Friday, September 20, 2013

Being Blacky 2

Colourism as I learnt yesterday is the new term to define this widespread phenomenon. Yes!! Its so rampant and world-wide and it affects so many people in so many different countries, societies and strata of life, that it has now been elevated to the stature of being an "ISM" like Racism, Nazism, casteism and so on.

There are variants too- shadeism and pigmentocracy to name a few. 

In the US of A- the dreamland of  many Indians- its prevalent for ages. From the time of slavery, the blacks were an oppressed lot, black women were regarded ugly, dark, dirty, unhygienic, sexually uninhibited all because they were available to be exploited. The epitome of beauty was the Fair, Pink and white, Blonde haired european child- the Shirley Temple prototype. Where did the poor black girls stand a chance with her. The races mixed and there was a hierarchy built up: the darker you were the lower down on the rung you got, the fairer you were and the more privileged you were- Pigmentocracy!!

Would you believe it -they conducted the famous "Brown Paper Bag" test, the fairer the shade you were to the brown bag the better you were in stature- and mind it, this was among the blacks themselves!!! Its a proven fact that lighter skinned people get better jobs, better wages, more privileges and wonders of wonders shorter prison sentences- Shadeism!!

Consistent long term colonialism did the damage in many parts of the world including India. White was pure, pristine, virginal and beautiful and black or brown was all things opposite. The Indians resisted the white culture, stuck to their religion but they never questioned colourism being promoted. This resulted in social conditioning where fair was the criteria of beauty. 

But it will be unfair( I am now losing the context of this usage) to blame the Europeans completely. Didnt we depict in our own culture that Rama(good) was fair and Ravana (evil) dark. It has been prevalent since time immemorial then. Sita was fair, small statured, with long straight silky hair- our own symbol of beauty!!. Even Krishna- the God who had several gopis cavorting with him was depicted as having a complex from Radha his FAIR consort. Who are we kidding here??

Coming to modern times, the icons of Bollywood, fashion and television industry are all fair, with straight hair and they do take the pain of telling you how they got there- by applying fairness creams!!!! Simple!! Aint it??? And we the gullible ones want to be "Fair and Lovely" else would we be successful. Ehh?In the process the multi-million Rupee fairness and bleaching industry make a living and thrive on our complexes and insecurities. I say we are at fault not these companies and advertisements..we have given them the fodder to feed on. Its our insecurities and lack of confidence, our prejudice and bias that they are en-cashing.

I wear Red now....and green and orange and purple fact Emerald and Ruby are my full time it clothes, shoes or bags. Whatever did happen to make me do that, you would ask. Ill tell you now that I am baring it all.

Love happened!! A handsome FAIR boy fell for me. He was so madly in love with me that I had to elope with him...and believe me I was still gloating over the fact that he was the fairest of them all!!!! That was incentive enough. He made me feel beautiful and sexy and confident and coveted. I dressed in a red saree for my wedding and a darker red for my reception; he insisted and I was complimented so much that I regretted  not having worn it before. 

I was lucky- for once-that he cherished me. I was lucky because he didn't turn out to be an exploiter, though now I realise that anybody could have exploited me, with the state of mind I was in. I shudder at what my lack of confidence could have done to me. 

Then Facebook happened and out came my silent admirers from their closets and nooks. I was so surprised by the insistent likes and compliments on my photos that I thought they were all making fun of me. But Five years and several compliments later I am finally convinced that I am beautiful

This may seem like another rant but believe me its not...All I want is that people around me realise what damage it has caused me. I would like to mention here was it was not as if nobody at all supported me or appreciated me and my talents. All along my mom, brother, eldest maasi, her daughter, another cousin, some really really nice teachers, and some great friends were always there for me. I didn't have to put up a strong defiant front before them. I could be myself and they made me feel loved and desired.

Most importantly I want as many people as possible to realise what damage they do to someones psyche when they explicitly call them Darky, Blacky, Kaalia, Kaalo, kaalu, kallu, or implictly tell them to apply this or that concoction or avoid the sun. Please avoid telling people that certain colour doesn't suit them- its their skin, their dress and their choice. 

Stop  harassing little children regarding their skin colour, appreciate them for their uniqueness. Don't compare. Don't deprecate. It hurts- badly very badly. It damages their self-confidence. It sets them rolling on a destructive journey. It "colours" their ability to take decsions, to pursue happiness.

Parent must never slap these prejudices and complexes on their children. Don't unknowingly make their life hell. Let them be. Let them enjoy all the colours of nature. Learn to appreciate beauty in all its forms and shades and teach universal acceptance to the coming generation. Let them not face this ISM at all.

Being Blacky!!!!

I was merely 10 when I visited the Bata shop  with an older and wiser cousin, a new pair of sandals were in order and my preference was...they should cover as much as possible of my feet and they had to be white...only red, orange or green, not even black. After all my ugly dark feet could not look better in any other colour! Di told me that I should go for Black instead, it was the darkest colour after all and everything will look better against it. Hmmm, food for thought and bingo...the colour BLACK became my saviour.

My own father probably was the one most disappointed with my dark complexion. His wife, my mom after all was porcelain white; how did his only daughter turn out dark and ugly? People used to look at me and say, "She takes after father, her mother is so fair, unlucky girl." No one ever noticed that my face,my features were an apt and (now I know a pretty) mixture of both my parents. Then came years of lathering on fairness creams to make me lighter ; Clear tone, Fair and Lovely, Naturally fair, White Tone; you name it and I can tell you that I have used them day in and day changed nothing. I was still the Kaalo of the family. I want to warn you here that skin bleaching, specially the daily kinds is extremely harmful, even deadly. I learnt of this when a friends father (a pharmacist) told me the facts.

