In a terribly short span of two days, India lost two of her most beautiful jewels, Leela Naidu and Rajmata Gayatri Devi.
I have never loved the stick-insect concept of beauty. Sour grapes? I think not. To me beauty was all about charm, elegance and a sense of timelessness. Both of these ladies epitomised my ideal concept of beauty to more than its fullest.
They were both featured in Vogue's Top Ten Beauties of the World list, putting India very much on the beauty map. Remember, this was decades before Vogue came to India, so in a way, it was the world celebrating our style icons, our visions of grace, poise and DDG looks. It was a toast to what India's modern-day treasures and an affirmation that we were not just about the exotic, like nautch girls, temple dancers and Khajuraho muses.
Rajmata Gayatri Devi is my own, personal hero. Leaving her beauty aside, I was always in awe of her grace and dignity. I wanted to be 'her' when I grew up.
I still do.
What a fascinating life she had! And I'm not just talking about living the charmed life full of royal parties and education in the best schools abroad. She was grace and graciousness personified. Her politics were gentle yet passionate. The dignity with which she conducted herself during her incarceration during Indira Gandhi's infamous State of Emergency, could only have come from a latent strength and self-belief housed within.
Rest in peace, Leela Naidu.
Rest in peace, Rajmata.
An era of grace and beauty has come to an end with your passing.