Called it synchronicity but came across the word UGLY in two different contexts recently. The first was a touching article about a woman who had to bear the ignominy and hurt of being called the ugliest face on earth in a post that went viral and the other was as an explanation for dowry giving in a class XII Sociology text book.

The so called ugliest woman is today a great motivational speaker who truly exemplifies the saying: True Beauty is reflected in the Soul. Her talks are a lesson to all showing us the true meaning of defining who we are. Lizzie Velasquez has overcome all that was thrown at her.

The second instance though is far more dangerous. It s surreptitious and insidious and can hurt and harm so many beautiful souls.

Believer it not but a sociology text book for class XII states the following in a chapter entitled Major Social Problems in India: “If a girl is ugly and handicapped, then it becomes a very difficult for her to get married. To marry such girls, bridegroom and his family demand more dowry. Parents of such girls become helpless and pay dowry as per the demands of the bridegroom as family. It leads to rise in the practice of dowry system.

What does one say to these words. Just imagine the young girls in class who do not consider themselves pretty! And there are many as the canons of beauty today are so stringent and so in your face courtesy the Internet or Television that I have rarely come across a young girl who thinks she is pretty. More often than not even a pretty girl finds herself too fat, to short, too dark and so on. Her nose is too big her hair to thin, her skin pimply and so on again. Her self esteem is below her feet. Now is she reads this passage imagine her plight.

Girls are often considered a burden and know it. Their marriage is the prime cause of concern of her family and reading such callous and hurtful words are bound to affect her.

Many questions come to mind. The first one is that no one seems to vet books, and if they did then how could such a passage pass the test. Then who defines beauty? In this passage it seems that beauty is physical based on skewed social constructs. What about beauty of the heart, the soul. Why do authors who write books for school children who are still vulnerable not realise how such words can destroy a child’s self esteem.

It is time we understood this.