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Is our obsession with fair skin related to our craving for all things Western and unconscious disdain for many things Indian?
In a world which functions totally on a ‘the fairer, the mightier‘ criterion, Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison came as an eye opener of sorts.
For those of you who believe that the identity crisis on the basis of skin colour does not have strong roots in our ethnic locale, well tune into this:
“Curly hair, verrry fair. Eyes are blue, lovely too. Mommy’s pet, is that you? Yes! Yes! YES!”
Don’t you remember reciting these very lines as a tiny toddler, while you waited with tiny feet and heavy anticipation for your pre-school teacher to choose you as the best reciter and hand you those yummy gummy bears?
Well, I did. (Admit it, so did you.I’m watching you)
Ok chod do yaar, that was all chumma only. We never even meant it.
Alright what about this:
“Fair and lovely BB cream. Shall we have a bet with the whole wide world? With all the tests that we conducted, we find that so and so is unbeatably the best! Yay! Become fair and lovely in a week!”
So it is indeed not new to us. The ‘fair is beautiful’ phenomenon. We have grown up on such ideologies, we worship fair deities, we religiously wash and scrub our poor Indian faces, till they shine with an unnatural rawness, that we term as “Gloww!”
Okay, we are not to blame. Atleast, not so much. Because we grew on western picture books with heavy cardboarded pages, that said: A for Apple, B for Ball, C for Cat and D for Doll, and then came the big, blonde, blue eyed, rosy-cheeked baby doll that we held to our tiny bosoms and nursed, fed, washed and combed. And then came the Enid Blyton days. Secret societies, spotted Ham and Tomato sandwiches, ginger ale, tree houses, pretty frocks, picnic tables, toadstools, fairy dust and what not. After that, came hordes of other books. Percy Jackson, J.K.Rowling, Tolkien, Jeffrey Archer and all. They took us to lands we thought we belonged to, they held us by the heart and hands and transported us like we were the ‘Chosen ones’ and for once, we felt accepted, and loved in the lands where people looked forward to summer, wore shorts and ate pretty packed lunches in brown bags.
…for once, we felt accepted, and loved in the lands where people looked forward to summer, wore shorts and ate pretty packed lunches in brown bags.
Somewhere, somehow in the midst of our foreign journey, did we miss our Indianness? We forgot to take our beloved pickle jars with us, in case we got picked on because of that. we forgot our Vaseline cans that our moms lovingly told us, were unbearably precious in hot summer days, we left behind our comfortable kurtis and favourite jhumkas and swapped them for swanky foreign trinkets that we got on EBay and Amazon, in the faint hope that we would get fully admitted into the lands of ginger bread men and snow and goblin gardens.
So much so that, we even forgot to put Indian caricatures on our Indian chips packets, and traded them for blond, hat-wearing cowboys and fair, frock wearing women. We let people think we were not Indian indeed, with our heavy American accents and American diets. We let our children believe they weren’t beautiful either;, their blond blue eyed dolls were and they should someday try and become as beautiful as them or we’d swap them for their better looking counterparts. We grew our children on honey loops and milk, pizzas and quesadillas so much so that, they turned their backs to dosas and poha and hit each other with idlis, thinking they were missiles of sorts.
I will buy my daughter a doll, as dark as she is.
I will wait for that day when she looks at me and says,”Amma, I want Idli for breakfast and please buy me that Pattu Paavaadai for Christmas!”
I will wait for that day.
Image of a blonde doll via Shutterstock
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