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Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye And It’s Indian Relevance.

Posted: August 31, 2015

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Though the protagonist of Toni Morrison’s book ‘The Bluest Eyes’ was an African, yet it reflects the ethos of the Indian society which is our obsession to be fair and lovely!

Post after post, I write about women, gender inequalities, and the pros and cons of a society that sees women as ‘Flowers that should not be kept in the open’. So it was not a surprise when Toni Morrison opened my eyes to a newer awakening: Busting Beauty Standards.

The healthy race to a better body, glowing skin and lustrous hair, that began with the advancement of beauty products, turned out to be the forerunner to the ugly chase towards attaining the perfect body, perfect skin and perfect hair. As long as there’s harmless fun, we’d all have been okay. But then came the illusion to the perfect utopian world. Commercial after commercial, calling out, luring the women folk to larger irises, huger lips, better skin and ample bosoms, augmented hips, perfect curves, long legs and wondrous tresses. So we leapt from brand to brand, some of us faithfully followed routines like it was law, others, not so much. But all of us wanted to be that shiny pretty lady on the billboard over the largest flyover.

Pecola knew no beauty trends. All she wanted was, to be accepted. She thought that girls who had blue eyes were accepted and loved.

Pecola knew no beauty trends. All she wanted was, to be accepted. She thought that girls who had blue eyes were accepted and loved. So with the advent of the Shirley Temple era, Pecola dreamt of blue eyes like Shirley Temple’s on the big blue cup. She imagined having the bluest eyes on her African face and she thought she’d be pretty then, she’ll definitely be loved, or atleast accepted- a part of the crowd. Now she was not. Just a shadow, no existence, no luck. So with penny worth of toffees, Pecola dreamt of blue eyes. Blue eyes that she’d get on eating toffees with blue eyed girls on wrappers. She thought of love, and how much she’d be loved when she had blue eyes. And one day, like all drunk men of her community, her father raped her, and she carried his child. Still dreaming for beauty, acceptance, life and love, in those vacant hollow eyes that wanted to be blue, most of all. And then, Pecola’s father’s child, the one that Pecola carried, died, like marigolds beautifully planted on the wrong wasted soil. With that, died her sanity. She did not dream of blue eyes. She knew she already had them. “I have the bluest eyes”, she thought. “I have the bluest eyes in town”.

For two reasons, the African society is very much similar to our Indian society:

  1. The constant need to look as fair as our white colonisers. Also the general belief among women that, being fair means being accepted, or, being fair synonymously means to be lovely.

  2. The societal pressure and the utmost faith in beauty as a cultural necessity.

If at all the Africans had colonised us, we’d be going under the knives to look as dark as possible!

So I believe, the colonial hangover has much influence in this arena, and if at all the Africans had colonised us, we’d be going under the knives to look as dark as possible! It is always about the eye of the beholder. As Toni Morrison pipes in, the African stimulus towards becoming fair is more of a stimulus to the White people, viewing them as the perfect race, a direct contrast to the dark skins they themselves are. And God knows how many White women neglect the risk of cancer and toast their bodies in tanning beds to get the “summer tan”!

Women, running fleeting races for picture perfectness, do not know their worth. They are trampled by societal pressures that surpass human abilities. But children falling into the same trap of scorn? It’s a tougher ball game after all. Will idli-sambhar-chutney-poha diet feed her an iota of Indianness and strength? Will her confidence fade when her Dior lip stain fades, or will her jhumkas tinkle “yes, yes” to mirages of perfect beauty? Will her saree flail when whips of adversity hit her hard, or will her bangles rattle a loud “No”, when she is forced to strip her identity to save her neck? Will tubs of Kajal and mascara be her saviour or the shroud of the most expensive material be her guide? And what’s that you ask?

“It comes in small boxes,
Not found in stores,
Cannot be wrapped and sold,
Or poured into vials of sorts,
It is woven into a shroud,
Of mystic airs,
Are threads that entwine to create,
The toughest of shrouds,
Master skill,
Beauty and
Strong as a nail and pretty as a feather,
It’ll not bend with the hammer strike or render to thick sickles,
It will withstand the tests of times,
And protect the wearer for ages to come,
It’ll neither rot, nor tear,
It knows neither jealousy nor fear,
It is,
The Valiant Armour:
Self Esteem
It is called,
Your name in a gold thread,
Embossed over its feathery end.”

Cover image via Shutterstock

Poet. Published Writer. Spoken Word Artist. Entrepreneur. Avid Reader. Amateur Boxer. Wannabe Motivational Speaker. Dog

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