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Reflections on Indian Perceptions

R. Patel is the eldest of two daughters. Her family migrated to the United States from India. She remains deeply rooted and involved in her native culture. We spoke about the nature of attractiveness in Indian society.

“Celebrities are a big deal with Indians,” she said.

This point is illustrated by the massive popularity of Bollywood movies, which have gained worldwide recognition. In the course of one day, 14 million Indians attend movies, according to Matt Rosenberg, a geography author.

“There was an actress, who wasn’t really big, but she was normal,” Patel said. “She wanted to be a size zero. She lost a lot of weight. Everyone who came into the industry after her was a size zero; or at least, it seemed like it.”

She mentioned that in the ’70s and ’80s actresses and models tended to be full-bodied women.

“More people used to be interested in something to grab on to, I guess,” Patel mused.

She believes that what is shown in the media and entertainment industries affects a society’s interpretation of beauty.

“It effects what young culture perceives to be the ideal image,” Patel said.

However, what is portrayed by popular culture is not always put into practice. Cities allow room for less traditional cultural choices.

“In the city, you can wear whatever you want—even Western clothes,” she said.

In contrast, villages are deeply rooted in traditional values and practices.

“India is so diverse in social classes. In villages, where there are poor people, men expect women to be fully covered and wear their saris. You have to wear your hair up once your married. Even young girls must wear braids,” she said.

Patel adds that an important component of a woman’s attractiveness in Indian culture is her ability to make a home and play the role of wife/mother.

“If you’re pretty, [that’s] great, but if you can’t take care of the house, it’s a drawback [to men],” she explained.

Patel does not let just these perceptions and traditions define her outlook.

“My mom has always taught me to love yourself the way you are.”

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