Mumbai-based software designer Seema Harindran was recently on a train on her way home, when she noticed a woman staring at her.
“A few stops later, we caught each other’s eyes, so I chuckled and nodded my head to do the “What’s up?” with body language,” Harindran told BuzzFeed. "She moved from her seat and came up to talk to me.”
The two women exchange pleasantries and the other woman introduced herself as Reva Pandit, an artist living in Mumbai.
Reva explained that she was staring because Seema resembled a picture that she'd drawn a while ago, from her imagination.
"It looked exactly like me" Harindran told BuzzFeed, adding "She showed me the picture and it was an intricate, mesmerising, black and white sketch of a lady, who looked a lot like me even in the absence of colour. The same wide nose, large eyes, long chin and m-shaped hairline."
As the conversation progressed, the two women agreed that this was too big a coincidence to ignore. They came up with the idea of recreating Pandit's drawing by painting it on Harindran's face.
"We decided to meet on February 14, at Reva’s friend’s house and she would paint my face just as it had appeared in her imagination," Harindran told BuzzFeed.
Pandit's drawing was an interpretation of the Goddess Kali. Harindran, who was teased for her dark skin growing up, found pride in the label.
The painting process took eight hours. "I had no idea that I could ever sit still for that long," Harindran quipped.
"The final product was magical. I was spellbound when I saw myself at the end. It was unconventional, scary and fierce."
"It raised a proverbial middle finger to our beauty standards, because we unwittingly also apply the same standards to goddesses," she added.
"Goddess worship is on the decline in our male dominated society, and even then the pictures of goddesses that we worship are all envisioned and created by men. In fair skin obsessed India, these pictures almost never have anyone with dark skin. And then there was Reva, a woman doing a modern take on Indian goddesses, redefining beauty and divinity, one stroke at a time."