Dark obsessions with fairness

India is a country obsessed with fair skin. The desire for white skin is embedded in our very culture. The question is, why? Why do we so strongly believe that the globally coveted, olive, dark tone of our skin is ugly?

Years ago, when I was with my daughters trying out bangles at a roadside vendors stall, I couldn’t help but overhear the conversation of two ladies standing nearby, mostly because they were talking about my daughters. “Those bangles look great on the little one’s fair skin; she looks exactly like her mom. The darker one must take after her dad.” It annoyed me that it became their business that I should have fair daughters, especially since I couldn’t think of anything more beautiful than them as they were.

Living in North America for a good amount of time as a skin and color analyst ( and now as Image makeover coach ) , I worked with a large spectrum of skin tones. The experience made me realize that the skin tones we, Indians have, can take strong, bright colors. In fact, our gorgeous skin tones are the only reason we don’t look drained out when we dress in the colors of our vibrant culture.

This came up today, because I could not get a certain meeting out of my mind. Last week, I met a woman who grew up hating the face she saw in the mirror. Hating it, because her entire family consistently pointed out that she was too dark to be beautiful. This bothered me even more when she admitted to occasionally saying it aloud, and her daughter would hear.

As a mom, I know that even when my kids had indiscernible, pink, scrunched up features, I thought they were absolutely beautiful. I also know that to them, I was the most beautiful person in the world. When I heard that this mom would say this around her daughter, and indirectly tell her too, that dark is not beautiful, it troubled me.

To deal with this, I start my sessions with a personal evaluation test. I encourage people to evaluate their physique, so that I can tell which parts of their body they consider assets and which parts they consider liabilities. This helps me decide how positive their body image is, and which parts I can concentrate on to better their self image. These tests have drawn my attention to the fact that most people I deal with are unhappy with their skin color. It’s not just the women though. On numerous occasions, I have been asked to suggest skin lightening creams or processes for men.

Sometimes, I find it difficult to believe that so many Indians do not see the advantages and beauty in the tone of Indian skin. I think it may finally be time to stop putting chemicals on our skin hoping that it lightens it and realize that it couldn’t possibly get any better than it is.


Babita Jaishankar


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‘Stay In’

This week, I have been asked to plan a workshop for women working in multinational company. I want to give them reason to ‘stay in’ in their current jobs and pursue their passion .The most common reason that they leave is often their kids, and the feeling that they don’t spend enough time with them. This letter is one from my daughter that I found today when I opened my laptop in office. Thank you Ashu for being my strength to follow my dreams 🙂
Here is the letter that I typed in as it was handwritten –
Dear Amma ,
You get so many compliments from so many people and so many people say you inspire them. I don’t really know how to make this stand out. But here goes anyways.
I love how you fill rooms with positive vibes. I think you are absolutely nuts but that’s the best thing about you. People who think they know you and haven’t seen your crazy side are really missing out.
I love how I can call you and cry to you over the phone. It makes me realize that you are that one person who doesn’t even need to be here to make me feel better.
I love how you walk out of the door every single day looking beautiful in your clothes and putting on a brave face even when you are sick just for those people who look up to you . I love hearing you talk about the people you met and see you light up because you just get happy thinking about someone’s whose life you impacted. You believe in yourself and the things you do and you inspire me to do the same thing. You make me want to love life and people and running around in heels in hot, sunny, crowded streets because in the end I just want to be as happy as you. You are a great mom and I’m proud to call you mine.
I love you,

So stay in there and hang on to your dreams 🙂


Babita Jaishankar

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What is lifestyle analysis and why do we do it ?


Understanding a person’s personality and lifestyle can tell us a lot about whether he/she is living life to the fullest or living a mechanical, strait-jacketed way of life. I recently came across this interesting article on dealing with routine by Deepak Chopra that talks about how routine influences our quality of life. Your lifestyle broadly fits into two categories – One is an unconscious lifestyle that creates an active feedback loop that takes new inputs everytime and leads to a better life experience, while the other creates a conscious one (called the “reactive rut”) that results in a dull and uninspiring life. The article talks about examining our routines so that we can rise above routine and live an alert and a wholesome life.

