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Psychology was my major in college.  I was quite mesmerized by the Freudian theories of Id, Ego and Superego.

The Id theory is the part of the personality predicating on the pleasure principle.  Instant gratification.  

Speaking of instant gratification, I was passing by the Louis Vuitton store the other day and saw a horde of people inside.  There was commotion and chaos.  Kids were running around and adults looked frazzled.  The first thought that crossed my mind was oh my goodness; there is a mob inside the store!  

Usually one does not expect to see droves of people inside stores with LV kind of exclusivity factor.  You expect to see a select few carousing the products in their well-heeled soles and under the very watchful eye of the security guard.  The tones are hush and the sales staff move around stealthily in the background in their dark sleek uniforms and perfectly gelled hair.

So why the radical change?  Why do I hear sounds of babies howling rather than hush mellifluous tones?  Why do I see baby bottles on the counters rather than strategically placed trinkets to lure the buyer to buy add-ons “just because” along with the other hefty four-figure purchases.

Such swarms are seen in and expected to be seen in more “mass friendly” stores.  Curiosity got the better of me and I peeked inside.  To my utter shock what did I see?  A line, yes a queue of people waiting patiently to pay for the “exclusive” four figures and up monogramed bags!  There was surrealism to the moment.

I was befuddled, confused and perturbed.  Aren’t we going through the worst global economic crisis of all times?  Isn’t the employment rate in the U.S. the highest since the Great Depression?  Isn’t the crashing Greek economy threating to cast a dark shadow of doom over the entire economy of the European continent?  But here, right before my eyes, straight in my ocular field I was witnessing a long queue of people clamoring to have thousands of dollars charged on their credit cards for a few alphabetic symbols.

Were these people simply succumbing to satisfying their Id personality?  Seeking instant gratification.  Or were they endorsing their status in society via the monogrammed letters, giving them a feeling of success and a sense of having arrived? 

Most likely it is a mixture of both, satisfying the Id and an endorsement of societal status.  After all, aren’t the two interchangeable?

While in the Western world, there is an economic crisis, in the remaining parts of the world there is an economic boom.  The BRIC nations, Brazil, Russia, India and China are going through an unparalleled monetary upward swing.  The buying power of the so-called middle-class is rising exponentially.  Such amassing of wealth has given rise to a heightening in the Id personality.  And how is the Id gratified?  On a base level, by an acquisition of Brand products.

On one of my recent visits to India, I was amazed to see the power of the Brands on the psyche of the masses.  The worth of a person is judged according to the Brands he or she is wearing.  For example the Brand of purse she is carrying or the wallet he is whipping out.  There is plenty of disposable income and the Brands are happily obliging by rushing to satiate the deep hunger of masses with increasingly deep pockets.

There is most likely minimal to zero knowledge regarding the rich history, the origin, the culture or the value of the Brand, but there is definite knowledge of the power the Brand wields in society.  Such consumer may mis-pronounce an elite Brand such as Hermes and de-value it by rhyming it with a viral genital disease, (you know what I mean) but hey everyone recognizes the giant lock on the bag which will lead to the unanimous verdict of having arrived, thereby satisfying the Id.

Such consumers use their Brand possessions strategically.  The monogrammed Brands usually “come-out” during group gatherings such as parties, swanky club get-togethers, ladies lunches etc.  The Brands are not used for solitary occasions.  I mean, why use a Brand when nobody can see it. 

This makes me wonder.  Was the Brand purchased solely for display?  Is the value of the Brand solely to exhibit ones status in society?  Does the Brand have absolutely no worth to the user as an individual?

If such is the case, in my opinion the Brand is de-valued.

The symbols are meant for enjoyment-the LV, the H, the two G’s, the two C’s, the EA.  They most certainly satisfy the Id.  But let’s move to a higher level of Ego and leave behind the superficiality of merely the possessory and display value of the alphabets.  How about exploring the history and origin of the alphabets.  Learn how a poor cobbler in the remote village of France started the business, one hide at a time, hand stitching each bag to the point of utmost perfection.  How an empire was built from a mom and pop owned family business.  Learn the vision of the brand, its culture, its ethics. 

