I saw Aishwarya Rai’s photographs from Cannes while I was still in Melbourne. Yes, the one in the Elie Saab floor length number. It seemed unreal. Almost as if someone had placed a thin Aishwarya in front of a funny mirror, the kind they have at amusement parks, and then published her distorted mirror image. Aishwarya in her Elie Saab reminded me of Queen Latifah; not only because of her XL size, but also because of how content and confident she appeared, presenting herself to the world in her new avatar.
Over dinner that night, we caught up with a few students from MBS and Aishwarya’s weight gain became a topic for discussion. Everyone had an opinion and most of them were unfavourably harsh. “How could she do this to herself?” the women asked. “She looks gross!” said the men.
As a woman who had been through two pregnancies herself, I can vouch for the fact that it is not easy to bid adieu to your pre pregnancy girl like body for the sake of procreation. Nature gives you nine months to prepare not just for childbirth but also to help you make a bonfire of vanities. In the first trimester you are mostly too sick to look or feel good. In the second trimester your body starts to expand inordinately and unflatteringly. By the third trimester your rib cage, your feet and in some cases (like mine) even your nose expands. By the time you are ready to deliver you are looking like a whale and indeed feeling like one too.
You would think that once the baby is out you will go back to happily wearing your old jeans again. But unless you are Victoria Beckham, Kate Moss or my friend Mallika, chances are, that isn’t going to happen to you in this lifetime. The baby is out and you are now just a barrel albeit an empty one.
However, the thing about motherhood is that this life outside of you leaves you feeling grateful even as it takes up every ounce of your emotion and leaves you feeling bovine, mostly on account of your new job profile.
This is the happy sacrifice most of us ordinary women make to become mothers. How much harder must it be for a woman like Aishwarya Rai, known and cherished for her beauty the world over, to trade her whole identity as a ‘beauty queen’ for motherhood? She could have gone on a diet and hired the best personal trainers to shed the extra kilos but since she has chosen to be a hands-on mum weight loss is not her priority at the moment.
A lot of the beauty business as we know, is about being obsessed with the self. If Aishwarya has chosen to be obsessed with her baby instead, we should not only grant her that, we should laud her for it.