A routine driven life therefore can undermine the creative and lively sides of your personality. An important aspect of image makeover is to have your image portray your true personality and to understand if and why they are out of sync. The connection, as I mentioned above is your lifestyle When I look at someone’s lifestyle, I look at what they do and how they spend their time – professionally, with family, socially and for recreation. All this tells me how routine driven their life is and allows me to tweak their routines to help them realize their true potential and experience all their various personality traits. Sometimes this involves breaking an existing routine or distancing oneself from a negative influence, or even starting afresh and taking a new path. To illustrate the concept better, consider these real life examples –

  1. A is an social and caring person, but she lives a routine driven life as an IT professional. As a result, her life was in reactive, autopilot mode, with little spontaneity. In order for her to break the routine and experience the other sides of her personality, I helped her connect with a social work group and volunteer her time on a part time basis for a social cause. Today, she counsels students on a weekly basis and is involved in several other social gatherings.
  2. B is a well placed and influential beauracrat , who has an outgoing and lively personality, but lives a predictable life due to the nature of his work. He loves parties and dancing. Getting him enrolled in a dance class was all that was needed.
  3. C is a single mom who has been divorced for 15 years. Single handedly, she takes care of her old parents , sisters and a college going daughter. Taking care of her responsibilities and her job takes up all her energy and time, leaving little time to experience her true outgoing nature. I connected her to a networking group and a travel group that helps singles to travel together, giving them the much needed adventure and companionship, a sense of carefree abandon and most importantly – the joy of pampering themselves.

Break through and live life to your fullest 🙂


Babita Jaishankar

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Photography & People

Today we have a guest post by a professional photographer who has shared some insights as part of an ongoing series. Here she begins to discuss how as a photographer it is important to have a good rapport in order to accurately depict what the subject wants and how certain poses and clothes affects the overall mood in finished image.

Over many sessions of photographing people, I have come across subjects who come asking for specific looks and feel for a shoot. During my consult, I try and understand what exactly they want to achieve in their image (a.k.a what they want to project) even though it might be a bit staged.

I feel that clothes set the mood for how a person feels once they are in them. Do you want to feel romantic, sexy, casual at home, country style, etc.? What is the mood you want to convey? Also, to a great extent, how one poses also helps in pulling out those personality traits.

For most of my sessions I try and speak to the subject at length about their likes and dislikes prior to the shoot. I try and understand a bit about their personal lives and everyday routines so as to project their inner souls and aspirations as accurately as possible.

People fantasize a lot and more importantly about someone they always wanted to be but for various reasons couldn’t. Photo shoots allow them those moments. To capture them and relive those dreams. Choosing the right outfit and style is definitely important. However, the overall set decor and ambience, the lighting and even the pose adds to the final image.

Getting the pose right is crucial to the success of the overall picture. Facing the camera, be it still or motion can be quite unnerving for someone who doesn’t face the medium quite often or isn’t a professional model.

It is up to the photographer to make the subject fall into the pose and help get them overcome their fears or stiffness. Even models start out shy but with good assistance and experience, it becomes easy. Very few people are natural in front of the camera and take to directions easily.

Giving a subject directions to pose, should stem from a feeling of mutual trust and respect. A good rapport is very important and conveys professionalism but a bit more personally. However, there is a thin line, as in any other profession, between being overly privy to personal and intimate details and helping a subject to ease in front of the camera. Goes, without saying, this line should in no way be breached. You are first a photographer and then a friend and confidant.

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Begin by discussing comfort poses. Take a few while engaging in small talk. Something that is easily disclosed rather than intimate topics. Keep giving them feedback so that they know they are following your suggestions and are not overwhelmed by the silence…which normally ensues while you check the back of the camera. This slowly breaks down the ice and loosens the muscles. They begin to feel more secure and confident in your presence and start to flow into more staged poses easily. This gives the photographer more natural looking staged poses, per se. Giving them suggestions and showing reference shots can help the subject to understand your interpretation of how they want themselves to be captured. Certain angles, frame sizes also go a long way in bringing out the vision which needs to be a teamwork rather than a commander and follower relationship.

Eventually the both the subject and photographer will be comfortable in working with each other and it will also reflect in the end result, the images.


Rashmi Varier is a professional photographer who specializes in People and Food & Drink Photography. You can find more of her work on the link .