Use it for your own enjoyment and think of its rich history while carrying it to the supermarket where you don’t expect to meet any one from your social circle. 

Then you will truly derive “added-value” from your Brand possession.  You will satisfy not just the Id but the Ego.

kim kardashian

I live in Los Angeles.  The land of dreams.  The City of Angels.  The Abode of Heavenly Bodies.  Heavenly Bodies that appear to be ethereal and from another planet, orbiting in space.

They are beautiful, tight and taut.  There is no sag or lag; no limpness or looseness; no flaccid or float.  There is a hardness, a firmness not only in their bodies, but their smiles, laughs and expressions.

The expressions of bursting with joy; stricken with grief; shocked out of the wits; startled with surprise and an angry furrowed brow are obliterated.  An even, mellow, unwavering prosaical expression replaces the above expressions.

I wonder at times, how does it feel to experience tightness in the facial muscles during a smile or when there is a mercurial rise of temper the inability to frown.  Uncomfortable, I am sure.

Plastic surgery, Botox, Implants are as prevalent in Los Angeles as Bikram’s Yoga.  It is anywhere and everywhere.  An acceptable norm, not limited to the elite few but prevalent in the general masses.  There are billboards according to ethnic geographical diversifications for nose jobs, boob jobs, nips, tucks, sucks, enhancements, padding and a surplus of dermatological jargon.

I am a realist and not an advocate of the dictum “beauty is from within.”  I have seen many people with hearts of gold, but not necessarily “beautiful” in the socially acceptable meaning of the term.  True, you can see the goodness in their faces, but physically not “beautiful.” 

Therefore, I amenable to self “improvement”, making yourself look “better,” and deriving confidence from it.  I am not against cosmetic plastic surgery.  In fact, I am developing a deep crevice between my brows (which of course is due to my deep, reflective and pondering nature haha) that I could take care of and have deeply thought of it, with an intensely furrowed brow!

What abstains me from poking myself with a paralytic solution are the women below.  Women who have embraced their age, their sag, their fissures and jiggles.  These are women who of course, have been blessed with physical attributes to start with.  But, their bodies and faces have succumbed to inevitable Aging.  They are like the “ruins” of the coliseum in Rome, magnificent in its beauty despite the ravage.  These women are resplendent with confidence and acceptance of who they are.  They have accepted themselves with open arms, sans doubt. 

isabella rossellini

Isabella Rossellini, the Italian model and actress with royal lineage.  One of the most exquisite women in the world, at least for me.  She is the daughter of Ingrid Bergman.  Of course, she has the Mediterranean gene of great skin and hair, which cannot be discounted.  But she embraces her toothy smile, lines on her face and bags under her eyes with splendor.  She is dazzling.

Ines De La Fressage is a 52 year old Parisian model, the muse of Karl Lagerfeld at one time and bold enough to pose naked on a magazine cover and admit that it was photo shopped. 

Louise Bourgeois, a sculptor, a painter, an artist.  Imagine if Louise had cosmetic plastic surgery done.  Would her face still narrate the enigmatic story of her life, her idiosyncratic nature and her adventures?  No.  Her face would be like a stretched piece of hide, storyless, lifeless and comatose.

Do whatever it is to make you feel like a Heavenly Body.  But, at the back of your mind remember the spectacular “ruins” of the coliseum, not perfect but grand.

I have always prided myself for my individualism.  I do not adhere to collectivism, group projects, morphous activities.  My stance, philosophy and outlook in life is to be unique and fluid.  I think different, eat different, dress different from most others-that is what I have been told on multiple occasions by many.

I am not lauding or commending my behavior, but simply stating a fact.  Many may even think of me as weird, eccentric or even an oddity.  Come to think of it, they may even be right!

I have always interpreted individualism as being unique, non-conformist and away from the herd.  A thing that is tested and tried is not for me.  I want to be the pioneer, the heralder, the leader.  Whether anyone wishes to follow me or not is a whole different issue!

I make tall tales and claims as to how I am so different, so unique, so exclusive.

