Books about beauty are a literary treat for me. It is the equivalent to having a secret stash of rich, dark chocolate to enjoy when one wants to break away from the mundane. Almond Eyes, Lotus Feet: Indian Traditions in Beauty and Health was an exciting feast page after page.
I have read many books on natural beauty and cosmetics, but this book has its own radiance among the others. It is a fictional memoir about an Indian princess written by Sharada Dwivedi (a native of India) and Shalini Devi Holkar (an Indian princess by marriage). It follows the princess throughout her life and mingles her story with recipes, traditions and spirituality. The words were beautifully written, filled with details and a balanced mix of native tongue and modern contrasts. As I read, I found myself asking questions and also receiving answers to questions I had had for a long while. Curious bits of documentary flashbacks about Ayurveda and Eastern spiritual concepts began to piece themselves together for my understanding. For example, I had seen footage of an older woman massaging a mother and newborn with oils and smoke after the mother had given birth. I had always wondered what the purpose of it was, so I made the assumption that it was some form of detoxification and circulation for their bodies. I had also met a Black woman from the southern part of the United States who described keeping the mother and child in a dark room after birth and rubbing the body with minerals (along with some other processes). As I read, I realized the common link between both pieces of information. I felt such mental clarity and was amazed at the similarities of two cultures on one subject matter.
My inspiration grew, chapter after chapter. The photographs were gorgeous and also useful for reference. I stared at several of them repeatedly because the women and children were so refined. I could not view beauty and health (especially during pregnancy) in the same way anymore. The discipline and thorough process of creating products for ritual and daily use was absolutely fascinating. To separate spirituality and tradition from physical wellbeing would not only be difficult but detrimental, for the health of the spirit and body are one entity. This book made me make subtle changes in my life. I have incorporated self-massage into my daily routine and added more variety to my diet. I began searching for ankle bracelets and considered, perhaps, that being decked in jewelry was not gawdy after all. One day, if I go through the pregnancy process, I will use what I have learned to influence the health of the child/children. Beautiful skin begins in the womb.
This is a book that should be used as reference and it is also worth buying. I would consider it a gift that can be passed down, for the information it holds is timeless.