From when we are quite young, we are introduced to the concept of 'inner beauty'.
This is done by our elders with the lofty ideal of teaching us that physical attractiveness in human beings is not important - as long as the human beings referred to are not in our family. So we continue to cheerfully buy and use products such as 'Fair and Lovely' and place matrimonial ads that need only be answered by "good looking" prospective brides and grooms - while simultaneously pontificating on how "beauty is in the eye of the beholder" and why we shouldn't " judge a book by its cover". This essentially means that, while other people are permitted to walk around looking like the offspring of all those decidedly unattractive people such as plumbers, carpenters and school principals, we ourselves must take utmost efforts to resemble Hrithik Roshan or Deepika Padukone. A charming school of thought.
Although this Olympic-standard hypocrisy is perhaps morally abhorrent, it is not without its lessons. The very idea of 'inner beauty' as a true measure of worth is, when applied uniformly, a noble idea. Its core teaching is this - if one were to turn both men inside out (like underwear) and reveal their innards, it would be impossible to tell Brad Pitt from M.K.Azhagiri. When presented with two separate large intestines, neatly laid out on a surgical table, even the well-trained eye would not be able to tell which one belonged to Megan Fox and which one to Dolly Bindra. In other words, beauty is only skin-deep.
But while the elders seem to have got it covered when it comes to discrimination based on outward appearance, they've missed out on a similar solution for discrimination based on intellectual appearance. So, while the uglies amongst us can take refuge in the idea of 'inner beauty' (I rely on it quite frequently when defending my less-than-Adonis looks myself), the intellectually challenged have no such thing to lean on.
Which is why I believe it is important to instill the concept of 'inner intelligence' in a society that desperately needs it. Because intelligence is only skull-thick, yet we continue to discriminate against people who are not blessed with industrial quantities of it.
If you thought that society is biased in favour of good-looking folk, think how much more skewed things are in favour of intelligent ones. Intelligent people are more likely to do well in school and college, get better jobs and higher salaries, and be invited to speak at conferences, where they will be presented with boring management books as mementos. It's unfair, and unbecoming of what is supposed to be an egalitarian society to continue to allow this. What is to become of the idiots? The imbeciles? The morons? Of course, our Government, God bless it, is valiantly fighting to ensure a fair and equal-opportunity society by implementing reservations for people who aren't smart enough to actually score well in examinations - but we need more.
We need people to believe in inner intelligence, just like they do in inner beauty.
So the next time you see someone who has trouble adding four-digit numbers or figuring out simple logic puzzles, is incapable of writing coherent sentences with correct grammar, or cannot understand irony, remember this - what is important is that they all possess great inner intelligence. Which is far more important than mere external intelligence - which should, in a truly egalitarian society - be as meaningless as external beauty.
And while, as a nation, we are still struggling to create a society free of discrimination based on caste, language, ethnicity and religion, the one area in which we have triumphed is in making sure that people who wouldn't win any beauty pageants are given a fair shot at success. For evidence of this, just take a look at our cabinet ministers. Nobody would accuse any of them of extreme sex-appeal, but they are among the most powerful and influential people in the land. Lack of external beauty is clearly no impediment to being successful in India, so why can't we do the same for people who lack in external intelligence?
We need to revamp our education system so that it measures inner intelligence as opposed to meaningless outer intelligence. We must follow the lead of beauty pageants, which are sincere in their efforts to make sure that inner beauty also counts towards the eventual results - by throwing in some random questions which give the contestants an opportunity to demonstrate their inner beauty by mouthing platitudes involving climate change, world hunger, education, and Mother Teresa. Similarly, we could introduce elements into our competitive examinations that allow candidates to exhibit their inner intelligence. Perhaps a swimsuit round in the IAS examination. Or a colour-by-numbers section in the CBSE plus two physics paper. Or a vote-by-SMS component to decide the IIT JEE results. Such measures will ensure that the candidates with extremely high inner intelligence would not be lost out to the nation's human resource pool. Crucial.
For far too long, we have designed systems that keep candidates with inner intelligence out of the corridors of success and power. This is nothing more than an intellectual caste system that shuts out people just because they are clueless - which is no fault of theirs. It is no different from apartheid. Or not allowing David Hasselhoff into planes. It is time to rise up against this age-old injustice, and recognize that stupid folk are no different from smart ones in any way, and deserve the same opportunities and rewards from society.
Only when we accept that there is no difference between fair and dark skinned people, beautiful and ugly people, and intelligent and idiotic people can we claim that our society is truly free.
Once we've achieved that, we can then move on to correcting another similar major injustice - the way our society discriminates against lazy slobs in favour of hard-working and productive persons. It will then be time to recognize and celebrate inner hard work - which is clearly so much more meaningful than outer hard work. See? I knew you'd agree.
Disclaimer: This is a humour column and the author has always espoused the cause of making statements tongue-firmly-in-cheek. He requests that you take his column with a generous pinch of salt, if not a bucketful. Water after it, however, is completely optional.