I love lipstick. Ever since I was a child I have been fascinated by it. In my childhood, in most conservative families this was a banned item. You could apply thick Kajal under your eyes which was considered very appropriate and even good for the eyes; on festive occasions grown-ups could use betel leaves and lime which reddened their lips which was completely acceptable. But applying lipstick was a strict no-no. My father said only ‘chattaikaris’ (anglo-Indians) used lipstick. – to my young mind it seemed like there was some sort of a law against non Anglo-Indians using it. And there wasn’t even the possibility of stealing lipstick from an adult’s cosmetic bag – none of my relatives used it. So lipstick came to symbolise all that I wanted to be when I grew up – rebellious, liberated and free to do what I wanted.

In my high school days whenever we participated in school plays or dances we were allowed to wear rose powder and lipstick which was all the make-up we knew about. The teacher in charge of these cultural activities had the budget to buy one container of the said powder ( cheapest of course – might have been Ponds in those days, not sure) and one bright red lip stick which was applied across the board irrespective of the colour of their dress and their own complexion. On those rare occasions I felt like Miss world and as Ugich Konitari mentions in this post, we always hoped we would be allowed to sleep with the make-up on. Most of us would be scared to close our painted lips for fear of erasing it. Imagine having to use words with sounds like M and P! That would have meant danger to the colour on the lips and we were quite sure that the teacher would not have entertained any request for a touch up. I remember rushing back to the house after the event with all the powder and lipstick on my face making sure that the lips were pursed inward all the way home. It might have meant trouble if any adult we knew had spotted me with lipstick on the street.

Lipstick and trouble seem to go together as though they were meant for each other. Remember the ‘lipstick on the pig’ remark by the American President-elect Obama during his election campaign? And of course ‘lipstick on the collar’ has always meant trouble for married men!! In ancient Egypt it was a source of much trouble because ancient Egyptian women squeezed out purple-red color from iodine and bromine, leading to serious diseases and hence it came to be referred to as ‘the kiss of death’. Cleopatra’s lipsticks spelt trouble too - not to her but to certain species of insects. It is said that Cleopatra’s lipstick were made from carmine beetles, which when worked with pestle gave a strong red color pigment. This was mixed with ant’s eggs, which provided the base. And in recent history, a certain Mr. Naqvi may not have had much peace since he mentioned the word lipstick..

I have courted trouble too with my obsession with the lipstick. When I was in the seventh or eighth grade, there was this friend in our class who was very fair and had naturally pink lips. She had this habit of biting her lips every now and then which made her lips even redder. I remember spending many an evening trying to bite my lips in the hope of turning them naturally red and finally I only ended with sore lips, blood and all. And then came the discovery of Asha. My mother used a sort of wax as the base before applying her kumkum on the forehead – it was called ‘asha” for some reason. Perhaps that was the name of the brand. Now this was a bright red wax much like today’s lip balm and a little of it was enough to give a bright red colour. For a while it became a favorite clandestine activity to steal ‘asha” and apply it all over the lips. Suddenly one felt all grown up and ‘sophisticated’ – there was a change in the way one spoke and walked with ‘asha’ on the lips. One fine afternoon, my father caught me red-handed ( red-lipped rather) and he asked me to wipe it off right away – he said I looked like a monkey .

I was twenty-one by the time I owned by first lipstick which was part of a make-up set gifted by my college friends for my wedding. And by the early eighties it was quite common for middle-class working women to wear lipstick though generally not among teachers, doctors etc. Just as the lipstick was coming within my reach there was a change in fashion which made the un-made-up look popular at the workplace unless you were in the entertainment or hospitality industries. Otherwise people wore lipstick only for parties, weddings etc. Or they wore shades that blended naturally with their lip colour which made it almost invisible. None of the maroon that actress Rekha sported and looked gorgeous and which I so longed to wear. Not that I'd have been able to carry it off but did I care? And on the rare occasions that I actually got to use a lipstick I realised that I simply did not possess the panache to keep it on. One glass of juice was enough to get rid of it all; and I don’t think I would choose to starve in order just to keep the colour on.So finally I have accepted that I was never born to wear a lipstick and yet, if you see me lingering in a page in any magazine it would most certainly have an ad for some brand of lipstick.

