Home > Wearing glasses > Through the Looking Glass

Through the Looking Glass

Last week, I was at an optical store to get new prescription lenses. It was a gloomy and rainy November afternoon in Bangalore courtesy a cyclone on the eastern coast, and it made perfect sense that people were probably enjoying their mid-week holiday sipping hot chai at home rather than looking at new spectacles. The only other customers at the store was this family comprising mom, dad and their teenaged daughter who had come to get dad a new pair of glasses.

As they stood waiting for the sales person to attend, the girl (she must have been 14 or 15) started walking around, trying out various frames for herself, just for kicks. She found one that she presumably fancied, came tripping back, and I heard her asking in a bright voice, Mom, Do I look good? Mom promptly quipped, ‘No one looks good in glasses, dear’. I immediately turned around to see how the girl would react. She didn’t disappoint at all, smartly winning the debate with a confident ‘I think glasses are cool. All my friends think so too’.

When I was growing up, to hear someone say the words “I have got power” was almost like seeing them being cursed by the devil. The onset of myopia made boys resign themselves to a lifetime of nerdiness, and for girls, this milestone of life was like the proverbial millstone, a catastrophe.  In terms of impact on one’s self esteem/confidence, being labelled ‘battery’ (Bombay lingo for people wearing glasses) was pretty much in the same league as complexes about skin colour. Contact lenses were not as ubiquitous as they are today, LASIK didn’t exist and parents developed deep creases on their foreheads worrying about how will their daughters get married, etc, etc.  I still remember a friend’s parents always bemoaning how fate had played a cruel trick by giving them a fair, handsome son with perfect eyesight and daughter who was dusky, and to compound matters further, also had the misfortune to wear glasses. Why couldn’t the almighty have made it the other way round, was his mom’s lament whenever we went to his place. Think of the ridiculous baggage the poor girl, and so many like her, must have grown up with.

That lady in the store who perfectly mirrored this stereotype of my generation must have probably grown up in a similar environment. Her daughter’s response though, hopefully reflects that things seem to have changed of late (we also now have whitening creams for men, so wheel coming full circle and all that).

Of course, there is also a world of difference between the first pair of glasses I wore thirty years ago and what’s available these days. Stylish, funky frames have made glasses almost like a fashion accessory for some. I know a couple of friends who wear non-powered frames to add a dimension to how they look. The whole trend probably started a few years ago, and Bollywood may have played a part too. I remember after that movie released where Preity Zinta wore those black framed glasses (can’t remember the name of the movie… it had SRK too), I started noticing – especially on visits to Delhi – women sporting similar frames to complement their typical dark jeans-black sweater winter attires.  The rise of the tech industry in mainstream consciousness over the last decade and the whole lore around Silicon valley has also made looking geeky look cool, I guess.

I have to confess though, that being short-sighted was a matter of solace for me, in my youth. It gave me a useful crutch to pin the blame on for being forever ignored by the opposite sex. Girls prefer goulashes to boys wearing glasses, or whatever male version of that popular phrase,  won over more basic truths like a complete absence of personality or any other redeeming characteristic. Blaming it on the bloody specs was easy.

Categories: Wearing glasses
  1. Kartik
    November 6, 2012 at 2:45 am

    Nice one – I can totally relate…

  2. Banno
    November 12, 2012 at 10:54 am

    That was ‘Kal Ho Na Ho’. Coincidentally, saw it again a few days ago. 🙂 But I think the younger generation’s ‘cool’ quotient is very cool.

    • November 14, 2012 at 7:43 pm

      Banno – Yes, someone else also pointed out that it was KHNH. Don’t remember much of it, though. Yeah, this generation is way cooler than what I was at that age. 🙂

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