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Winterize your hair and skin

If you are a person with a large volume of hair like me then you know its War when it comes to keeping your hair moisturized during the cold season. From frizziness to an itchy scalp to hair breakage sometimes it seems impossible to combat the dryness building up in your hair.

Here is what I do ( not because I am from Kerala 🙂  ), yes you guessed it right – Coconut oil

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For body massage – Coconut oil with turmeric

For hair massage – Coconut oil with rosemary ( I love the fragrance it gives to the oil, it also boost immune system and increases blood circulation)

Orange peel body scrub – Takes away the excess oil from the body after the oil massage. Orange peel scrub is made at home with cleaned, sundried orange peel.

Why Coconut oil ?

For thousands of years, coconut oil has found itself among the most popular hair conditioners. By improving hair cuticle and scalp health, coconut oil can actually repair damaged hair. The antifungal properties also help eliminate the need for dandruff shampoos. All of these contribute to hair growth.

Fatty acids bind to the protein in hair and protect both the roots and strands of hair from breakage. Lauric acid is found in coconut oil and has better results than other mineral or sunflower oils when it comes to improving hair health. The natural antioxidants and nutrients found in coconut oil will deliver critical resources to improve your hair’s softness and luster. Coconut oil is rich in vitamin E, vitamin K and iron and effectively eliminates dandruff while boosting hair growth.

If possible cover your hair and scalp with a warm towel couple of times and shampoo your hair after 15- 20 minutes.

Have a ‘pampered’ Sunday !!


Babita Jaishankar

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How do you manage it all?


Running a business, a family and yes – cooking three meals a day, traveling from one end of Bangalore to another everyday and be all dressed up 🙂 . I get this question all the time – “how do you manage it all?”.
We all have 24 hours in a day. How do we use them more effectively? And most importantly, how can we manage our time to live healthier and happier, do the things that we know are important, and still handle the tasks that are urgent? I’m battling with that question just like you are, but in my experience there are three time management tips that actually work in real life and will help you improve your health and productivity.

  1. No more ‘half work’

 So what is half work?  I call this division of your time and energy “half-work.” Here are some examples of half-work…

  • You start writing a report, but stop randomly to check your phone for no reason or to open up Facebook or Twitter.
  • You try out a new workout routine. Two days later, you read about another “new” fitness program and try a little bit of that. You make little progress in either program and so you start searching for something better.
  • Your attention wanders to your email inbox while you are on the phone with someone.

Where and how you fall into the trap of half-work is unimportant. The result is always the same: you are never fully engaged in the task at hand, you rarely commit to a task for extended periods of time, and it takes you twice as long to accomplish half as much. Half-work is the reason why you’re able to get more done on your last day before vacation (when you really focus) than you get done in the 2 weeks prior (when you’re constantly distracted). One technique that I use, is to block out everything else so I can focus on one project. For starters,I have started telling people not to call me or ping me on facebook or on whatsapp unless urgent.  To avoid interruptions for sure, I switch off all the gadgets for 2-3 hours so I can focus on my time with kids or on new article/ collection that I am might be working on. I pick one exercise and make it my only focus for the entire workout. I’ll leave my phone while going for a jog also my way of getting myself some “me” time This complete elimination of distractions is the only way I know to get things done. In that way I am not worried or feeling guilty about that ‘half – done ‘ work .

  1. Do the most important thing first.

I do my best to make sure that if there is something important that I need to do, then I do it first. If I have an important article to write, I just grab a cup of hot chai and start typing as soon as I wake up. The same thing applies to my meetings too. I try to finish or schedule these in the first half of the day . If you do the most important thing first, then you’ll never have a day when you didn’t get something important done.

