Her lip quivered with pride; her mother's face beamed. Srinidhi, the 11-year-old, book-licking, Scrabble-smashing prodigy elatedly took home the ribbon as Mensa's Child Genius of the Year, broadcast on Channel 4 on Tuesday night. My family got to their feet and cheered: hugs were exchanged, sweets were passed around, and for a few beautiful moments all the day's bitterness prompted by the daily inanity of bathroom-wars and the power-politics of remote-control control was cast aside to celebrate the motherland's latest miracle. Indians really like to get behind other Indians who win things.
But when I turned to Twitter, as you often do in these everyday celebratory moments, a surge of sickening calls for newly-crowned Child Genius to wax her upper-lip flooded my feed. The more I refreshed the page, the more infuriated I became with the puerile moustache-mania.
Such misplaced scrutiny of the genius child's appearance represents the most trifling form of judgement. So what if Srinidhi can complete mental maths sums that stump most fully-fledged adults? So what if she has written six novels at an age when most of us were still pretending to be Power Rangers? So what if the 11-year-old has shone round after round in the competition, excelling at every test of intelligence put before her? She's got a bit of hair between her nose and her mouth and it is holding her back, people. Take out the tweezers, heat up the wax and roll up your sleeves: we've got an innocent 11-year-old waiting to be objectified.
Contrary to what beauty magazines will have you believe, women, like most other mammals are prone to a bit of fuzz around their bodies. Around 25% of women get light facial hair, before some beauty columnist swoops in and tells them its highly undesirable and unfeminine. Tropes of women with facial hair as 'freakshow' bearded ladies have pervaded the entertainment industry for years.
But fear not, there's a multi-million dollar hair-removal industry out there that's
just dying to help with the grooming. They'll trim you and tweeze you, pluck out every last follicle and bleach anything remotely unsightly. They'll wax off every last little goosepimple that dares stand up straight in defiance, they'll shave you so close that beams of light will bounce off your skin and literally make you gleam like a piece of plastic. Endure it, ladies - beauty is pain. Repeat that mantra until you get so giddy that Gok Wan starts looking like a real person and aspire to this paragon of hairlessness.
There's enough child-pageantry on and off television that distort young girls' notions of healthy self-image and sexuality. The existence of shows like Toddlers and Tiaras worries me no end. Young girls caked with clownish make-up, and outfits that only Rihanna can pull off are paraded up and down runways by their own ex-beauty queen mothers. There's a serious issue to be raised here about how young girls are when their appearance starts defining their personalities and confidence.
This unbefitting focus on beauty over talent shines an unflattering light on the state of modern misogyny. This emphasis on brawn over brains is particularly worrying when we're talking about a brain as big as Srinidhi's and the potential therein that could so easily be squashed by cruel and misfitting comments of Twitter bullies of both genders.
Such ludicrous demands of child on television reveal nothing but skin-deep, shallow attitudes towards a young girl who is still too innocent understand what 50 Shades of Grey is about. Despite her incredible intelligence, the fact that Srinidhi is a fragile, budding child who doesn't deserve her innocence attacked in such an insensitive way.