Thursday, June 28, 2007

In all fairness

It is not unusual to find an Indian matrimony ad that would read:
“Looking for a (insert caste) well educated girl, fair and respects tradition.”

The ad might as well say, “Wanted a (virgin) woman who would serve as a sex slave and chambermaid. P.S. Blacks do not apply.”

In the same spirit Dhanashree M. gives her beauty tips to the brides to be. The article is titled ‘Whitening tips for you’ :
Fair complexion is a dream and achievement of everyone. In the marriage market
and dreams the first preference will be to those with a fair skin. Why should
you stay away from this perfect appearance? Try these handy beauty tips and see
the changes within a short period.

Growing up, I had come to accept that fairness of skin is the foremost standard of beauty. A song praising the beauty of a woman would inevitably have the word gori in it.
“Dhoop mein nikla na karo roop ki rani, gora rang kala na padh jaaye.”
Keeping in line with the lyrics, every well-adored Hindi film actress was fair.

Living in a white supremacist society, my lifesaver was that my parents did not hold the ‘white is beautiful’ outlook. But even so it was hard to keep me protected from the ire of the white skin worshipping neighbors.

The incident I am about to narrate happened when I was 5 years old. Being the first born child I was the apple of the eye…the star performer of the house. But after 4 years of my uncontested rule in the Blur household, my soon to be nemesis made his debut. I wasn’t a happy camper to find out that I suddenly had to share my fame and celebrity status in the household with my brand new brother who was a doodh ka dhoola, white complexioned baby boy.

My parents tried their best to keep the sibling jealousy (on my part) on the down low. But there were visitors and they came in waves. Comments about how pretty and fair the baby boy looks were made over and over. There was one woman (I fondly remember as the racist bitch) who lived in the house across from ours. She would make her friendly visits more often than I’d liked. She would say to me, “Oh how is it that your brother looks so fair and you look so dark?” I would feel very hurt and angry but I could never think of a good come back.

One evening, the woman paid a visit to our house and she sat on the couch conversing with my mother. I knew that it was inevitable that she will soon take a jibe at me. So the moment came. She decided to tease me a little differently. She said, “Crys, do you like your little brother?” Frankly, I would’ve liked the things to be the way they were before my brother arrived. Ever since my brother had made an appearance everything had changed for the worse. I did not answer. Then the woman continued, “I am going to take your brother with me”. This was it. This was my opportunity.

I quickly climbed on the couch and got hold of the woman’s hair and yanked it with all my strength. Even though I was five years old, I gathered enough strength to give her a professional hair yanking if there was any such thing. The woman started howling in pain. My mother tried hard to stop herself from laughing. She somehow managed to summon me in her best disciplining voice, “Crys! Let go…NOW!” I was determined to make a Jain monk out of that woman but my effort was thwarted as my mother pulled me away. The woman was visibly shaken. She said, “Bhaarich poolka aahe bhavacha.” (Loosely translated: My! I didn’t realize how attached she is to her brother). My mom escorted the woman out of our house.

The woman kept her distance from me but the social conditioning never stopped. I believed that to be appreciated by boys, I had to literally be the fairer sex. By the age of 12, I initiated the process of bleaching my skin in hopes of becoming a white princess. I bought a tube of ‘Fair and lovely’ dream cream which is doing just as well even today and is expanding its sales by marketing the ivory dream to Indian men.

I am not sure how I eventually opened myself to the idea that a dark skinned person can be beautiful too. Today, as I read the words of Maya Angelou in her book “I know why the cage bird sings”, my mind races back to my childhood.

Maya Angelou:
Wouldn’t they be surprised when one day I woke out of my black ugly dream, and my real hair, which was long and blond, would take the place of the kinky mass that Momma wouldn’t let me straighten? My light blue eyes were going to hypnotize them after all the things they said about my daddy being a Chinaman because my eyes were so small and squinty. Then they would understand why I had never picked up a Southern accent, or spoke the common slang, and why I had to be forced to eat pig tails and snouts. Because I was really white and because a cruel fairy stepmother, who was understandably jealous of my beauty, had turned me into a too-big Negro girl with nappy black hair, broad feet and a space between her teeth that would hold a number-two pencil.

The last time I visited India, a cute old lady who I love dearly gave me some advice, “Girl you have finished your education and now it is time you found yourself a good man and you should not be picky. You are not fair skinned after all.”

I laughed a hearty laugh when I heard her say that. I laughed the way I do when I hear nine year old Eric Cartman crack a racist joke.

15 comments:

Drunken Master said...

You could lagao the cliched line: "My skin might be black, but my heart is white," to floor the old lady and whichever Maharashtrian Mulga you plan to impress...

It worked on me once and I'm not even Maharashtrian!

Also, all that Cartman says is true, so I don't understand what you mean by "I laughed the way I do when I hear nine year old Eric Cartman crack a racist joke."

Anonymous said...

Well, it is not much fun being a dark-skinned guy either. Suffering through 10 years of "kaalia to kehta tha ke do the....". Then there is the subtle racism of the ACKs with Krishna and Rama being shown as possessing a delicate shade of blue, ostensibly to set them apart from those blackhearted, dark-skinned asuras.

Not that it gets much better in this country! Oh well!

mandeepsg said...

well I guess bollywood is now being ruled by all those dusky babes......even Ash had to give herself a tanned look in her Dhoom-2 song to look better...TAN is the IN thing........more heads turn if a dark skinned girl who carries herself well crosses the road....

dodo said...

