Yesterday, I was looking at a group photo of my little one and her classmates in her preschool. Just then her 20-yr old nanny arrived and I showed her the photo too. It was a cute picture of all the two-year olds posing for the camera in their own way; some smiling, some upset at being made to sit so prim and proper, some standing and one of them crying. But the beauty of it was that not one of them was self-conscious before the camera; they behaved the same way as they would have done behind it.

So coming back to the point, the nanny saw the picture and remarked, “She (my daughter and her ward) is the only black child in the whole class!” I was taken aback. It was not what I was expecting. But then we seldom get what we expect.

black or white

I looked at the picture more closely. Yes, she was absolutely right. My little one was the only brown face in the sea of whites. I should here mention that my nanny is no racist; she is darker than most dark Indians. Also to be fair (no pun intended), nobody in India is a racist. When we talk about skin color, it is because we are obsessed with it and think it’s our birth right to talk about it.

A country full of people in various shades of brown, we spend most of our time in comparing those shades: “Is she whiter than me?” “Why am I so black?” (though one of the most colorful countries, we know only two colors “white and black” when it comes to the skin color).

This innocuously made remark brought back a lot of old memories. I have a brown skin tone which is usual with most Indians. But what’s unusual is that I have very fair (white, lol!) parents and siblings. Being the only dark child in the family was not easy. Though my parents and siblings never made me aware of this, there were many people around who were more than happy (or wicked) to point it out to me. “Who will marry her? She is black,” or “She has beautiful features, if only she were a little white,” or “You will have no problem marrying off your younger daughter. Your elder one might see a few problems though.” Yes, as a young child it left some emotional scars. I was too young to realize that they were idle comments of idle people, most of them being the same shade of brown as I.

I had thought this would never happen to my daughter. I had thought thirty years would have changed that. But no, certain things don’t change. Dusky is bad. That’s what we still believe. We, Indians, still yearn for that elusive milky white complexion. No wonder, Fair & Lovely is still selling like hot cakes. And more premium brands have followed suit to cater to (white) color-obsessed Indian fools.

I remember meeting an internet friend in person.

On seeing me he was surprised, “You weren’t lying, then. You really have a wheatish complexion.”

“Why should I have lied?” I asked.

“Because that’s what most Indian girls do. They say white when they are brown and say wheatish when they are black.” He had managed to put it quite well.

Have you or your child ever faced color discrimination?

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