Now that I have established clearly that I do not wear any lipstick, Mr. Naqvi, may I shout some slogans against you?
41 Responses
  1. I saw that news item of Mr Naqvi -i totally agree with you on this.

    Slightly off topic ,but i want to make this point.This has got nothing to do with the statement above.

    Having said that i have seen so many of these so called hip people who go around ,try to gain publicity by making peace marches -when deep inside they care a shit for the common people.

    A classic example is whats happ in bangalore if u know ,our prasad bidappa-this ass is a womaniser and a drug addict was caught in dubai for possesing drugs pulled the right strings got back to bangalore and now talks about freedom of expression

    point i am making : people like this who give a false mask on themselves have no locus standi /moral right to question wrong doing when they themselves are on the wrong side more often than not!!!!!!

  2. Anonymous Says:


    You are 50 and I am 28, so I guess I can consider myself to be someone from the next generation ...
    But your lipstick story is word by word a story of my listick-life :-)
    only that ur asha story didn't take place .. Though I coloured my lips in a photograph of me recieving a prize for getting a state rank in 10th ( i wasn't that young too) my dad was horrified to see that photograph and ofcourse it looked artificial coz i coloured on the photograph and those were the days before digital camera, my dad hunted down the professional photographer who covered the event and got another copy ...

    I bought my first lipstick with my first salary, but didn't use it much coz I thought I didnt look good in that ... i moved to mumbai and even my "kaam waali bai" used to come in various shades of lipstick and also in office ppl used to ask me y i don't wear lipstick and then i started to ...

    BUT, even now when i visit my hometown on vacations from USA, my dad requests me not to wear or atleast to wear so light that noone can notice that i have lipstick !!!

    And ur story of lipstick during school dances is so true ....
    we used to talk in sign-language then .. so afraid that the lipstick will be lost !!!!
    and i used to put up a big fight to sleep with the make-up on, but my mom will make sure that I coconut-oil to take off the make-up :-)


  3. Anonymous Says:

    talk of lipsticks reminds me of my college days,wearing those bandhani dresses from gurjaris and with long dimple like hairstyle a red lipstick would suddenly make one look like those movie stars and then we had such nice skins that there was no need for any other make up too.even now this is my only make up.

  4. Aarabi Says:

    lol! guess what? i'm 21 and i faced the same thing at home! My dad still hates it when i wear lipstick.
    But i love the fact that lipstick gives women a confidence super boost, so i sneakily buy lipstick for my younger cousins in pretty colours :D
    and the family back home is just starting to accept it i think :)
    oh and pl pl dont think you cant carry lipstick on for hours. you can!lay on the colour strong, take a tissue and kiss it hard, so your lips are nice and dry. lay on a very light coat of your lipstick, jus to make them look fresh and dewy :D
    personally, i think natural colours look way more beautiful then red :) but mature women can carry it off bee-you-ti-fully! so go for it girl! heart ya! :)
    keep posting!

  5. Hip Grandma Says:

    I for one did not wear lipstick even on my wedding day.No,it was not actually banned.In the boarding school where I studied it was common among anglo Indian girls to talk of boyfriends and ball dances.Thiugh not allowed to wear lipstick in school they were free to dress up for X'mas and New year celebrations. In an effort to be different and since I had decided that I belonged to an intellectual class so I said NO to lipstick.Even in the school drama I played Kannagi so lipstick was not required.My daughters must have gone through the emotions you mention.

