Thursday, November 01, 2007

Fair Beyond Compare

Reading this article about genetic haves and have-nots reminded me of a close relative. She was born very light-skinned even by the standards of a family who were generally considered "fair-complexioned". To confound matters further, the patriarch was an uber-Babu of some sort in pre-Independence India who swore by all things British. According to him, this whole freedom-fighting business would never come to any good and was a huge waste of time.

With his Babudom and the Brits gone by the time of her birth, he took comfort in the fact that his grand-daughter had peaches and cream complexion just like a regular Memsahib. Her given name was a celebration of her exceptional color and was fated to become the pre-dominant theme of her life.

She grew super-obsessed with her "fairness". The man she married against vehement opposition from the family was almost as light-skinned as her - and that was possibly his sole qualification. To this day relatives do not fail to mention that he attempted the Chartered Accountancy exam seven times before retiring hurt. She could not bear the thought of marrying a dark-skinned man for fear that the offspring may turn out dark too. To her that was fate much worse than death.

Luckily, her daughter is "fairer" than both parents and has like her mother married a man exceptionally "fair" by Indian, Bengali standards. The extended family finds him decidedly obtuse and believes she would have fared better in finding a partner if skin-color was not such a huge deal-breaker for her. She has a child too who is light skinned enough to pass for Caucasian. In their single-minded pursuit of a particular skin color both these women gave up on a lot of other things. Seems likes being a "genetic have" comes at a considerable cost.

1 comment:

ggop said...

Looks like the fairness obsession can go both ways while picking a potential mate.

I've seen many "wheatish" guys obsess about finding a "fair" girl, let me rephrase that the mothers of such men seem to obsess more than the candidates themselves. :-)