The Rich Vegetarian

An Examined Life

Menu Close

Tag: beauty

A Friend with Style and Class

I cannot recall when/how I chanced upon To Universe with Love, a personal/lifestyle/fashion/travel blog, penned by Archana Paladugu. I read one post, then another, and kept going. It has now become the blog I check every morning. Archana writes with candor and honesty, sharing her views on sustainability, style, ethical consumption, travel and more. She has a loyal base of readers whose comments generate useful conversations and information. I am real happy that Archana blogs regularly, and in the event that I go to her site AND she has no new post up… I simply go read an old post, then another. There is enough stuff on her site to keep me reading and re-reading.

I asked Archana if she could write a guest post for me, and she agreed.

Popular blogger Joanna Goddard has a series titled Beauty Uniform where she quizzes women on their style philosophy, beauty tips, favorite products, etc. I created a set of questions for Archana that was loosely based on the ones Joanna asks on Beauty Uniform. So here goes…

What is your daily skincare routine? 

I really enjoy the ritual aspect of skincare. Buying products is one thing. But consistency is what makes the most difference for my skin.

AM : I cleanse my face with graham flour. And apply sunscreen.

PM :

Cleanse : graham flour

Serum : SkinCeuticals C E Ferulic or SK-II

Moisturize : May Lindstroms face oil

I was given Retin-A by my dermatologist this December. I usually forget to use it but been meaning to include it somehow. Being aware of all the toxic ingredients in it somehow makes it harder to pen it into my routine.

Do you have a game-changing beauty product?  

SkinCeuticals C E Ferulic acid. You should have seen my skin when I lived in Arizona. I was outdoors a lot. My skin was in a terrible condition with sunburns. Once I got religious about using the antioxidant and layering sunscreen on top, it improved tremendously. I have hyper pigmentation from those days which always resurfaces when I don’t use it.

Do you have any non-beauty rituals that help you feel great?  

Inversions. Go for a run. At the end, stretch by touching your toes. The rush of blood to the face and the warmth can be felt. It gives me a glow throughout the day. Wheel pose. Hand stand. Shoulder stand. Head stand. I feel great when I exercise regularly and smartly.

Yoga. I have tried meditation and never could get into the zone. Then tried the moving meditation — Yoga. It’s made a lot of difference in how I feel during the day. I am addicted to it. I try to sneak it in, come what may during the day.

I sip on tea all day long. My tea contains dried herbs, white tea leaves, ginger, lemon and turmeric. I have a desk job and having something to sip on is comforting.

The blueberry green smoothies I drink everyday helps too. I don’t like yogurt or milk products. But I add a spoonful of it to my smoothie. It’s camouflaged by the fruit and I would have gotten my probiotic needs for the day. I try to include some raw food in my diet everyday and it’s convenient to blend it up. My skin gets a visible glow when I am consistent with my smoothies.

Do you have any unexpected physical traits that you love?  

When I exercise regularly, I grow visible muscle. I really like the look of them on me. It’s hard for me to put on muscle and easy to lose it. I have to work hard at it. And love it when I see the results. Does this count as unexpected?

Do you have any stories of regrettable beauty moments or experiments-gone-wrong? 

Not using sunscreen is the biggest. One day, I read some article on how most urban dwellers don’t get enough Vitamin D. I then decided I wouldn’t apply it on my body to “catch some sun.” I used to bike to work and my hands were getting too much sun. I had a dozen sunburns in no time. I tried to cure it in my kitchen by applying yogurt and aloe. I was keen on treating it “holistically.” But it kept getting worse from the regular sun exposure. One day, a coworker saw the scars and asked me about potential domestic violence at home. After that incident, I went to a dermatologist who helped me heal it.

When I first moved to America, I didn’t know how to cook. Neither did I know how to eat when there is no one spoon-feeding me. I was buying zero-fat ingredients and making sandwiches for every meal. I soon “dried” up literally and became very lanky. Good fats are very important for hormonal balance and for proper functioning of organs. I am pro-healthy fats. It wasn’t an intentional experiment but more ignorance on my part about what to eat. I learnt how to cook and feed myself over the years.

What is your bedtime routine?  

This is not exactly a recommendation. But lately, I have been falling asleep listening to a book on Audible. I need to read before bed but I am too tired to these days to read. So I listen.

Have there been any important women in your life who taught you about beauty?  

Not really. Most people I know treat taking care of oneself as vanity and unnecessary waste of money. Every thing I do, I taught myself by trial and error.

How does food play a role in your beauty philosophy? Are there any foods or drinks that help you look and feel your best?  

I grew up in the household of a dermatologist. He has taught me about the skin being a result of four factors: genetics, the general state of health, the surface, and environmental factors.

We eat a lot of home-cooked fresh food. I make it a point to get my dose of probiotics and raw food in my diet everyday. I exercise. I do these for my well-being more than for beauty. I treat it as one of the contributing factors. I would not rely solely on the food to be my skincare. I need the external and internal nourishment.

What do you like most about your look?   

Nothing and everything. I don’t single out facial/body features anymore. Being critical like that only brought me self-confidence issues and I have stopped thinking that way.

Do you have any style inspirations?  

Yes I do. Georgia O Keeffe. Not in the way that I want to buy items of clothing that she wore. But in the way she approached dressing. Our views on aesthetic, art, life, love, modern women, style, clothing, … match.