Is that really true though? 

Yesterday, I was looking at a beautiful shot on the blog of my very dear friend Lee Oliveira.  It was a Vogue worthy, artistic shot of a man’s bottom half only, wearing Christian Louboutin shoes and a Burberry bag.  I was inspired enough to bring out my Loubies, wear the cropped pants and carry a monstrous tote.

I was inspired after seeing the photo shot by Lee Oliveira and the following question crossed my mind:  Do I adhere to individualism in the purest, truest, most uncontaminated sense?  Is the inception of my individualism truly from “My Self” or do I use inspiration to adapt to my individualism?

For instance take fashion, did the outfit that I put together truly originate from the inner being of my soul, never done before and unprecedented?  In stark honesty the answer is NO, of course not.  I was inspired from something, someone or somewhere consciously or sub-consciously.

The greatest artists, musicians and sculptors although fierce in their individualism, seek inspiration from outside.  For example, my favorite artist Henri Matisse was inspired by Gauguin and Van Gogh; John Lennon was inspired by the most unique  jazz singer Nina Simone; and in today’s times the controversial Lady Gaga is definitely inspired by Madonna!

So, the theory of stark individualism that I have adhered to all my life proves to be a fallacy.  It falls flat on its face.  Yes, there is individualism, we all have it and we all should develop it to be unique.  But we cannot take sole credit for our individualism, as in the shadows is always lurking inspiration.

byanika.com

ByAnika

Even before I knew what the name Anika meant, I paid Anika a compliment on the softness on her face.  Her expression is angelic and winsome; bright and clear, for all to see.  Then, I read that Anika means “Sweet Face.”  Hence, dispensing the adage, “what is in a name?”  Anika’s name is a window to her soul.  The gentle expression on her face and the kindness in her expressive eyes are aptly in keeping with the meaning of her name-Sweet Face.

Anika’s blogs are evident of a blogger on a journey of self-worth and improvement.  She has been through many upheavals in her life, but her writing and blogs are devoid of any cynicism or agendas.  In fact, she comes out to be a strong and confident woman constantly on the virtuous path of self-realization.  Her blogs are thoughtful and introspective.  For example she recently posted a blog on “The art of not feeling threatened by the beauty of others.”  She makes a self-admission as to how once upon a time she was threatened by beautiful women, but developed self-value, overcame negative thoughts and now admires beautiful women.  Anika is mindful and gracious.

What is most appealing about Anika is the generosity of her spirit and big heart.  She single-handedly proves that the more one gives, the more one receives.  She features other bloggers on her site selflessly and with no thought of making herself the “Star” of her blog.  She promotes other bloggers and spreads the love.  Of course, the love comes back to her in many folds as I see her name as one of  the most mentioned names on the #FF (Friend Friday) list!   

She is a motivational and uplifting fashion blogger, worth following! (byanika.com)

Thank you Anika for making me the recipient of your love and generosity and featuring me on your blog.

There is a lightness to life in Italy.  A buoyancy, an effervescence, an inconsequential grace. You might say, what does that mean?  In simple terms there is looseness in living, an elasticity, nobody takes life too seriously.  They eat, drink and are “contento” and “felice.”

I too feel the lightness of being when I am there.  The sordid thoughts are dispersed; the worries are dispensed; the weight of the world slips off my slender shoulders (at least I think my shoulders are slender!)  I espouse the infectious energy of the Italians. 

Going with the flow is part of being an Italian.  They do not try to control every aspect of their lives.  I suppose being loose is a big part of cultures other than the United States.  Indian culture is the same, there is a lack of rigidity in day to day life.  So, the shops open at 11 o’ clock in the morning and after a mere few hours close at 2:30 for the afternoon siesta.  In America, that is a no-no.  After all, time is money baby!  Every second of the day must be productive.  Well, not in Italy.  I learnt to take those afternoon hours and fall into a sweet slumber, wake up with a rejuvenated glow on my skin, ready to take on the world, face any challenge, confront the mightiest of an obstacle.

But wait, wait…first I need to sit and take a break with my cappuccino and tremazzini.  After that I will take on any challenge.  