  1. Stick to the schedule.

There might be occasions when deadlines make sense, (like reaching a place at particular time or serving dinner at home by 7:30pm) but I’m convinced that when it comes to doing important work over the long-term, following a schedule is much more effective. When it comes to the day-to-day grind, however, following a schedule is easier said than done. Ask anyone who plans to workout every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, and they will tell you how hard it is to actually stick to their schedule every time without fail. To counteract the unplanned distractions that occur and overcome the tendency to be pulled off track, I’ve made a small shift in how I approach my schedule. My goal is to put the schedule first and not the scope, which is the opposite of how we usually approach our goals. For example, let’s say you wake up today with the intention of running 5 km in the evening ( it is another thing that I have started doing it in the morning itself ) . During the day, your schedule gets crazy and time starts slipping away. In the evening, you only have 20 minutes to workout. At this point, you have two options. The first is to say, “I don’t have enough time to workout today,” and spend the little time you have left working on something else. The second option is to reduce the time, but stick to the schedule. Instead of running 5KM , you run 1KM or dance to a bollywood song or skip ropes for half an hour . But you stick to the schedule and get a workout in no matter what. I have found far more long-term success using the this approach than the first. The cumulative impact of always staying on schedule is huge. No matter what the circumstance and no matter how small the workout, you know you’re going to finish today’s task.

Dressing up and taking care of myself is also part of my schedule 🙂 If i have time i may spend a little more time on my eye makeup or i would at least put a kajal , lip gloss and rush off .

That’s how little goals become lifetime habits. Finish something today, even if the scope is smaller than you anticipated.

Love Babita Jaishankar

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To that girl in me

 #BAJA‘s Own “#Anne“…The strong willed girl who wanted to live her life to the fullest…who never let her focus shift…
YES , Slip in to this beautiful creation of #BAJA and take a walk down your memory lane…remember your dreams as a little girl…is’nt it time to get back to those and fulfill them for YOU…
“#ANNE” – A beauty…you will love her…WE DO…

Wore this wonderful dress to park with kids and i just loved it 🙂anne anne4 anne3 anne2 anne 1silver coins

Happy weekend and love that little girl in you 🙂


Babita Jaishankar

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Dramatic Wardrobe

#Tuesday #workwardrobe Wore a skirt ( feels like a doll’s skirt ) of raw silk in true red , beige chiffon top with butterfly ( in layers ) sleeves . A day when you are working on some new concepts #dramatic has to be the theme.

Kept eyes subtle as i wanted lips to be colored pretty bright .

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Babita Jaishankar

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Our own In-house makeover story

I remember the day when Parvathi came to us as we were looking for someone who could take care of our store . I was not very sure if she could do justice to the brand image that we are trying to project for our clothing brand BAJA . Then Amrutha ( my business  partner )  and me decided to give her a chance and we also were very confident that we would be able to groom her .


  So here is Parvathi’s  makeover story  from a very meek girl to a very confident BAJA employee. A girl who would shy away from camera. Everything about her is a true transformation – from the way she speaks to the customer, she coordinates with people in our unit , managing the couriers, following up with customers and getting the job done at the bank. Love the attitude shift – Now her confidence level has increased so much that she can go to anyone and ask ,clear doubts and get the job done – Proud of her and ourselves 🙂

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Way to go Parvathi , she has now inspired so many more makeover stories .


Babita Jaishankar


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Why dressing up is good?

This week is been a week of festivities ( with Ganesh chathurthi and Onam ) . I wore saree, high heels, lipstick, bindi and flowers in my hair. I don’t do that every day. And I loved it.

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It was something I needed to do since becoming a image makeover consultant ( a corporate trainer) I am most of the time in formals . And i also advice people to dress up to the occasion and audience . It was time for me  to take things up a notch and make an effort. So, I did, and felt all the better for it.

I believe women need this and men, well, should. Because what we do when we make an effort, to dress up, suffer heels, iron and starch and strut our sartorial stuff is to show respect.

Understanding and adhering to a dress code involves tradition and as such, requires passing on down generations, preferably by example. I believe being a mom to two daughters it is my duty to tap their shoulder and say, ”this is not a jeans occasion and while you’re changing in to something respectful, brush your hair”. What’s more, to encourage them to enjoy the experience. Remind young people that it feels good to look good. Because when we make an effort to dress up for an occasion ( like it was for Onam today ) is like showing respect . It’s a celebration of occasion and ourselves. It’s not old fashioned, just out of fashion. Style and class does not have seasons. It is eternal. We just don’t get opportunities today to play fantasy dress-ups without feeling self-conscious, to give our decorous inner selves an outing.

So dress up this coming festival 🙂


Babita Jaishankar

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