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Archive for June, 2011

“Derrick, I’m going to get a tan this summer; I’m going to get dark. Oh, not so dark you can’t get a job, but dark enough!!!

 – Derrick Cameron

 I was still in mid-air, 30000 feet above ground, when Prince Williams and his lovely bride had their nuptials a few months ago. I usually shy away from watching any telecast to do with any Royalty; their ceremonies fraught with superfluous protocols and excessive formalities are not my usual cup of tea, but I make exceptions for weddings. Guess it is the little girl in me still hankering for soppy and gooey “Happily Ever After” fairy tale endings.

Anyway after hearing rave reviews of Pippa Middleton’s shapely derriere and complexion that even eclipsed Bin Laden’s death mask, I had no excuse but to catch up with the videos. I have to say I was a tad disappointed over the “bottom”, but then bootylicious is no longer the buzz word I hear. Duh, even Microsoft Word does not recognise it.

First, let me throw in my disclaimers before I continue. I have nothing against Pippa, God bless her, she has a charmingly impish face and so refreshing that it is no wonder that she has stolen the show. But my rant is all about the tanned skin.

There I was expecting a pale English Rose with just the perfect milky white complexion and I get instead a skin that I wake up to every morning. Since my days as a teen (which lately seems centuries ago), I have spent a fortune on all kinds of skin-lightening products and here is someone who probably had done the opposite and had the world wowed with her acquired complexion. What is it with people and their obsession to possess a skin colour that is foreign to them?

During my short stint in Europe a couple of years ago, I had observed some of my European friends, who in their attempts to get ready for their summers, had gone overboard on the tanning beds. They had actually ended up with quite some noticeable damage to their skin. But I guess that did not faze them the least and they still probably continue to line up for their periodic solarium visits once summer hits their towns.

To my dismay, however, melanin has been my best buddy at all times of the year, irrespective of sunshine or rain, summer or winter. Possessing a skin colour that constantly reminds one of some kind of coffee beverage, there are days when I have longed for more “cream in my coffee”. Summer usually finds me in protective layers of clothing or hiding indoors as I freak about turning a few shades darker. It has taken me years to get comfortable in my own skin although I have to confess I still indulge in the occasional buying of the odd fairness cream that is guaranteed to work a miracle.

Raised in a culture where fairer skin and lighter complexion were held in high esteem, I usually find it difficult to comprehend a society where women would long for the reverse. Most cultures around the world seem to express a penchant for fair female skin, whereas the modern Western world has attributed attractiveness and socio-economic status directly to tanning…..and I am definitely not talking about tanning beds and sunless tan sprays here, but the jet setting crowd that can afford the natural tanning fromwarm summer days in some picturesque resort.

It is indeed an irony that tanned skin can get you into elite circles in certain societies and elsewhere be still looked down upon. Well, it is definitely not my intention to raise the topic about melanin induced prejudices in this light-hearted banter, but yet it is something that cannot be completely swept under the carpet when we string “skin” and “colour” in the same sentence.There are still undercurrents of stigma associated with darker skin tones in almost every society and yet we allow the world to get away with such double standards when it comes to skin colour!!!!

However, despite my whinge, I have to say some of us would be more than willing to relinquish the label of “dusky damsels” to our western counterparts. Don’t you agree with me as well??

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“My home is not a place, it is people.” 
– Lois McMaster Bujold 

The taxi worms its way through the crowds at the airport and slowly enters the traffic.  It is almost midnight and yet the roads are crowded – ah what a wonderful change it is to see a city that never sleeps.  There is a palpable aura in the streets – something that I cannot place my finger on.  Here and there, I spot speeding vehicles filled with young men and kids whooping with joy, their screams peppered with the noise of fireworks…….the aerial display robbing the sleep from the eyes of my kids and leaving them mesmerised in a trance like state.

For a moment, I wonder if the city is celebrating the return of the prodigal daughter (erm, in case you are wondering, c’est moi)……and then it dawns on me, India has just won the Cricket World Cup and hence the festivities and the partying.  I have been away too long to partake in such jubilations but still couldn’t help smiling at the exuberance displayed …… it was hard to stay unaffected by the national pride exhibited on the streets.

So much has changed during my absence and yet so much hasn’t – I am still hanging onto my dear life in the rollercoaster ride of a taxi while it weaves in and out of the traffic maze.  Gone are my own reckless driving days on the back of a two-wheeler albeit a 50cc motorbike; today even within the confines of a car, I cannot stop sweating at the negligent driving and the sheer volume and speed of the oncoming traffic.

For someone who experiences heavy doses of “reverse cultural shock” every time I fly back to India, I usually find the first few days unbearable…..or rather my body “protesteth” a lot; however the saga of my repatriation continues despite the whiny protests of my senses.   Since I decided to stay overseas and make my home elsewhere for my kids I believe I have sometimes successfully alienated myself with my choices and have lost the rights to object to the disparity I find between the two worlds I occupy.  Regrettably, a few of us are living our lives in transit, as mere spectators, no longer having the luxury of belonging to…….neither to the country that defined us nor to the country that we have adopted.

It is with such conflicting thoughts I enter my childhood home – a place still abounding with my memorabilia, fondly cherished and treasured by my parents.  Nothing has changed much within the house in the last four years or perhaps ever since I moved out of that house over a decade ago – time is frozen here.  However I could not say the same of my parents – sadly I discover that time and separation has etched a different story on their visages.  But our visit, especially that of the kids have brought a huge difference in their otherwise routine life, fraught with loneliness and solitude.  I can visibly see that I have added a few more years to my mother’s life, especially when her ailing heart had almost decided to give up on her a few weeks ago prior to our visit.  Very soon the house is filled with raucous and joyful shouts of the kids, voices of visiting friends and relatives, phone calls and mobile ringtones……the days pass too quickly in the warmth and safe confines of my family’s love and attention.

Before long it will be time to leave and with a heavy heart, we would bid each other painful farewells.  My parents’ agonising wait for another homecoming trip will commence.   As for me I will return to a world, where I will be forced to put on the mantle of the adult and deal with reality that is not always kind to me.  It would be a long wait before I can become a child again in my parents’ house.  To my dismay, I am very much painfully aware of the fragility of our lives and I realise someday my home will be bereft of the people who care for me and my own family.  I would lose the focal point of going home then…….but till then these trips will always be a ritual of my life.


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