Oh really?  Did I forget that after coffee, it is time to meet friends for a Prosecco or Spritz Aperol with potato wafers and olives.  That is a dilemma!  Well, I do have a solution for the dilemma.  The solution is there is no hurry, no rush, nothing urgent.  I can always confront the challenges “Domani” (tomorrow.)  Yes, that is the attitude of the Italians.  I call it the “Domani Attitude.”  Why not, there is nothing wrong in it.  The past is gone; the future is unknown; it is only but the present moment we have; it is only but the present moment we have to fulfill our desires. 

So, armed with my Domani Attitude, it is the simpler things that I enjoy most in Italy.  Yes, Italy is a treasure of ancient art, architecture, culture, languages and beauty.  But, what brings me most joy is sitting in a cafe sipping my coffee with the biscotti and seeing life go by, observing, watching, reveling in the beautiful moment.

For me food and drinks are a big part of living life elegantly.  What better place than Italy to exercise the elegance.  I want to share with you a few of my favorites that help me enjoy the moment. 

prosecco

  • Prosecco

It is a sparkling wine made from a grape grown in the Veneto region of Italy.  It is the sweetest, most ambrosial, delicious bubbly you will ever taste.  It has absolutely no effects of alcohol, at least for me.  Even my mum, who has never had a drop of alcohol in her life, found it to have medicinal capabilities to soothe her stomach!

  • Spritz Aperol

The national drink of Italy.  At any hour, particularly after 3 or 4 o’ clock you will see a bevy of Italians sitting in crowded cafes and bistros, laughing, joking and drinking the orange colored beverage in goblets.  It is a reflection of the lightness of being that I talked about earlier.  It is an aperitif produced by the Campari company.  It stimulates the appetite. 

You can make one at home, but nothing like sitting and drinking it at a cafe on Via Condotti.  In a goblet pour 1 1/2 ounces Aperol, 2 ounces chilled Prosecco or other sparkling wine, and a splash of chilled seltzer or mineral water. Garnish with a piece of orange.

 

  • Fresh blood orange juice

It is ruby red, it is freshly squeezed even at a gas station, it is not chilled, it has pulp and most times served in a warm sterilized glass.  I would take the ruby red glass over a ruby ring any day.

 

  •  Tramezzini

The word tramezzino means “in-between”, hence you have it in-between meals.  It is a triangular Italian sandwich made from two slices of heavenly white, soft bread with crusts removed.  It is a reminiscent of my Heidi reading days.  A most cherished book of my childhood written by Johanna Spyri where Heidi used to take divinely soft bread rolls for her grandfather. 

My favorite is the funghi (mushroom) Tramezzini.  Delizioso!!!

prada

  • PRADA

I don’t care what people may say about my taste and style, but I adore the eccentric, intellectual, cerebral, anti-establishment, non-conforming, highbrow genius of Miuccia Prada.  Forget the shopping, buying, credit cards, debts, all the wearisome, burdensome worries.  Just pop into Prada on Via Condotti in Rome and absorb the view of the Spanish steps from inside Prada. 

An experience par excellence.  A tribute to the Domani Attitude.

The first two words that crossed my mind when I started writing a blog on Muslim fashion were Oppression and Expression.  As I tried to build the blog around these two pillars, I realized that the two words are truly the essence of a woman, in particular a Muslim woman.

When we think of Muslim women in today’s post-Bin Laden world, what is the first word that comes to our mind?  I would think that the unanimous answer will be Oppression.  What is the first image that seeps into our mind?  Most likely of a woman wrapped in yards and mounds of cloth, eyes peeking from between the wrapped clothing, head bowed.  Whether you call it a burqa, hijab or an ayab, it is binding, restricting and suffocating.

Of course, I absolutely realize and am aware of the fact, that there are many liberated, emancipated Muslim women who do not wear the head/body covering and some who even choose to wear it of their own free will without any Oppression whatsoever.  However, the majority’s perception of a Muslim woman is that of being oppressed and bound, literally and metaphorically.

