Nope. Not an article on racism. That issue is too deep to merely skim in one article. If I choose to write about racism, I would do it in a series of articles. This one is all about the glorious colorism that most Desi girls face. You see, I could only write from the perspective of which I was either a part of or have witnessed. Taking from other people’s narrative, not really my thing. Conveying other people’s narrative…hmm…could make something work here.
Anyway…addressing the headline. Who is the Dark Girl in the room?
It could be anyone. Even you. All you have to do is to possess the deepest shade of melanin. Oh no no…not at all talking about having a dark complexion. It is all about being the brown sheep amidst a group of white ones. Confused? Enter Me! I am all about to break down the concept of Desi Colorism. Or as we spell it, Colourism. The extra U makes us feel more gora. The absence of it merely makes us a Bidesi-Desi (Foreign living person from Indian subcontinent). Or someone who has spent too much time in Amrikka already.
Growing up, I wasn’t the dark girl. Wasn’t the light girl either. I was fair enough to be termed gori by my darker skinned friends, and brown enough to be compared to an even lighter skinned girl by aunties. I would rate myself as someone on the wheatish spectrum. There are chances this personal analysis might be wrong. A whole life of being told to do something about one or the other aspects of one’s personality, it does take a toll. If its not skin, its hair. It its not hair, its weight. If its not too much weight, its too little weight. It can also be your laughter. Or the way you talk. Or the way you walk. Or the way you overdress. Or are too simple. Or go to the beauty parlor too often. Or far too less. Or none at all. Goodness me! It is a whole carnival of ‘What’s wrong with you- Episode: Lifetime’. Desi culture will never fail to amaze. Even more amazing would be the public shaming of me after I publish this article on one forum or the other. Preferably my own. Hmm…this thick brown skin might come in some use after all. And not just to let the mean comments slide.
After not much racking of brain, and reading a lot of narratives from various Desi Kudis (girls), I have arrived at the conclusion that there are certain beliefs so prevalent in our communities, that we use them till date, to promote colorism (with a U), whether knowingly or unknowingly. A few memorable ones are:
1.‘Dhoop me mat khel…kali ho jaegi…’ (Don’t play in the sun, you will get darker)
2.‘Haldi laga…rang saaf hoga…’ (Apply turmeric, your skin will lighten up)
3.‘Zyada chai mat piyo…skin kaali ho jati hai…’ (Don’t drink too much tea, your skin will turn dark)
4.‘Kesar wala doodh piyo…bachcha gora paida hoga…’ (Drink saffron milk, your baby will be born fair)
5.‘Ghar me sab to gore hain…ye kispe gyi hai…’ (Everyone is fair-skinned in this house, from whom does she get her genes from then?)
6.‘Isse bhi zada kala ladka dhundhna padega…warna shadi kaise hogi…’ (Must search for a darker-skinned groom than her. How else will she then get married?)
7.‘Love marriage hogi ya dahej kafi mila hoga…ladka ladki se zada gora hai…’ (Must be a love marriage. Or they must have taken a lot of dowry. The boy is fairer than the girl.)
8.‘Dekh kar lagta nahi ki itni qualified hai…’ (Doesn’t look so qualified…)
Heard some of such remarks? Or all of them? Maybe even said a couple yourself? See where the problem lies? No no…not in appearances! Are you even listening? In your mind. In OUR mindset. The fact that we give too much importance to looks is exactly the reason you get scammed by impeccably dressed, good looking men with a fake accent Auntyji! Its just Bablu from down the street. Not a Green Card holder Bob from Amrikka!
FYI, chai is also fondly consumed in the UK. Ever tried saying the same stupid stuff as No.3 to them? Do give it a go! I absolutely insist!
As for No.4, the color of the skin is coined through genetics. Not your kesar-doodh concoction.
And the No.1. it would have been better if an advice of sunscreen for sunburn was given in a generic way. As someone who has played in the sun, turned dark and then returned to the original skin color, I can attest that the change remains temporary. And what if it turns permanent? Would it be so bad to have the melanin increase in our skins?
In my firm opinion, the one thing that is far too overhyped and overrated is physical beauty. Now, don’t get me wrong. I am raised on phrases of ‘gori-chitti’ and songs such as ‘gore-gore mukhde pe kala kala chashma’ and one of the recent ‘chittiyan kalaiyan ve’. Oh and I have also been told that I am good looking, just not as good looking as that other, fairer girl.
How old was I then?
Let’s see…10? 12?
Somewhere around that age for sure. Right now, if someone says something like this, I will counter question on why there need be a comparison at all. Then, I was just an introverted child unable to grasp why I couldn’t be as beautiful as that other girl. It was damaging, to say the least, to the self esteem of a child. The fact that I was never taught to love myself as is, still plays its part in my insecurities regarding my body, my weight, myself. The fact that people question why I choose to dress in a simpler way, all the while rolling their eyes at the ‘extra’ person that I am, has thankfully, receded to merely annoy me. Sometimes the comments sting, leaving me feeling vulnerable and hurt. The other times when I wear it like an armor, are the times when I am struggling to teach myself to be ok with what I look like.
You see…it is not wrong to take care of yourself. A big promoter of healthy lifestyle, I can never endorse or encourage unhealthy living and then preaching self love. That is not love. That is enablement. Take care of yourself. Just not at the expense of someone else who is physically unlike you. There might be issues in that person’s life which you might not be privy to. Health isn’t proportional to body size. Neither is immunity. All three are different aspects. A thin person can be extremely unhealthy and a large one can be healthy as a horse. Someone who has never fallen ill in their life can have extremely low immunity and a sickly man’s immunity could be galloping. Don’t follow me? See a qualified medical professional.
Geographically speaking, the closer the countries are to the equator, the higher the melanin content, resulting in darker skin. It is nature’s way of protection from DNA damage, absorbing the right amounts of UV radiations required and protecting against folate depletion. Again, read good articles online! Duh!
And if still nothing works in helping your tinted glasses, then encourage your kudis (girls) to get married to an angrez (foreigner). At least in that way, you will have a gora damad (fair son-in-law), mixed race, fairer-than-their-peer grandkids, and a slow but steady decrease in colorist mentalities. (Full sarcasm intended).