Monday, May 11, 2015

Black Beauty

Fiction

“Why am I so black when you are so fair?” Veena asked her mother fondly touching the latter’s hand.  “They call me Black Beauty in the school.”

“Ask your father,” said mother who was busy cooking the dinner.  Father was dark in complexion, that’s what mother really meant.  But Veena had not grasped that.  She went to her father since he was a better friend than mother.   The only reason why she had bothered to ask mother was that when her first bleeding took place it was to mother that father directed her summarily.  That was just a few days ago.  “There are some things that only your mother can explain,” father had said.  Veena thought that the colour of the skin was also as mysterious a matter as the blood that came out from the unmentionable part of her body.

“You got my colour, dear,” said father putting aside Akhil Sharma’s Family Life which he was reading.  “Don’t you like it?”

Veena’s nose twitched and her lips pouted.  She realised that she had been unconscious of the fact that her father had a dark complexion.  She looked at him keenly. 

“Are you wondering why your mother married a man like me?”  Father gave her his naughty smile.  Of late he had noticed his daughter spending unusually long time while taking bath.  Unusually long time while dressing up for school.  She had changed her hairstyle.  She was trying to become seductive. 

Akhil Sharma’s narrator had said in the page that Raghu had just put down that writing the story had changed his life.  Her daughter was faced with the problem of the complexion of her skin because the TV in the living room was advertising Fair & Lovely as a remedy for dark complexion.   Is dark complexion a disease to be treated with an ointment?

Yet hadn’t he married Meena precisely because of her fair skin?  What constitutes fairness?  Is it the colour of the skin?  Would Othello have loved Desdemona had she not been white-skinned?  Why did Desdemona love Othello? 

No, darling, explained Raghu to his daughter.  Life is not about the colour of the skin except in TV commercials and in the minds of people who live commercialised lives.   Commerce is what drives mediocrity and mediocrity is what drives commerce.  Life is far beyond commerce so long as you rise above mediocrity and realise that the colour of your skin is as illusory as the promises of Fair & Lovely.  Iago was the Fair & Lovely in the life of Othello.  In every person’s life an Iago is sure to appear.  Some time or the other.  Iagos come in various forms.  In the form of people who pretend to help you, to seek your charity, to promise you publicity for your blogs, to offer you a better job...

“Who is Iago?” asked Veena when she couldn’t understand what her father was saying much as she was used to his eccentric explanations.

“Iago is...”  Raghu wondered what to say.  His daughter was only in grade seven.  “Iago can be the colour of your skin.  Iago can be those who judge you by the colour of your skin.”

Raghu had been fighting with certain Iagos for quite some time.  Those who said things like “Oh, the last blog of yours was written when you were intoxicated, wasn’t it?” or “Maybe one day your blog will win the Booker Prize?”

“Iagos are unavoidable, darling,” said Raghu.  Life is all about meeting Iagos and going beyond them. 

Going beyond Iagos is dangerous.  Raghu knew it.  But he didn’t tell that to Veena.  She was not old enough to understand that yet.  One of Othello’s heroic flaws was his isolation from Iago and such people.  Superiority and the isolation that necessarily accompanies it are tragic flaws.  Raghu knew it.  Unless you know how to convert it all into a narrative.  The narrative is the real beauty, dear. 



PS. This story is dedicated to someone who is very dear to me and is tormented by the colour of her skin.  The irony is that the person is unlikely to read this.

18 comments:

  1. For many problems like this,money is right medicine.An earning lady is seemed in a different angle.And fairness has it's own headaches.

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    1. That's one way of looking at it. I think the complexion turns immaterial when people begin to perceive our intrinsic worth.

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  2. Beautiful story Tomichan. As you rightly pointed out, complexion is just another thing in our body. It shouldn't by anyway rule us. Very crisp and meaningful story.

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    1. Insignificant things like the skin pigmentation have become important in our times. Sign of the superficiality that has gripped our civilisation like a plague.

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  3. Meaningful narrative!
    Our craze for fair complexion is our tragic flaw (most Indians: not only dark but even fair ones are obsessed too)
    Sad that the person who inspired this great post is unlikely to read it..!

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    1. That person is perhaps too young to be interested in my blog. I understand that.

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  4. One of the most intriguing thing that plagued my young life - the color of my skin.. one of the most frequent question in my mind those days was why everyone not born with same color or at least why girls cannot be all fair? and funnily I would despise a fair complexion guy thinking I could have been fair instead of him.. After a certain age, all Veenas who gain strength comes out of that color thing just like I have.. hope your near one also will find her real beauty within..

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    1. Sometimes complexion becomes a complex and hence dangerous. I guess most people grow out of it only to face other problems as seen in the character of the father in the story.

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  5. If she does read it, I doubt if it will have a positive impact on her. A complex that stems because of the color of your skin or anything else about your appearance is something that you have to overcome yourself, and until you do (eventually everyone sees how unimportant it is, and eventually everyone grows to love themselves), no amount of posts or peptalk can help them.

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    1. Only religious preachers expect their audience to be converted miraculously, Sreesha. No literary writer looks forward to any conversion. I write because "the narrative is the real beauty" (the last sentence in the story) for me.

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  6. Ah yes, Iago comes into our lives in different forms. And sometimes we play Iago sometimes knowingly and sometimes unknowingly. :)

    On another note -- what a brilliant creation Iago was; such a well-crafted character!

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    1. Yes, of course, while others become our Iagos, we become theirs :)

      Shakespeare was a genius. Who can question that?

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  7. Nothing can help them as it's in their mind. Even though some have a dark complexion, it's not a bad thing. The society distinguishes it and makes it look bad....

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