There is one of a growing number of Indians who are choosing cosmetic
surgery, one of the nation's fastest growing medical specialties, according to
the Indian Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons. And yet, even though such
procedures are gaining popularity, cosmetic surgery patients are not willing to
discuss a taboo subject in a nation whose Hindu precepts scorn plastic surgery
as superficialities of a material world.
"It's totally taboo to talk about it," said the president of
the plastic surgeons association. "And that is a problem."
Hinduism's four stages of life - student, householder (family, job),
retirement and ascetic - state that a good Hindu slowly retires from worldly
attachments with full detachment in the final ascetic stage.
Although cosmetic surgeons say most Indians seeking surgery are females in
their 20s and 30s, they agree that a growing number of older patients are
seeking face-lifts, liposuction and breast reduction.
"It's expected that at the age of 60 or 65, you should not spend money on
getting more beautiful, because you are already past your prime," said one
Such societal taboos often lead patients to lie to their friends and family
about sudden loss of wrinkles and fat, doctors say.
While there are no reliable nationwide statistics, cosmetic surgery has
increased at least fivefold in the past decade even among men, according to the
Indian plastic surgeon association.
Most analysts agree that the steep rise in cosmetic surgery is linked to
India's economic boom. As salaries soar, many upper- and middle-class urbanites
have more disposable income. At the same time, young, financially independent
Indians are frequenting beauty salons, aerobic studios and gyms, which have
become common sights across India.
And as more Indians read foreign magazines, surf the Internet and watch
satellite television, Western standards of beauty have become more popular,
according to doctors and patients.
Dipankar Gupta, a sociology
professor at Jawaharlal Nehru University in New
Delhi and author of "Mistaken Modernity: India Between Worlds," agrees that
Western ways are largely responsible for fueling the rise of cosmetic surgery,
but notes that Bollywood movies have also played a role by idealizing Western
"Had (Western influence) come straight from Brad
Pitt to New Delhi, it
wouldn't have worked," said Gupta.
While many seekers of cosmetic surgery are among India's nouveau rich -
actors, politicians and models - there are also blue-collar workers who spend
months saving for such procedures, doctors say.
In a sign that cosmetic surgery has reached the mainstream, the television
show "Naya Roop, Nayi Zindagi," Hindi for "New Look, New Life," is expected to
air soon. The program is modeled after the popular American program "Extreme
Makeover" and follows patients through a variety of cosmetic surgeries.
Unnikrishnan, the program's creative director, says the series will
show Indians that cosmetic surgery is an acceptable way to overcome perceived
"It's no longer a problem with no solution," Unnikrishnan says. "There is a
solution, and it is not beyond our dreams."