What Beauty Is At 57
The second installment in a series exploring self-image and aging.
Skin Deep is a five-part series in which The Swaddle explores how women’s self-image, ideas about and efforts toward beauty change with age. Each month we will feature the responses of a woman from a different decade of life. This month we speak to Arti Chada, a 57-year-old homemaker who lives in New Delhi.
THE SWADDLE: Are you beautiful?
Arti Chada: Yes, inside out!
THE SWADDLE: Do you look your age?
AC: Yes, I think so.
THE SWADDLE: What’s your favorite aspect of your physical appearance? Why?
AC: No favorites. Truly.
THE SWADDLE: How much time per week do you spend on grooming and/or cosmetic/appearance?
AC: Not much. Maybe just a few hours in the week. I can say I spend more time [now] and make more effort towards grooming and looking good because, simply put, I have more time on hand. Because the children have grown up, I have less responsibilities. When I meet my college friends, they always tell me that we remember you as the one who wore the best salwar kameezes to college. This is something I find very odd, because for me, dressing up was something that came naturally. Looking good and dressing well was something I never had to make an effort for. But now, I think you have to look after yourself more at this age, and you need to be a little more conscious about grooming yourself. I have more time to read about it, and experiment on myself. I never did it [before] at all. I used to hardly go to parlors and things like that, because I just never had the time.
THE SWADDLE: How do you feel if you don’t get to devote that time as usual?
AC: I don’t get troubled, I just make sure to prioritize and make the time! I don’t like to ignore that. [In the past] we were posted in places where it was difficult to get domestic help, I needed to be a hands-on mom and a hands-on homemaker, and [focus on] what I was doing, which was working with NGOs. I had virtually no time to even do things that I would — I’ve always enjoyed dressing up.
THE SWADDLE: Is part of your beauty routine inherited from a woman/en in your family? If yes, who and how has she influenced you?
AC: Definitely my Nani, who despite being so involved with her home and kids, spent 15 minutes every night before sleeping combing her beautiful silver-grey tresses and applying Nivea cream on her face. My mom is not living anymore, but when she was alive, she never seemed to take time for herself. I lost my dad when we were very young, and she was totally taken up by bringing up four children, so she neglected herself to a certain extent. Whenever she saw me dressed up, she would say, “I am so happy that despite running your home and being as much of a committed homemaker, you make the effort to look after yourself.”
THE SWADDLE: Was there a time in your life that you felt most beautiful? Or is it now?
AC: My two pregnancies! I think the main reason could be that while I was pregnant, I was indulged in more. When you’re indulged in more, you feel more loved, more cared for. You’re eating better, you’re getting better looked after, your skin is glowing. You are taking caring of yourself, maybe because there is another person you are responsible for. So maybe indirectly that becomes the reason why you feel beautiful inside out. If somebody asks me ‘Which part of your life do you want to go back to?’ I would say being pregnant. Not after pregnancy, that was the most harrowing.
THE SWADDLE: Outside of your appearance (clothes and make-up) what has the greatest influence on how you feel about your beauty?
AC: Appreciation from friends and family. I think I look my age, but there are many around me who feel that I have kept myself, so to say, inverted commas, much better than other women our age would have. And [my daughter]. Normally daughters are not the ones who go around appreciating moms all the time; maybe after a certain age. But she makes it a point to point out what she feels looks good on me, doesn’t good on me, and appreciate how I look. All that makes me feel really good and really happy, that somebody who’s so much younger would even notice all that on an older woman.
This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity. As told to Urvija Banerji.