In all fairness, it is the underarm that matters. So they say. Those who set our social agenda (i.e. the advertising and marketing people) have spoken. And their verdict is clear – keep your underarm fair and you will land the man of your choice. So far they have been silent on men keeping their underarms fair and landing the women of their choice. But like that other fairness cream, it is only a matter of time.
And that time arrives not when you or I, dear reader, decide, but when the television ads tell us so.
When did the underarm, that part of the anatomy that even our maker was embarrassed about so he hid it away from public view, become the fount of sexiness, the touchstone of all that is fair and beautiful? The various creams and potions having made fair our faces, necks, throats, hands, fingers, midriff, legs and toes are now focussing on the hidden (or mostly hidden) parts.
Not so long ago there was a brave attempt to tell us that fairness in the inner thighs was what it was all about – but that movement did not last long and the ads were quickly withdrawn. Love me, love my inner thighs regardless of colour, shape or form seemed to be the reaction of the women at whom these ads were aimed. But you can’t keep these fairness guys down for long. I am not a great TV watcher, but I can’t watch any sports event or anything else without being told that women need to have fair underarms. Not only that, the stated purpose of this is to attract men who till the other day did not even realise that women had underarms.
Now you can imagine those matrimonial ads so popular among and so peculiar to Indians: “Wanted, tall dark, handsome chap with pots and pots of money for girl of smashing fair complexion, fun-loving homemaker with her own microwave oven who is five foot six and gave up a possible career as a supermodel to focus on her work among the hungry children of the world after her studies in the US. But above all – read carefully, you will scarcely believe this – she has fair underarms.”
Or better still: “Wanted, for plain Jane with incipient moustache, a match made in heaven for she has the one thing that makes the difference – fair underarms.”
And how about: “She has fair underarms. Does anything else matter?”
Let us face it, all underarms are uniformly uninteresting, even ugly. They have been there ever since our ancestors decided to elevate themselves above animals by walking upright. Actually, when you think about it, large areas of the human body are uninteresting. The webbing between the fingers, for example. No one, not Keats or Wordsworth, has bothered to pen a poem on the webbing. Or on the crook of the elbow. Or the soft part behind the knee. Like Mount Everest, they are there, but they do not attract poets.
Now eyes are another matter. Lips too, and cheek, even nose and ears. In fact, Shakespeare often combined a whole lot of body parts, as in “There’s language in her eye, her cheek, her lip, nay her foot speaks; her wanton spirits look out at every joint and motive of her body.” That covers pretty much everything. But no underarm. Nor did Pascal say that if Cleopatra’s underarms had been less fair (or more), the history of the world might have been different. It was her nose he was talking about. To round it up, Shaw did not name his play ‘Underarms and the Man’. But I digress.
Now that a nation has been gripped by the fair underarm mania, what next? Fair folds of the ear to attract your man? The underside of the feet? The insides of the nostrils? Who will be the first to look inwards? If human anatomy is fair game, who will put out a cream in the market for turning your pancreas white or tell us about the matrimonial advantages of the white liver? All’s fair in love and war. Especially the former.