Thursday, November 06, 2008

Kem Cho, Obamabhai? What Say, Obamabhai?

At last, a black man in the White House

We write this with eyes misting. At last, Obama has won. A so called “black man” is in the “white house.” Never thought this would become possible only 143 years after the Civil War and the emancipation of slaves. So, what if he is only half black? He is only four years younger than me and we can imagine the teasing, the snide remarks, the stabs on the ego with sharp comments, the ignoring, the discrimination he must have received. Just because he is black. Just because the colour of his skin happened to be black.

Well, he won and proved that skin colour has nothing to do with success as a politician, as it has nothing to do with anything else in this world. But would they be convinced, the ones who called those born with dark skin “kalia”, “sawla”, “karumban”, “baddu”, etc., stereotyping them for ever? Would those who would turn their faces away have imagined that this youth, this boy would grow up to be the president of the United States. What would his childhood have been like? Did he cry when he was insulted? Did he wish he had a white face like his mother’s and grandmother’s? Did he worry too much about why he looked the way he did? Did he wonder whether all dark-skinned people are stupid and should be dealt with contempt? Was he ever heartbroken? Did he ever cry into his pillow?

We have done all this because our skin colour was darker than the rest. And, yes, the discrimination came right from our siblings and – hold your breath – even parents. What could one say? It’s for no fault of ours that we were born dark skinned than the rest of the family. We would have avoided it if we could. India prides to be a classless and democratic country but people who have been discriminated know otherwise. It’s a brutally discriminating country, people just ignore you if you are dark-skinned, one even said, “we don’t discriminate, we only ignore.” A Jagjivan Ram may have become a minister, but if you are dark-skinned, like us, you will find yourself maligned, traumatised and called all sorts of names. Like we were in many organisations and literary groups, who were supposedly the liberal, free-minded, and non-discriminatory type – alas – only in name.

India is the original land of racism and what I, rather subversively, call “colourism.” Here the slightly fairer look down upon the darker and the darker you are the more collective rejections do you get. Look at our movies, advertisements, television serials; one would almost think India is peopled only by fair-skinned, rosy cheeked human beings. Why? Because the dark-skinned are carefully weeded out, and an advertising executive says to another, “Make sure all models you hire are fair skinned.” The girls who dance in our films should all be “rice-complexioned” or at least “wheatish-complexioned”, no, not “brinjal-complexioned”. No, that won’t do. We are deeply prejudiced against people with colour, though most of the gods we worship are dark skinned.

This is the land where a woman wouldn’t get a husband if she is dark-skinned. So, down south where almost everyone is dark-skinned, mothers persuade daughters to stay away from the sun and use “Fair and Lovely.” You won’t believe it when we say this, forgive us, but the blasted fairness cream is sold out within minutes of it arriving at medical and general stores and at some places the crowds have to be controlled and organised into queues to prevent a riot from breaking out to buy what we would term this “fairness deception.”

(Without doubt we are under spell cast by Arvind Adiga, whose book “White Tiger” is what we are reading on the train to work these days, so be merciful to us. The language we use is straight out of his novel, dear reader.)

Our friend Pragya Thakur (no, not this Pragya Thakur!) from the Yoonited States says in a recent chat “I am as euphoric as the rest of the world. It has been a while since such an inspiring person emerged on the political scene.” Is Pragya hopeful for the blacks and coloured people in general? Too soon to say.

Our wealth-enjoying-brother Dhansukhbhai who has been to the US several times says, “Thame soo khabar che, Obama tho maro manas che, pukka Gujjubhai. Oon kailu che thamne “Obamabhai” nam saru lagu che. America ma saru Gujjubhai Obamabhai-ma vote karva ma avee gaya che.” (What do you know, Obama is a real Gujjubhai. I say he must be named Obamabhai. All Gujjubhais in America voted for our Obamabhai.)

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