  6. Anonymous Says:

    The point that's objectionable is how women make easy targets.In this case their form of protest is held as example of bad behaviour/heckling or crticising. Why could not Mr Naqvi say some fancy rich and spoilt dandies/ desi boyz/ Armani suit clad men/ or hair gel wearing gents are holding candles and making noise? Why does the lipstick clad society dame raise his ire and not the Cool Water wearing spoilt rich man?

    My latest buy:BodyShop's shimmery lip gloss.

  7. Ardra Says:

    could relate to your post almost word to word.
    I remember once i was gifted an assortment of lip stick in different hues. I was so thrilled, but my amma kept it locked. once I managed to get my hands on it, I applied one of the colors so lightly, but amma found out- she just threw the entire set out of the balcony into the wasteland stretching out beyond. :-( I was devastated...
    Today, I don't like wearing lipstick, somehow I feel it doesn't suit me.

  8. Anonymous Says:

    @ Usha: 'anglo indian' is atleast better. I have heard the grand old people of my house say it is 'call gal' exclusive and I am guilty of holding on to that beleif until I reached 16!

  9. Anonymous Says: someone else said, inspite of being 27, I have come across what all you have said in your post.
    There used to be this tablet called "liv52"( not sure liv52 or something else, I am not able to recollect) in red colour. And when we chew that tablet the red colour comes off. I used to take that to school when I was in my 6th , wet the tablet a li'l and scratch it on my lips to get the red colour and show off in front of my friends, that I have worn a lipstick.... hahahah...
    cute post!

  10. Usha Says:

    Stalag:I do not know much about Prasad Bidappa but unless he is someone who is known to curb others' freedom, I suppose he has every right to march for freedom. Don't you think? And I think it is actually refreshing to see Page 3 personalities coming out and supporting a good cause.

    Anamika:I am so glad that you can relate to this. I thought almost all young girls use make-up these days.

    Anon:You must really look lovely.

    Arabi: Thanks for the tip. I'm first going to shout some slogans and then go and try your method for applying lipstick.

    Hipgran:And how I envied those people. hm....

    Maami: You are so right. And this in 2008!
    Oh my god, even that name looks so alluring. Let me begin saving for it.

    Ardra: Your story has happened to some of my friends who were fortunate to have aunts visiting from abroad who bought them these elovelies.

    Praveen: in the 90s!!! Some people don't change, do they?

    aargee:Hehehhe. Liv 52 uh? The allure of lip colour is so strong indeed...

  11. diya Says:

    Usha,in my house there was no restriction on the use of lipstick and my mom can and still applies lipstick very well, however call me clumsy or just foolish, firstly I can not put on any makeup properly and secondly I eat the lipstick within minutes even if I put some on! This after watching my mom dress up and do her hair and make up for numerous functions. I used to love to watch Ma put on the eye liner and lips stick and finally the kum kum bindis. She had many bolltles of different coloured kum kum powders for the beautiful saaris she wore. The sticker bindi is very boring compared to the artistry of the kum kum bindi. aaah those good old days!
    I agree with maami that women are easy targets, the Naqvi fellow may have the inclination to dress up himself, that's why he is resentful!
    shall I tell you something, this type of criticizm, goes back to the days when the Hindu Code Bill was debated in the Constituent Assembly way back in the 1940s. One member of the C Ass said that it was the 'lavender lipstick' and 'vanity bag' variety of women who were asking for the daughter's right to her father's property and not the pious Hindu woman.I think we should make this fool Naqvi apologise by slapping a PIL against the chap. In a democracy you cannot make such gendered statements and still have the gall to stand for elections!

  12. Mama - Mia Says:


    lipstick is the ONLY make-up i KNOW to use! or so i would like to think till i read about brush and how to apply a base colour and use a lip liner to outline it etc etc!! :p

    i LONE lipsticks and apply it everyday! ofcos it goes off pretty quick and i never remember to refresh it! just the way i dont remember to comb my hair again or wahs my face in the evening! :( its just too much effort!

    but i feel naked without lipstick while getting outta house! bhale it goes off in next hour, but when i get out i need it on! :D

    lipstick in childhood was only when we wore saree or some special occassion and ofcos school/bldg cultural programmes! :D

    had fun reading this one!