Even though there are a few exceptions, it's pretty safe to generalize that Indian society is full of superficial retards. It gets even more disgusting when these retards go around preaching the piousness of Indian "tradition" and "culture". I'm so ashamed to be a part of all this.

But Crys, why do you even care about "men" looking for "fair" and "homely" ladies? God, I so farking HATE that "homely" word. WTF! I say, every Indian male who's looking for a "homely" girl should be made an honorary member of The Queer Association of India :).

PkS said...

I agree. It's not fair. :-P

parikrama said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
parikrama said...

>> I could never think of a good come back

Well you could have chased that aunty away, by donning a 'manjarpaat' lungi with hitler moochi et all, singing "Hamey Kaaley Hein Toh Kyaa Huaa.. Dil Waaley Hein.." .. Boley toh ekdum Hungaamaa ;-)

[**signs off singing** Meraa goraa ban ne kaa.. sapnaa sach huaa, Jab FEM fairness cream ne mujhe chuaa.. Buss 15 minute mein ho gayi mein.. Gori Gori.. FEM FEM se.. Gori Gori traa laa laa laa]

Happy Weekend Crys ben.

Sakshi said...

Hey came here via Shek's blog.
I hate teh fair word. It is so amusing that in US it is my skin that is envied. I love the fact that summer tan here is approved where as back home I would the friendly neighbouring aunty (read in everyone's biz) tell me to keep away from teh sun for no boy was going to like me if I turned dark.. AGHHHHHHHHHH..

Crystal blur said...

Drunken Master,
You sound like Dave Chapelle in the role of the white supremacist character. Which Marathi mulgis have you been harassing?

Anon,
ACK? Who are they? Yeah, I hear you...kids can be very mean and it is almost impossible to escape the enforced knighting of fat/black/spectacled kids with malicious nick names.

mandeep,
Wow! I checked out the Dhoom 2 song after reading your comment and she does have a fake tan. Finally...it is a start for a much needed change in attitude.

dodo,
I have my gripe with Indian outlook about many issues but I wouldn't go as far as saying I am ashamed of being an Indian. I am certainly not looking for men with antiquated ideas about an ideal woman. The post was about the struggle I went through growing up.

pks,
Yup...no fairy tale endings here ;)

IW,
The satisfaction of pulling your opponents hair is unparalleled. Pulling your opponents legs is not half as much fun.

Sakshi,
Welcome to me blog :) I love the tan appeal in the US too. Who wants the freckles and sun burns (with skin peeling...ugh)? Being a woman in the US (exception Bible belt where you have to fight for your right to buy morning after pills and such) is the best. From wearing skimpy outfits (and not get groped on the streets) to being dark skinned and beautiful...I love it here.

Anonymous said...

As an extremely fair skinned Maharashtrian, I find I am discriminated against in India !
People in Pune call me a Cobra (Kokanastha Brahmin = Ko+Bra) which I initially thought meant they were calling me a slimy creature till I found out the abbreviation.

No normal colored indian girls want to marry me because they look very 'savli' next to me...

On my bike, at every red light in Mumbai, the eunuchs harass me and call me 'chiknya' and pull my cheeks if I am not wearing a helmet with the visor down !

maaan, you don't know all the problems that fair guys have in India.

Crystal blur said...

Anonymous,
This post was about my experience growing up in India as a dark skinned girl. I don't condone mocking a person of any skin color. Having said that, the dark skinned girls who refuse to marry you are doing so because of their inferiority complex and comes as no surprise to me.

cheti said...

hmmm !

that opening lines of the article was truly puke inducing !

tough life !

BTW : for a minute i thought you were going to say that the womans hair came off when you yanked it.

Anonymous said...

Hahaha.. Being the only dark-skinned person in the household.. (got it from my grandfathers.. apparently this skipped one generation..).. i underwent the same tortures of comparisions with my "relatively" fairer (read "wheatish".. hehe) sis... ahh the torment... the snide remarks... the not-so-funny jokes.. i believe relatives are put on the planet to make one's life a living hell...

But the realisation struck me.. just as it did to you... I realised the beauty of being dark.. I dont care... I love my women dusky.. Can't stand Aishwarya.. but fell in love with Nandita Das and Namrita Shirodkar.. and Kajol (when she first started out...)

Dont worry girls... there are still some sensible blokes like myself out there.. never be disheartened.. and lets face it.. the darker the color.. the bigger the... need I complete the sentence..

Karthik

Victor Guerra said...

Dark people of the world unite!
Crys, I can somehow relate my growing up to yours, albeit remotely. I remember my teacher choosing fair-skinned Sudhir Kumar (my competitor in school) to stand in the first row for a group dance on our school annual day. I was around 10 years then. She asked me to stand in the second (also last)row. In all the photographs, I still remember, only my hand or aleg (sometimes an ear or nose) could be seen. And Sudhir had the previlege of a full-shot. All the misery just for being dark. I still talk about it with Sudhir, and he still laughs at me for that.
Thanks for the post for it gives me some consolation!

Murga said...

“Dhoop mein nikla na karo roop ki rani, gora rang kala na padh jaaye.”
Keeping in line with the lyrics, every well-adored (& well-endowed) Hindi film actress was fair.

Well stereotypes apart it unfortunately is true for all races to look at something different as exotic. Tan in whites, fair in browns, "wide" eyed in china ...