Oppression is not restricted only to Muslim women.  Women from times immemorial have struggled to express themselves and attain their individuality.  Women have faced struggles in all walks of life-the first woman on the Supreme Court Bench, the first woman to be the CEO of a fortune 500 company, the first woman who was allowed into the Gentleman’s Club, the first woman who has yet not become the President of the United States.  Recent studies have clearly shown that the fairer sex is the lower wage earner for similar positions held by both the genders.

It has been a long, winding struggle and continues to be a struggle for women, hence the expression “the glass ceiling.”  Have we women truly broken the glass ceiling or only made a fissure in it?

Yet, as women we all have the innate desire to express ourselves, our individuality and our essence.  A Western woman may exercise that expression by wearing a bold Herve Leger bandage dress (an irony indeed that an emancipated woman needs to wear a bandaged dress to be bound and the bound woman wants to be free.)  

The more demure Muslim woman, who is bound by centuries of traditions, customs and culture, will probably express herself by lining her beautiful eyes with dark, dark kohl and place intricate henna designs on her hands and feet.  After all, for some such women, only the eyes and the tips of the extremities are the exposed body parts.

For the more unfettered Muslim woman, for example from the United Arab Emirates, the Expression is seen in a peek of the expensive Jimmy Choo or Roger Vivier heels or a quick flash of the Cartier tiger bracelet on the delicate wrist or the limited edition, diamond encrusted Fendi glasses forming a part of the shield along with the hijab. 

All these women are manifesting their Expression, one in an unflinching and self-assured way and the other with a timid defiance.

 

Someday, the “veil” will be pierced forever; not only for Muslim women, but women in general.  No more glass ceilings to break, no Oppression, only Expression.

Art is interpretation.  Art is subjective.  Art is perception.  Art is individualism. Each one of us translates art based on our own experiences, sensibilities, feelings and emotions.

Some may argue that even though interpretation may be individual, certain universal basics, a foundation, an order needs to be there for the inception of art.  Beyond that the artist can take creative license to express his or her views.

Non-conformist that I am, I am willing to go as far as to even dispense with the above theory of foundational art.  After all, if there are universal parameters, dictums and precedence then where is the originality, the expression and the true tour de force art.

karl lagerfeld

My most cherished designer Karl Lagerfeld for Chanel directed the latest film, The Tale of a Fairy for the 2011-12 cruise collection.  As is the signature of the master couturier the movie is dripping, oozing and drenched in luxury almost bordering on hedonism.  Whether it is the colonial Parisian mansion with the silent-footed bevy of maids and butlers or the “actors” walking in the house with a cascade of Chanel pearls around their long necks wearing signature white and black Chanel pumps making their 6 feet lanky frames reach towering and withering heights.  Whether it is the impromptu trip to Monte Carlo or an almost on-the-verge of an orgy on the French Riviera.  It is all there.

There are beautiful girls kissing each other, a waif who looks like an angel and an element of surrealism.  In fact, all the elements of a good Hollywood blockbuster are blended into the film.

So then what is so wrong, so very wrong with the film? Well, the simple answer is the lack of a story, a script and a backbone to the film.  The story centers around three women, one who is hysterical through the whole movie, the other solely there to provide the international element with her well-modulated British accent and the third for the hot and steamy girl kiss.  The story borders on being cheesy and entering into the realm of being ridiculous.

What redeems the movie is the physicality of the cast. Two of the lead actors are in their mid and late 40s.  The girls are androgynous without the essential prerequisite Hollywood bust and lip enhancement.  It is antithesis to Hollywood casting.  It defies all traditional norms of established standards of beauty.

The silver-haired, 40-some year old Kristen McMenaney with her pierced nose and bouffant hair gives any 20 year-old run for her money.

Freja Beha in her underwear is reminiscent of Kate Moss in her very young and best days for the Calvin Klein ads.

In summary, even when Karl Lagerfeld does something less than his trademark perfection, a little oops, a faux pas-somehow it is interpreted as art.  In this film, the physical attributes of the cast of “actors” redeems Lagerfeld’s movie from entering the Girls gone Wild genre.