  13. noon Says: parents were the same way. So much so I still am not comfortable wearing lipstick. May be because it doesn't suit me much. I was so enamored by my SIL's lipstick when she first came to our family...I was so fascinated by the make up table and the bunch of lipsticks that she used to have in a circle...the dark maroons esp were my favorite. I wore bright lipstick for my wedding - probably the only time I wore it and it didn't look awkward when I looked in the mirroe. I do use lip balm that is mildly colored though. Kajal and eyeliner are my make up items. When I go for a party I mainly only do eye make up if at all...
    Was fun to read this post...

  14. The problem is many. innocent voters will think these protests are just a rich, culture-less & moral-less city dwelling folks' pass time!

    The purpose of such frivolous talk is to woo who he thinks are the real voters, and these he knows are unlikely to wear lipstick.

  15. Choxbox Says:

    nice post usha.

    not much into the stuff myself, for no particular reason. maybe bcoz no one around me in my growing up years used much make-up.

  16. ROFL at that last line. You didn't have to say all this to say that, but all the same glad you did! :-D

    Am a true blue mallu who had uncles in Gulph. :-D and they brought back lovely lovely lipsticks in lovely lovely make-up kits, that my beloved Mom kept under lock and key!! Why are parents so similar?? While she softened over the years, even today she frowns when, for wedings back home, I wear it a little too dark.. and she says, 'all that you can do in you B'lore, here you please be normal!'

  17. Hi Usha,

    I invite you and all bloggers to join as publishers.

    We look forward to working with you.


  18. Sakhi Says:

    Quite a read that was.. enjoyed thoroughly :) and let Mr. Naqvi go to hell.. why should we care!!

  19. Thanks so much for linking to my blog.

    Isnt it amazing, that of all the things our "leaders" should worried about, when a city is emerging from a terrible tragedy, "lipstick" and those that wear it , should be an issue?

    Women in India, when angered and provoked, en masse, have a tradition of marching in protest with rolling pins (mumbai) and bangles (everywhere), which are presented to the offending chaps.

    Can we look forward to a lipstick morcha ?

  20. Reema Says:

    I too have a weakness for lipstick.. :) Though I use only the natural color ones. I too have expressed my anger about this comment by Mr.Naqvi

  21. Anonymous Says:

    Interesting post on Lipstick. I am certain Naqvi has got his earful now and will think twice before he opens his lips. Now, About the lipstick don't you think it is time to make lipstick to cater to the real consumers, the men? I mean after it is us who get it when we kiss. I demand that lipstick be released in nice flavours, no not those geeky fruity flavours. I want lipstick flavoured like Aloo Paratha, or Masala dosa or Saravana Bhavan Mini idlis.

  22. Artnavy Says:

    oh i am so uncomfy with lipstick

    but the rose powder and one lipstick for all during school skits was so true!!

  23. Anonymous Says:

    :) I have a photo when I was probably around 2 yrs old where my mom had dressed me up - lipstick and all and I've actually posed for the pic with a weird smile showing my teeth so that the lips wouldn't touch.

    Was not that intrigued by lipstick - maybe cos I used to wear them all the time for dances and it made my lips too cracked. Even now I use tinted lip balm.

  24. Anonymous Says:

    "One fine afternoon, my father caught me red-handed ( red-lipped rather) and he asked me to wipe it off right away – he said I looked like a monkey."
    Even now, my dad tells me the same ;)

  25. Unknown Says:

    So true - my Dad was aghast when I asked for a lipstick as a birthday present when I turned 18. It's another fact that I did not heed my Mom's suggestions and chose instead a virulent pink, which I never used . With my first salary I bought me 2 Lakme lipsticks in nice moderate shades . oof the drama over the first lipstick and the tears and teeth gnashings !

