Monday, June 15, 2009

fair and lovely

Should I shouldn’t I? I have been asking myself this question for almost a month now. Just as the election drama took its bow and the ipl animals went into hibernation, we suddenly discovered that being Indian was no more a trophy and not everyone around the world was arselicking the Indian honchos to get into the ipl squads. Far far down under, when Glenn McGrath was getting a cold shoulder by the Delhi daredevils to find a place in the playing 11, some Indian students in his very own country were getting a shoulder, a shoulder of a slightly different variety, a rather aggressive one, which resulted in a massive contingent of the Indian student community on the road, and a few of their brethren, in hospital.
Early every morning, day after day we were bombarded with images of Indian students in Australia being badly beaten, some nearly dead, some paralyzed, some in coma and some impaired. The news channels were screaming about it, the headlines of nationalist newspapers had the news in bold. We were angry ,we were vocal, we addressed meetings, we called experts, we summoned the Australian diplomats. Apologies were demanded, protections were asked. Boycott was suggested. Even a demand for coming back home gained momentum. Discrimination on the basis of the colour of skin was a heinous crime. The world sang for it in unison against it. And we Indians being at the receiving end of that became the sopranos.
And this is where my dilemma started. I wanted to write a piece to articulate my anger, but every time I opened my laptop inside my air-conditioned room, the sound of my servant boy washing dishes in the hot kitchen started disturbing me. I do not intend playing the devils advocate and neither am I less angry than any other in criticizing the Aussies especially when, national pride and pop patriotism is at stake. Its just that by being an Indian I am not really sure if I have a right to do so. Legally yes, politically of cource, and diplomatically for sure. But morally ? Have I really earned the right to take a stand on the issue of racism when I am myself a product of ,what I firmly believe is ,one of the most racist, divided and discriminating society of all times.
My grandmother was very very happy when I was born, not just because I was a male child, but also because I was fair,( although no match for my milky white sister). Therefore I had validated the fact that I was a chaturvedi, the highest of the highest of Brahmins, of pure Aryan decent and true representative of the “varna vyavastha “. It’s a little known secret that “varna “ or the colour of the skin was what later got concretised as caste ,which till today is the most important reality of this shining India. And so contrary to what some neo liberals think that our fondness for the white skin, and a very obvious dislike for the less light skin tone ,is a colonial hangover, I beg to politely differ. The prejudice existed for as long as there was the veneration for the pristine white waters of our “ganga maiyya”, or the exotica and mystery attached to the love affair of “gori radha” and “kale Krishna”..
And so my grandmother and mother were relieved seeing my skin colour, as they were well aware of the dark reality of Indian families. It is a well known hard fact that different rules are ascribed to the fair child as compared to their dusky alternatives even today in this age of glittering multiplexes. Dark children are openly ridiculed, called names ,made aware of their skin tone even before they can pronounce their names, and if girls, forced to carry the burden, of their taken for granted ugliness. Huge amounts of dowry is expected to marry off dark girls, they have to go through the trauma of getting ridiculed and rejected at varies levels in varies fields. No wonder, we since ancient India are experts in knowing household recipes for becoming fairer, much before the” fair and lovely” revolution happened in the mid seventies with the introduction of the first official skin lightning cream . Needless to say, that the ” magic fairness in 4 weeks creams” have the highest takers in middle class households in various small towns and cities in India . And I understand my nationals completely on this.
Our discrimination does not just end with colour prejudices. We are such a tolerant society ,that we allow different religions and cultures to co existed peacefully as long as they do not enter inside each others verandas. We are always very respectful and cordial but still fall short of serving utensils when members of other communities have to be offered food. It is an open secret that in very many upper caste houses, including my own, there were kept a different set of crockery which came to use when members of sometime “lower “castes or sometimes the infamous ‘minority community “ paid their visits. There existed houses where metal coins were washed before entering the houses, lest they would have touched so many hands. And if this is the memory I have of urban India, I shudder to think what the reality of rural India would have been.
Violence is scarier when it changes its form. The impact of emotional and psychological violence, far far exceeds, in both damage and hurt, the pain of the more obvious physical ones. It is easy to cure the wounds of a box or a kick, but the ritualistic humiliation which one suffers through the growing years is hard to forget, or cure.Especialy when it comes due to a reason you don’t choose. Nobody knows the reason or cure of being dark, of being of lower caste, or of being in the minority. Nobody can choose ones sex, or sexuality, something which is also a perpetual issue of discrimination and ridicule in precisely that order. We have no respect or space for the other, for someone who is different ,for someone who chooses a path other than the obvious. Yet we pride ourselves in being liberal, loving, compassionate and tolerant.
And so, division and dislike has started running in our veins. We discriminate boys over girls, rich over poor, majority over minority, brothers over sisters, sons over daughters, white over black. Our liberal society is such where riots happen at the drop of a hat, whether in Delhi, or in Gujarat, in which specific communities are targeted. Our all encompassing society is such where intercaste marriages face stiff parental opposition, one caste kills the other for job reservations , different castes own different wells in villages and different housing societies in cities, and female infanticide and farmer suicides is on a perpetual increase. We are such a modern nation that without reservations we can’t see any strata of the prejudiced society coming up, neither in jobs nor in the parliament .
And yet we accuse. A very old saying says that when you point one finger towards someone, four other point at you. Isn’t this an opportune time for us to look within and understand how bloody castiest, communal, and intolerant we are, and continue to be. What is happening in Australia is appalling, criminal and these people should be jailed and punished. But doesn’t it give us an opportune time to light a candle in our very hearts and see where we are heading to?
Only then we would convincingly beat the Aussies .
Right mate?