Last but certainly not least, what’s your overall beauty philosophy?

Find sustainable happiness. Work on something that you love and are proud of. Everything else will fall in place automatically. I don’t want to be remembered for my clothes or appearance. I want a legacy that changes the world in some way. I am most confident and feel beautiful when I am happy.


It was a local organizing event. A young man walked up to the podium to speak. He was running for election. His experience was impressive. He had worked in government, and he had experience running his own company. He looked like a solid candidate. Did I mention how handsome he looked? He was tall and slender, his body like that of a long-distance runner. He had large, gray eyes. Soulful, I thought… A face that a poet or an artist would fall in love with. He had light brown hair, soft and wavy. He looked heart-breakingly young.

It was a few years ago that I got the chance to meet C. She was an Indian American student, a volunteer with a cultural/religious organization. The objective of our meeting was to discuss projects that we could collaborate on. She walked into the coffee shop. We spoke for thirty minutes or so. I had a tough time sticking to script because… she was so beautiful that I lost my nerve. She had lovely eyebrows, dark and arched. Her nose was narrow and angular, a tiny diamond shining on the left nostril. Her hair was messily tied up, and she looked like she had just got out of class. To me, this girl radiated effortless beauty. I felt nervous, lacking in confidence. I hardly remember what we spoke that day.

My sister had a classmate. Let’s call her M. M was tall, like basketball-player-tall. She looked like your typical Indian fashion model — lanky frame, narrow features, confident. People often remarked to her, “M, you should be a model!” Those were the days when everyone was so proud of Sushmita Sen, Aishwarya Rai, Lara Dutta and their ilk. We owned those gorgeous, intelligent ladies. However, M didn’t have fashion model aspirations. I think she had plans to study computer science.

As a young person, I was naive enough to think that beautiful people had it easier. They commanded attention effortlessly. They turned heads wherever they went. They had presence.

I am a little wiser now. For one, presence is its own thing, and beauty has scant to do with it. I have met some insipid beautiful people. They lack… something vital, essential. They have perfect features but there is no air in there. It feels stifled.

The other thing about beauty is that it can be so darned distracting. I was so dazzled by C’s effortless beauty that I could hardly focus on what she was saying, or construct a solid sentence myself. People had a hard time imagining that lovely and statuesque M, fashion model in the making, could ever be inclined towards the sciences. Our young politician had great experience, but his dashing good looks were the first thing you saw and possibly the last thing you remembered about him.

It is a little bit like having money. Money can mess with your perspective because it gives you apparent power. It makes you act in unnatural ways, and it makes others around you act unnatural, sometimes. However, you can make an attempt to hide the fact that you are a moneyed person. How do you hide your looks? How do you prevent them from becoming a distraction? Or getting in your way? Unless of course, your looks ARE paving your way.


If I am going to be really truthful, then I’d like to say this: I don’t really know if I am an attractive woman. I am an attractive person; I have enough confirmation on that. However, as far as physical attractiveness goes, hmmm… I don’t know.

A gawky girl with stick-straight hair and a gummy smile grew up to be an awkward teenager. Something changed around age 16. Maybe the hormones were doing their thing, but I hit the beginning of my “attractive” phase. Male attention found its way to me.

(I wonder if the guys around actually saw me, or they saw themselves reflected in my willing, friendly eyes. Some of us have the rare fortune of functioning as mirrors to others. They see themselves in us, and we get lost in the reflecting images. They don’t really see us, but they seem to love us, because they see themselves reflected in our transparent countenances. Perhaps that’s why guys paid me attention, compliments and such.)

I was sufficiently young and naive; so I thought of myself as an attractive girl that time. I was slim, and I had this lovely head of hair — silky, bouncy, and most importantly, straight.

Those were heady years, perhaps a tad too much. Heady enough that I lost sight of myself, which is an oft-happening occurrence for folks like me: the mirrors.

Kerala, 2011

As I headed to engineering college, the pattern continued to play itself out. Guys and attention, compliments and positive feedback… it went on. The awkward teenager felt vindicated.

(Despite what you may think, my fundamentals were solid, because I zeroed in on the one guy who stayed outside this shiny universe. And I stuck with him. Turned out to be a good decision.)

The years went on, and so did my attractive streak. Like every young woman, I was probably putting out feelers, scanning the territory for solid, bankable mates. I certainly got my share of matching signals, some terribly messed up.

Then marriage happened. Young, romantic love ripened into a sweet companionship and a rich friendship.

But I was attractive no more. Perhaps the signals had shifted without my knowledge?

As the years rolled on, I started looking younger and older at the same time, if you can imagine that. I didn’t have the fresh-faced innocence of youth, but my slim frame made me look much younger than my actual age. I wore no makeup, dressed like I’d just graduated college… And my hair began graying. I think my body and mind were playing games, confusing each other and everyone else! Men could no longer place me, or so it seemed.

But more significantly, I think I had begun signaling a lack of interest.

So, while women talk about having to handle unwelcome attention from males around them, I wonder: Where is this attention? Why isn’t it finding me?

I think I am not the mirror any more. My mirror has turned inward. Suddenly (or not so suddenly), my attention to the outside has dwindled. I am not available, I guess.