  26. WhatsInAName Says:

    Well, I still have to find a dad who likes lipsticks on his daughter. And in my case, my hubby followed my dads footsteps.
    And as if the world conspires for them, lipsticks do not suit me AT ALL :( though I do love to see other women sporting it!
    My elder daughter goes after HipHopGmom, saying NO to makeup while younger one is just the opposite! She wont refrain from flaunting even a lipgloss!

  27. oh Usha ... you atleast had rose powder and lipstick ... in my small town school a shocking pink lipstick served for cheeks, lips and sometimes eyes (as eye shadow) !!

  28. Suku Says:

    there used to a packet of candy called 'phantom cigarettes' ..named such perhaps because they did look like cigarettes. they were our favorites growing up not because they were cigarettes but because they had these very red tips when moist, leave a red sexy color on one's lips!that was my first attempt in applying lipstick!
    good read!

  29. Art Says:

    Once I reached engineering... mom got a set of lipsticks so that I could wear out of college... But i somehow never liked make up.
    Even for the wedding, since the make up lady forced I had some on... Wiped off a little once she left...

    But honestly I envy people who can carry off the lipstick so well... I some how tend to eat it up or leave all the lipstick on the glass...

    My SIL gifted one at marraige, I love that one.. and on most of the occasoins when I feel like, I use that.. and it feels great...

    This is a mini post here :)

  30. aMus Says:

    ha..ha...a strong case indeed against mr. naqvi...

    lipstick used to be the forbidden fruit, so to say...:D

  31. Artnavy Says:

    you have been awarded

  32. Hi,

    I invite you and all bloggers to join as publishers.

    We look forward to working with you.


  33. Parul Says:


    Seriously, how about starting now? I recommend MAC's new red line very highly, I do :)

  34. Anonymous Says:

    I love lip colors...and I remember when we didnt have 1 at home, so I used to form teams with people who would have 1 so that I could also get color-ed in the process....and when I finally convinced mum to buy one...i was thrilled...and then there was no stopping(u remember the Mac incident dont u?);)!

  35. i lurve lispsticks... cant do without them

  36. Doli Says:

    Even I love lipsticks too :) Although I prefer the lighter shades of pink so that no one notices.. Of late I have started using the gel kinds that you get .. it's not a lipstick and neither is it a chapstick.. not sure what to call it but it comes in various flavors :)

  37. chitra Says:

    Lipstick : yes I thoought i only had the problem to have the problem with my lipstick . One cup of cofee and it gets wiped off.

    Well, try Lakme's '9 to5' one. They say it remains the whole day despite the numerous cups of cofee.

  38. DotThoughts Says:

    what a charming story! Enjoyed it a lot!

  39. Nice :) Took me back to the time when i was a little kid and would beg and beg my mom to let me try her lipstick just once..

  40. Anonymous Says:

    ha ha it was the same in my childhood too... I think many girls have this fantasy of applying lipstick in the younger age... I just loved it on me for dance programs and all (eventho when i look at those pics now... I feel wth...coz it was bright bright red)... I loved those dark reddish shades, but what to do, they are not in fashion anymore.. Now searching for me like a nude or light brow color... :)...

    nice post..

  41. Jane Turley Says:

    Another interesting post; I've always been fascinated by lipstick. As a child I used to watch my grandmother apply her lipstick at her dressing table and then go through the process of blotting them so that it never looked overdone.

    I used to watch my mother too..she had the most perfect lips which any film star would have been jealous of and even when she was over 70 yrs they never bled. (What we call it over here when the lipstick merges with the surrounding skin.)

    Lipstick is the one thing I always wear. I don't care if someone sees all my spots but I must have my lippy on!

    I've kept all my mother's lipsticks. I can't bear to part with them; it would be like parting with a little piece of her.