The Face Mask by Anita Nair

This thirteen lines poem, The Face Mask, is divided into two parts. The first one talks about the fashionable form of the poem that is well depicted by the words like ‘sandal and turmeric dust’, ‘Yogurt’, ‘a few drops of rose-watered hope’, while the second part tells about who the poet use this mask made-up with the application of ‘sandal and turmeric dust’, ‘Yogurt’, ‘a few drops of rose-watered hope’, in order to wash away the past speckled with yellow ‘maybes’.

Besides, by dividing this poem in two parts, the poet wants to differentiate between the masked face and unmasked face. The poet also wants to show how the people hide their true selves through the mask of make-up, especially the women who are very make-up conscious. The poet Anita Nair is herself a woman, and she is writing about the two facets of make-up that a woman applies on her face then she may be indicating towards the women who have dual character.

Using first person pronoun ‘I’, the poet takes the responsibility of all the blames she levies on the semi-made-up and over-made-up women. With the use of ‘I’ she is addressing the whole women community who bears the mask of make-up to hide their true selves.

 

The Face Mask Analysis

With sandal and turmeric dust

(…)

a splendid new face for this new me.

The poet says in order to fashion myself according to the time, and in order to create a new face in me, I apply the ‘lap’ of sandal and turmeric dust in addition to Yogurt and a few drops of rose-watered hope. The use of word ‘hope’ after ‘rose-watered’ means the hope of charm and glow that a woman is supposed to get. With the introduction of these lines at the very outset of the poem, the poet also wants to show how all these artificial things (though natural in true sense) help a woman bear the mask of falsehood and hypocrisy. How all these make-up materials make a woman happy when she feels a kind of glow on her face? These lines also bring to us the efforts a woman uses and applies to get a splendid new face. She almost does her best to hide her true selves, but in the second para, all is revealed and peeled off. Or so to say, the true self of a woman comes out when the make is removed from her face.

Through these lines, the poet may also be indicating the meeting that she is going to take with her beloved, and she may be getting ready for that. But this is nowhere shown in the first part. But it is well-understood through the lines that when a woman applies these make-up materials she does it to impress somewhere, and reading through the entire poem, it comes out that the make-up is a kind of mask that a woman wears to hide her true selves, that a woman wears to hide her sorrows, and so on. Thus, the first part of the poem shows one selves of a woman without make-up, while in the second part when the make-up is removed the true and false shade of a woman is removed.

With this mask I will

(…)

rejection

In this second part of the poem, the poet, Anita Nair, brings to us (readers) how we can shed our dead shells (bad memories) by masking ourselves with the makeup of ‘sandal and turmeric dust’, ‘Yogurt’, ‘a few drops of rose-watered hope’. At the very outset of this part, the poet herself says how she will be able to shed her past which is full of withered memories and possibilities.

How this make-up is going to help her in removing and getting rid of the past that has been very tormenting and painful. The meaning of ‘yellow maybes’ relates to the past gloomy days that have been very disturbing for her. But since she knows the power of makeup, she will be able to overcome these miseries by virtue of the application of ‘sandal and turmeric dust’, ‘Yogurt’, ‘a few drops of rose-watered.’

Read more:   The Last Rites by Anita Nair

The poet further says that with the application of ‘sandal and turmeric dust’, ‘Yogurt’, ‘a few drops of rose-watered,’ all of her past yellow ‘maybes’ will seep within, and they will collectively help her gather the debris of rejection that she might have had to face due to the rejection of her beloved. Comparing the first part and the second part, it seems that the poet is applying this make up to impress her lover who has rejected her proposal, and with the application of this make-up mask she wants to win the heart of her lover.

Or the poet may be a rejected lover who now wants to overcome the debris of rejection with the help of make-up using natural materials like ‘sandal and turmeric dust’, ‘Yogurt’, ‘a few drops of rose-watered.’ Thus, the entire poem revolves around the two selves of a woman. The poet has well-depicted how the make-up works as mask for women, and help them to hide their true feelings. This is not only a way of overcoming the sorrows, but it also lets them overcome their past that has been very gloomy due to the rejections. The poem

Smoothen weary pathways

And cleanse all traces of devastating faint

praise.

In these lines, the poet shows how the mask of make-up helps in smoothening the weary pathways of rejection, and how by virtue of it she will be able to cleanse all traces of devastating faint praise; that is words spoken in praise of her were not exactly for what they are meant. The poet has best used the power of make-up and tried to tell how powerful the natural herbs and ingredients could be when it comes to getting rid of the gloomy days.

 

About Anita Nair

Born at Mundakottakurissi near Shoranur in Kerala State, Anita Nair was one of the finest writers in Indian Writing in English. Since Anita was frequent visitor to Kerala, she knew the heart of rural Kerala. Her writings not only critically acclaim the rampant evils in the society but are also sold like hot cakes.

Some of the famous works of Anita Nair include: “Mistress” (2003), “Adventures of Nonu, the skating squirrel” (2006), “Living Next Door to Alise” (2007) and “Magical Indian Myths” (2008). Her works also include many travelogues. Her first book was a collection of short stories, named “Satyr of the Subway” (1997). Thereafter she never looked back and came up with “The Better Man” (2000), “Ladies Coupe” (2001), “The Puffin Book of Myths and Legends” (2004), and so on.

 

Critical Appreciation

The poem, The Face Mask is one of the best poems of Anita Nair. The poem is divided in two parts, and each part of the poem tells before and after effects of a woman. Using the words like ‘sandal and turmeric dust’, ‘Yogurt’, ‘a few drops of rose-watered,’ the poet wants to bring to us the power of make-up and lets us know how the mask of make-up helps a woman get rid of her past gloomy days, and how she wants to win the hearts of those who have rejected her, and how confident she feels after make-up. In all, this is one its kind poem which has defined the power of make-up, and how this mask of make-up can develop confidence in a woman, and how a woman after the application of make-up becomes confident and is able to win the hearts of those who have given pain to her, and how this power of make-up is going to help her smoothen the weary pathways, and cleanse all traces of devastating faint praise.

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