Where Age Is No Object: India

At MORE we believe we’re not getting older; the lighting’s just getting worse! We also believe that America’s youth obsession is not shared around the globe. Proving our point is this woman from India, where aging is celebrated as part of inner beauty

by Julia Savacool
woman wearing a pink sari in field in india image
Girija Shankar: In India, grace, spirituality—and wearing a sari well—are enviable assets.
Photograph: Christian Witkin

American culture may tell us it’s all downhill after 18, but our own eyes tell us that while a woman can’t be forever young, she can be perceived as forever beautiful. Especially if she lives in France. Or India. Or Ghana. Or a surprising number of other places where one’s value doesn’t diminish after adolescence. And though there’s no denying the worldwide creep of America’s fondness for the under-30 set (China, known for its veneration of parents and grandparents, now has the second-highest face-lift rate in the world), not every country buys into that concept. Read on for locales where age brings rewards.

Coonoor, India
Girija Shankar

In India, grace, spirituality—and wearing a sari well—are enviable assets.

Who she is A retired schoolteacher and microbiologist, Shankar lives in Nilgiris, in the state of Tamil Nadu, a region of lush, rolling hills and forests.

Indian beauty defined Most important, says Shankar, are “grace and a winning smile”—two qualities that typically improve with age. Also key: doe-like eyes and long, thick black hair. In India, those qualities have been revered for 2,000 years. “There is a long tradition of celebrating goddesses with alluring eyes and long hair,” she says.

Why aging is attractive “The majority of Indian women are very comfortable with aging because you have more time to think about life and spirituality,” says Shankar. “Now I am able to relax and do things at my own pace.”

Clothes make the woman “A woman is considered attractive if she is an elegant dresser,” says Shankar. “The sari is a very beautiful garment, and when worn well, it makes a woman look graceful, no matter her age.”

The Indian beauty regimen For special occasions, such as a wedding, Indian women pull out all the stops. “A mixture of turmeric, sandalwood paste and rose water is applied to the bride-to-be,” says Shankar. “It is said to give her a glow.” Everyday routines, however, are far simpler. Shankar doesn’t color her hair or wear makeup. “I think—and hope—I am growing old gracefully. This is what I am most proud of,” she says. Her beauty regimen mainly involves getting fresh air and exercise; she and her husband take their pet Dalmatian on long walks twice a day. And like many other Indian women, she is a vegetarian and devoted yogi.

Next: Where Age Is No Object: France

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First published in the December 2012/January 2013 issue

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