Marriage fever is in the air.  The infectious buzz/bug started with the planning of the much publicized Royal wedding.  It became full blown with the global telecast of the Royals walking down the aisle at Westminster Abbey.  It is now simmering with a plethora of “bride” movie releases such as Something Borrowed and the hugely anticipated movie Bridesmaids.  Of course, one can never undermine the power of the marathon re-runs of “bridesmaids” series on Sex in the City on TBS.  I suppose the corporate business of marriage/being a bride is basking in the hues of the Royal wedding sunset.  I see no wrong in maximizing monetization of marriage.  After all we live in a corporate society.

lady diana

 

I am not one of those people who cry at weddings and find everything oh-so divine from the overly saccharine cake to the ubiquitous Cooks champagne.  I am a cynic by birth and a bit too late to change.  However, I do ponder and reflect over things often.  I try to scratch the surface to uncover the truth, the veracity, and the real deal.  What good does it do for me, you ask?  Well, that is to be left for another blog at another time.  Suffice it to say, except for a deep-rooted feeling of disillusionment, dissatisfaction and disenchantment, nothing much!!

So, in keeping with my core nature, I had to scratch the surface of marriage as well.  Marriage initially originated from social, financial and cultural needs.  In the olden times marriages took place to unite powerful kingdoms at odds with each other.  It was used to amass wealth and power between two kingdoms at war, marriage served as the uniting bond or glue.  A sort of a merger between two corporations if you must want a modern analogy.

 Marriages were also performed for other very practical reasons such as financial dependence of women.  Women were not financially independent and needed a man to provide for them.   Another reason for marriages was to protect women and for their safety.  For example, when empires were invaded by the enemies, there was looting, plundering, pillaging and raping of women-in such times women needed a protector in the form of a husband. 

Of course, in our modern society the definition of marriage has significantly changed.  Women are financially independent and do not need a husband as a “protector.”  After all don’t we all carry pepper spray in our Chanel totes and take kick-boxing classes in our gyms!

Women have their own portfolios and IRAs to fall back on in their silver years.  The cultural pressure of being an “old spinster” is dissipating slowly as well, though not so much in Eastern cultures.  For companionship there is Facebook, Twitter, match.com and all sorts of social media (not the healthiest form of companionship, I must state.)

 And hey, even for sexual gratification and procreation who needs a husband!!  Ask Samantha from Sex in the City for any tips!!  Ah women have become so self-sufficient, self-serving, self this and self that.

Despite all this liberation, marriage does hold an enchantment, a lure, an attraction for most women.  It is a day when she/the bride is the sole center of attraction.  It is a day that makes all women feel special.  There is apprehension and excitement as the bride embarks on a new journey.  Whether a bride is getting married in a 7-star hotel in Dubai or a tiny village in India; whether a bride is wearing an $80,000 Christian Lacroix wedding gown or a white chador wrapped around her ; whether the cuisine of all continents is served at her wedding with special chefs being flown from each country or a home cooked communal meal-all brides primp, prune, rub and scrub to enhance their prettiest and most alluring qualities. 

Marriage serves as an equalizer, despite ones wealth or poverty, despite ones social status or the lack thereof, the equalizing element being the bride. 

 It is intriguing to study brides in various cultures.  You have the traditional Western bride with the quintessential “fairy tale ” wedding, the long white gown with the train and veil; the cake and champagne; the bridesmaids and bouquets.

Then you have a  traditional Indian bride who is synonymous with Indian blue-blooded royalty,  decked in gold jewels with henna on her hands and coyness as her signature trademark.

 

(Although with the emancipation of women, in a recent publication I saw a traditional bride huffing and puffing on a monstrous cigar and a cooler one chugging a beer…cheerios!!)

 The traditional Tunisian or Turkish bride with the intricate headdress!

  The Afghani bride laden under the heavily embroidered purdah-the weight of the clothing and jewelry serving as a symbol for the oppressive times that lie ahead of her.

 And of course the same sex brides/bride-groom weddings.

All in all, it is a day of beauty, jubilation and rejoicing.  What lies ahead of the bride….Allah Alim (God knows best!)