My mom was the only one who didnt fervently want me to grow fair overnight. She repeatedly told me to develop my abilities and work on my talents. She told me repeatedly that I was her prettiest child though my little brother was as fair as her before he became a sportsman . Hard though she tried , she couldn't help me retain my confidence. It was slipping everyday. repeated comparisons with the pretty, fair children of North India specially the sikh girls(no offence meant) ate into my being.  

My dark complexion became the bane of my life. In stage shows, dances and anchoring at school, I saw fair girls being preferred over me, though I had considerable talents in all these spheres. A teacher, they are the worst here, chose me to be the engine of a children train on annual day, saying that I fit the role naturally, blacky that I was. As if I was her pet dog. I cried all day and all night that annual day. when they painted my face black, I didnt want it taken off! EVER!!

It affects your psyche, when aunties tell you to use the Doodh-haldi-besan face pack to get fairer, when an uncle tells you to go dip your face in the Sukhna lake waters everyday to get to at least "dusky" tone and when your father says that Red is not your colour. When the boy you think has a crush on you goes on to propose to your fair friend, who is not half as smart as you, it breaks your heart at a tender age. I had a firm hardset belief right at the age of 14 that I was not suitable marriage material: dark complexion and curly hair- where did I stand the chance ???

This is not prejudice, this is cruelty. This is not discrimination, this is colourism, pigmentocracy. 

to be continued....

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

A Sigh!

My hurt may seem healed 

No more it makes the eye wet

Though a sigh escapes the lips

And my soul cries a silent cry.

Zealot Readers: The Easter Bunny Conspiracy by William F.Powers JR...

Zealot Readers: The Easter Bunny Conspiracy by William F.Powers JR...: Title : The Easter Bunny Conspiracy Author: William F.Powers JR. Genre: Humorous Fiction Age-Group: Young Adult Publisher: iUniver...

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Story Telling; A Fascinating Experience

Some experience are cathartic. Organising a story session for little kiddos was one such experience for me. 
Such wondrous expressions! such giggles! such open smiles! They pierced deep inside me. The little kids were so excited that I could see the animation in their faces. 
It was a collaborative effort with Pratham Books - a not for profit children's book publisher to inculcate and encourage reading habit among the young readers.

The children trickled in hesitating and I too was apprehensive as to whether I shall be able to hold their attention. They were not all familiar to each other but were open and mingled so fast with each other that my opinion about kids being innocent and free of any prejudices that we adults get bugged with, was reinforced.

The story was about Paplu a giant with a big heart, the dacoit Angaar and their travails. The most interesting part for the kids was when they realised that the giant had no clothes and had hidden in the jungle till the village folks made him a kurta pyjama with rags. 

As the story ended they were totally involved and finished the story with a big shout in unison. 

The most wondrous part was that when I offered them coke and some food they took it only after finishing the activity lined out for them: to colour a sketch of the Paplu's kurta pyjama in different colors. Shows how dedicated they can be when they choose to, after all there was the prized book to be won. 

They wanted to read the story themselves, see the pictures and learn new words. I was satisfied that they enjoyed my session and didn't get bored. Also I could see that they were now more open to and interested in reading, the main purpose of the enterprise. 

Definitely a very satisfying and wholesome experience for me. It was a specially appropriate contribution by me as a part of the literary set and a parent on International Literacy day

Friday, September 6, 2013

Validation by the Dalai Lama himself

Couldnt help posting: it so validates my post of today!!!!!!!!

Success and Failure

Who do you consider successful in life and who is a failure?Who in the world sets these standards? How do we set the benchmark?Are these two terms relative to each other?

Now these thoughts might be surfacing in my almost 40 year old mind due to mid-life crisis or due to hormonal changes because up until last year I thought of myself as a survivor. I had been working hard despite the circumstances, making something out of nothing and providing love, support and care to those around me.Having chucked a regular job for the well being of the family- believe me it was crucial- and not having regretted it till date. 

But suddenly today I am confused about it. When I look back at the past years I cannot accept that I have been a failure but when I compare it with others around me I don't see myself as a success too. Gandhi said “Satisfaction lies in the effort, not in the attainment. Full effort is full victory.” 

Is it really enough, making full efforts? Again, how do you know if more effort was required?Is success measured only by five figure monthly income, a big car, a big house and lots of disposable income?And no I am not deriding those who had the potential,ambition and the single-mindedness to have worked hard to reach these levels. All I am saying is that there cannot be and should not be comparison. It should be your own goal, your own benchmark and your own volition to decide. Your own cake to bake and enjoy- depends on you if see how big and beautiful it is or how nice it smells and tastes!! 

Is success directly proportional to happiness?? Are these hugely successful people really happy? They may be or they might not be. Maybe that is not the question after all. Our own happiness is determined by our own attitude towards our life goals. I am happy now as compared to five years back because I have been able to rebuild my life, thanks to some really great people in my life and some good solid friends. I have a house, a car that I drive and some disposable income, not in millions but helps me through my needs and desires.

Maybe now is the time to take another turn in life and try and achieve the material success and status in life, meaning; earn more money, buy a bigger house, own more jewelry, clothes, gadgets, shoes and bags than what I already have,travel to destination holidays and cities. (I really would like the last one. Maybe it is not really material after all!!)

But I doubt if Ill make it, because I lack ambition. I am really happy with the smaller things in life. Like A nice stroll in the garden in my commonplace sweatpants and running shoes...yeah! coz i can still break into a run, sitting in a corner and writing a poem, reading a good book, doing yoga, meditating, eating butter chicken, chatting with friends and dreaming that my child will also be a happy and easy soul like me.

Who knows if Ill be successful ever!!! but happy I am!!

Monday, September 2, 2013