Sunday, May 3, 2009

Retrograde emancipation

Spinning is an ass-kicking exercise if done right. If it doesn't hurt, you aren't doing it right. 

It has been quite sometime since I have been with company where I don't have to measure my words. Where I don't have to weigh out exactly what impact my opinions will have on my little audience. I've never had trouble saying black and white before. Now I parse through the sentence in my head lest it have a hidden double meaning that is offensive. (Some how it seems ok when an African-American person says black, but not when a Caucasian does) (note usage of African-American and Caucasian). I'm half way between the colors, I'm brown. Despite numerous attempts that my mommy made to turn me into a fair maiden, I stayed brown as ever. I don't have any issues people calling me brown. It's a nice color, don't you think? 
Earthen people. Baked in the hot Indian sun (I recently also had a conversation with a "fair" North Indian who thought everyone below Madhya Pradesh is dark-skinned. Not so fair, are we?). The discrimination, in my opinion, is more within our country than anywhere else. It is there in the everyday matrimonial ad that seeks a "fair, something, everything" bride or groom. Every Fair & Lovely hoarding screams colorism (we are all unfortunately the same race, if we weren't, then perhaps India would have had its own little Apartheid movement). Bollywood actresses with beautiful brown skin caked with whitening make-up are the mascots of this disgusting divide. Progressive views in woman education, widow remarriage and all that jazz have been exhaustively discussed in many letters to the editor. But even today, when my family looks for a groom, they want a chekkachevael nu maapilaiChekkachevaelness is roughly the equivalent of fair enough to go pink when pinched. Maapilai is roughly the equivalent of a groom. 'Roughly' because there is so much less expected from a groom in the rest of the world in the looks department and so much more expected in the character department. Standard disclaimers apply here. 
Divides are unavoidable, illogical ones more so. While we are at it, may I propose a few? The ability to tell good coffee from bad, turquoise from green, background from signal in western blots and finally, Terence from Philip (Minus five to the maapilai who doesn't know who T and P are). 

Credit to Mathangi for the title. I thought and thought but didn't want to call this anything else.

Color: Yellow
Song: Guru bin kaahe guman (Zakir Hussain)

P.S. This post is especially dedicated to women across the world whose significant others don't understand that both set of parents are just as important, as are social lives, careers and cultures. 


BrownPhantom said...

Being outside the country makes one even more aware of one's color. Of course Brown is good :).
In India casteism transcends color. And no, we do have different races (depends on ur definition of race), though they have intermingled a lot to various extents in different regions.
By the way, the "Good coffee-Bad coffee" criterion wud be unfair :).

Deepu Vasudevan said...


I was aware of my color way before I landed in the Caucasian world. Numerous comparisons with fair cousins always kept me aware of how brown I was.
I define race from a purely biological perspective, so there is only one within our country with exceptions in the east and the likes of Pondy.
About the coffee, it is supposed to be unfair :)

BrownPhantom said...

Yes, of course. Maybe being a guy I didn't go through that drill a lot even though I have my fair share of fair cousins :). Though I was acutele made aware of it in while in US, indirectly of course.

Race is complicated subject. You might want to look it up here

Yes, fairer sex gets to be unfair in such matters :).

Sandeep said...

Ok, this might be a long comment.

Color based discrimination makes sense. It's inherent, and genetically embedded into us as we evolved i guess.

Take Rock Agamas for instance, Males get this vibrant red or yellow coloration during breeding season to attract mates.


I know, cheap publicity, but it's worth it :))

This happens even with Birds. Birds (usually males) get beautiful breeding plumages to attract females. This is only in breeding season.

Now, how and when humans evolved out of it is an interesting aspect, maybe (not?) worth exploring.
We tend to go for color, but not just during breeding seasons. :D

But, What about the species of birds which mate for life? Albatross for example. I don't know if they too develop breeding plumage (i'll check it right after this comment).
Neither do i know if there are any other species which mate for life (will check that as well).

Yeah, this post goes down as a variation of a rant of a 20-something old single girl whose parents are looking for a 'suitable' groom. :))

Finally, the divides.
I can give your an acceptable RGB range for differentiating turquoise from green,
I wish you meant background *noise* from signal in western blots (oh ya, i can design a filter for that) and finally, I take minus five for dividing Terence from Philip :P

Sandeep said...

How could Kajol, and Nandita Das slipped out of my thoughts!!
Oh ya, you'd call them exceptions.

Maybe, you can relate to Naomi Campbell, Tyra Banks better :P

Deepu Vasudevan said...

Race, biologically, needs to have some genetic differences. The more colloquial reference to race is color and other phenotypic features.
It is amazing that women are called the fairer sex albeit they are the ones turned down as brides because of dark skin. Ironical.

First things first. Kajol in Baazigar vs Kajol in Fanaa = Layers of makeup.
Nandita Das, I'll give it to you.

And yes, in the Areal kingdom mating is plumage based. The reason behind this is the basic instinct of propagation. Every male wants to breed progeny and n(female) < n(male) in most species. Hence males have to compete for female attention. There are also instances where there are fights for mating partners.
There are many species that mate for life - swans, albatross etc. Neither of them develop plumage for mating, pheromonal attractions exist though.
In the evolutionary tree, we have left these traits far behind since we branched off from Areal forms quite a while ago. Primates, as you may have observed, are not colored very differently. They mate based on strength and not color which is according to the Darwinian principle of Survival of the fittest. If anything, we should have inherited those preferences in mating partners.
Hence, color based discrimination does not make sense. It is a very narrow perception of beauty is what it is.

Why are you putting yourself out for maapilai candidacy, btw? :P

Sandeep said...

Hmmm.. I don't think humans discriminate mates based only on color. They (read women) look for the fittest (read rich), and the powerful (read good network). Next, they look for color. Yeah, even in 'arranged' marriage. I don't think they just look for chekkachevael nu maapilai. That is only a secondary condition, given primary condition is satisfied, they look for chekkachevaelness.

Pheromonal attractions exist even in humans.

I didn't know those questions were only for privileged people. You should make it explicit! :P

Deepu Vasudevan said...

a)In arranged marriages, women don't look for the grooms. If they did, then something would come above money and power (refer to the P.S. in the post). I'll not accept that argument at all.

b) The parents looking for a rich maapilai is something I can overlook considering that they want their daughter to be better off after marriage OR have the same standard of life. Whichever applies. But chekkachevael is bullshit in the purest form. Even by the meagrest standards of principles in our society.

c) It is not for privileged. It is for the under-privileged non-chekkachevaels. Sorry, you are too chekkachevael for this :P

Sandeep said...

a)Even though they don't look, they have the final say. In fact, they have at least as many options as you'd get in 'Advanced search'. They set the necessary and sufficient condition.

b) chekkachevael maybe, just maybe, comes down in the list of power, money, success etc. when you look for a 'suitable' mate.

c) Now, you are discriminating!! :P

Deepu Vasudevan said...

It is too surreal to argue that looks don't play an important role in deciding on a prospective groom. There is little else information available on the person. While they set requirements education wise and wealth wise, I have rarely seen girls who say they want a chekkachevael maapilai. You either have met too much of the other subset or my statistics are weak. Let's not go there.

@c, irony much?

Anonymous said...

Very interesting post and comments! Well, nothing to add at this point, except to say that, for me, Brown is super sexy..browner the better. Many times people here dont see me very Indian (and I dont know what to make of it), as I could pass off as a spanish or Arab too, but myself I have been mostly been attracted to only brown girls in my life. Smita Patil was my all time favorite and not just for her talent but her most beautiful face.

Sandeep said...

irony too much.

Deepu Vasudevan said...


Go brown :)