who were going to judge were locked away in their own houses. But that period also empowered me in some way.

I felt comfortable with my body hair for the first time, and it didn’t seem as unsightly to me as it did when I was in my 20s. While I have an epilator that I occasionally use to groom myself, my hair removal activities no longer align with my proclivities to appease the outer world. They happen when I want to look hairless for myself.

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Now, when someone’s gaze lingers on my face longer than necessary, I know it’s mostly not to appreciate my beauty. Chances are that they have spotted that extra hair on my chin or upper lip, and the beauty of all this is that I am perfectly fine with it.

I hope Prachi, too, can come out of this crazy whirlpool of viciousness unscathed. I hope she has someone to tell her that this, too, shall pass. I hope that smile never leaves her face. I hope that she never thinks that appearance has the power to outshine one’s talent, abilities, and personality. Lastly, I hope that the people commenting cruelly on her photos can heal from their traumas and insecurities, which they chose to inflict on a young girl whose only fault was that she did well in her exams.

P.S. – I just found out that there is a term for the prejudice people harbour against others based on their appearance. It’s called lookism. However, that doesn’t change anything I have written above.

Image credits: DNA India

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About the Author

Anjali Paul

I am a mom who works from home and dabbles with writing when time permits.An avid reader since childhood, blogging and writing helps me de-stress.My five year old keeps me on my read more...

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