Scent of a woman

My grandmother had a big nose. In some ways, she was a big nose that happened to have a body attached to it. Her nose was far bigger than Shruti Haasan’s nose. The actress’s former nose, that is. Even with surgery – and then more surgery – my grandmother’s nose would be bigger than Ms Haasan’s former nose. “I had a medical condition that restricted free breathing,” the 23-year-old told this paper the other week. “Now, post the surgery, I can finally sleep in peace and it has also enhanced my vocal skills.

The said condition is called a deviated septum – the reason Ranbir Kapoor’s parents are reportedly nudging him to go under the knife. The actor, however, is refusing to budge (or, at least, his nose is). According to bloggers, he’s happy with his “crooked” piece and doesn’t need a “straight” one.

Wikipedia describes the nasal septum as the bone and cartilage “that separates the nasal cavity into the two nostrils.” Presumably, any irregularity in this department can lead to serious snoring. If Ms Haasan can “finally sleep in peace” it’s safe to assume that people in rooms adjoining her bedroom can sleep in peace, too. Depending on how loud her snoring was in the first place, those in neighbouring buildings can probably dispense with their ear plugs (especially if she sings in her sleep, now that her voice is improved); if indeed she snores for she has yet to admit it.

The bottom line is, there is no reason not to believe Ms Haasan’s stated reasons for undergoing rhinoplasty. As a child, my grandmother’s nocturnal symphony rumbled like a minor earthquake. Things would rattle off shelves and break, dogs would bark. But if you gently tilted her head, it would stop, if only for a few seconds. And when you haven’t slept for three days, a few seconds is a few seconds. (Do try this at home.)

Like me, Ms Haasan may well have had a grandmother who snored loudly, too, and is in fact only thinking of her grandchildren, not her career. Even if all she is doing is, er, sniffing for roles, is that wrong? Of course it’s not. In Iran, it is perfectly normal to see young women wearing bandages that cover the nose as it heals into its new shape. It’s no wonder that in 2005, CBS News dubbed Tehran the “nose job capital of the world”.

It’s like buying dope in Amsterdam there, they give you a menu. “Greta Garbo, Nicole Kidman or, if you are on a budget, Barbara Streisand.” Now even men are taking pictures of people like George Clooney and Brad Pitt into surgeries and asking for replicas – the nose is a commodity.

The sad thing is that all of this is in an effort to look more European. The Hollywood nose reigns supreme. Iran’s only Oscar-nominated actress, Shohreh Aghdashloo, started off her career with a strawberry-shaped nose that was charming, endearing and a national treasure. At some point, she had a lift and it became all hoity-toity and serious. (Would she have made it to the Oscars with the strawberry? Who nose.)

Last week, the world heard a claim that Michael Jackson’s body was missing a nose as he lay in a morgue. Apparently his was a detachable fixture. This, along with the fact that in death his name became linked to a chain of retail stationery stores – Staples – is evidence that we are not a million miles away from being able to buy noses in shops, and switching them as we please (and from seeing his on display in a museum alongside the sequinned glove). As I write, I can’t help wondering how MJ would look with my grandmother’s potato-shaped nose or how my grandmother would look with his Jackson Five nose. (One thing’s for sure, there’ll be little snoring as he embarks on his eternal slumber.)

In the nose stakes though, it’s Ranbir Kapoor who wins my vote (this has nothing to do with the fact that my grandmother was a fan of his grandfather, Raj, who had a fine nose). The 26-year-old is faithful to his and feels no need to tailor it. Reports suggest he is even standing up to his family over the issue. Unlike Mr Kapoor, my family have never had a go at my nose. Plenty of other things but not my nose. (Given grandmother’s conk, you could say I got off lightly.)

In fairness to Ms Haasan, though, it’s a little easier for men. Not only are we not expected shave our legs, we often fail to shave our faces and given the chance would happily not wash for a few days – far from having to look good, it’s enough that we don’t smell. So, Shruti Haasan, enjoy your nose. As the saying goes, she who knows she does not know, nose best.

Column from Sunday Mid-Day, published in Mumbai.

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