A Matter of Perception

Every time I look into the mirror, I wonder if everyone can see what I see. I always ask myself this question, do countless others feel the same? Perception is a complicated word. What we see and understand may be completely different from what others experience. I’m not only referring to aesthetics, I am also talking about the everyday ordinary and mundane. I wonder what drives a woman, at a healthy weight (I’m talking 5’6” and weighing in at a healthy 58 kilos!) to struggle with normal amounts of food and 2 hours of killer (and I literally mean killer!) exercise everyday, just so she can look sexy in frame that just about contains a skeleton and about 5 ounces of fat. Is her perception of the world – a society, where women resemble stick figures? Take men for that matter. In modern day India, they are putting a new meaning into the word ‘Alpha Male’. I have yet to control my laughter, when I enter a ‘man saloon’ (commonly known as beauty parlours, but with a catch!). Not to be a sexist or anything, but every ounce of male hormones seems to have evaporated from these places. Watching a full bearded man getting a facial and pedicure is literally the definition of an oxymoron. It’s almost as if they’re screaming ‘we’re men, but yet we have a softer side to us and please, we prefer the term metro-sexual not macho’. There is nothing wrong with it, but a century ago, such practices would have been considered effeminate and over a period of time, through a rigorous process of cultural evolution, it’s a done thing.

Love is blind is a phrase, which often strikes a chord with everyone and brings forth a discussion on perception. There will always be hushed whispers of ‘wait, he’s so hot, how could he date such a cow!?!’ or vice versa. Biologically speaking, it’s more likely that chemistry struck (remember that chapter on hormones?) rather than cupid’s arrow or an unlimited credit card for that reason, but when you witness the aforementioned site, it is more likely that you think what does he or she see in her or him? This is where it all boils down to perception. Never mind that to the entire population, the girl may closely resemble our simian ancestors, but in her lover’s eyes, she’s as beautiful as Kate Moss.

In the context of everyday ordinary, it amuses me to see the difference between people, who adore dogs and others who are repulsed by them. The first group comprises of people, who perceive dogs to be gentle, cuddly and every other synonym, broadly under the category of cute. The other group looks at them with disdain, looking at them as dirty creatures, who thrive on attacking people at will, spewing drool and getting fur on every expensive object, be it an item of clothing or furniture. Therein, lies the difference of perception and its following behaviour. Psychologically, Freud, Jung and other eminent psychologists would have attributed it to childhood observations and reflections, hence, turning back eventually to perception.

Speaking of the ordinary, I fail to understand why a plain white handkerchief, if bought from a boutique would cost a bomb compared to the one bought from a local shop-keeper. Both would be white and square in shape and the only difference would be in the logos. On the left hand corner, in minute embellishments, there would be a designer name and the price tag would be enough to cause you heartburn for a decade. Is this the cause of perception? Just for the reason we heap laurels at the designer, because he or she lovingly declared the ‘yellow is the new black of the season!’, does it mean he or she is perceived as the supreme authority, when it comes to fashion (and its okay for him or her to charge the average annual income of a middle class man for a piece of cloth!)? All the media around us will first gently nudge us, then push us and finally, pester us to believe that to own one of the designer’s new ‘it’ products would change our life, like the advertisements, where we would prance around like their waif thin models in gorgeous glittery gowns with sulky expressions, even in the plushest of environs. Every article of our day to day existence, be it clothes, houses, furniture, pets, friends, cars etc. is shrouded under a cloud of illusion. You wouldn’t dream of purchasing an article if it wasn’t supposed as an article of want. Behaviour, morals, traditions, art, culture, religion, rights, rituals, social norms and etiquettes – all fall under category of perception. If they weren’t perceived by a certain society or community to fit in ‘right’, they wouldn’t have acquired their current position.

Movies with invisibility clocks, laser beams, force fields etc. helped bend our perception of reality a bit and even more so of the scientists, who constructed weapons (sadly!) or are in the process of constructing weapons that have such attributes.

Everything associated with human nature and culture is dependent on a single factor, which understands an element in a certain manner. It helps us understand the difference between the normal and abnormal, the sane and the insane, the good and the bad and eventually every single thing that crosses our fancy. Every individual, culture, race, gender, religion, region, country, sub continent etc. has its own unique way of interpreting it.

It’s called perception.

And in the end, everything is just a matter of perception.

Tara Verma


[Image source:http://www.flickr.com/photos/derricksphotos/20316288/]