Who’s the fairest of them all?

first_img“Doc, what’s the correct dose of saffron?” coos a young woman, as she sits across the table, flaunting her baby bump.“What for?”, I ask, feigning ignorance.“…!!!”, a coy, of course, you know what for, look.I remain mute.“Oh no, doc…”Doc again! I immediately know that she’s a hardcore Googler. Googlers usually yelp, doc! Doc!! Doc!!! Up comes the expected question.“I searched a lot doc, but couldn’t find a reliable resource to get the dose. Pleeeese doc, help mee nah, we want a fair baby.” Her dark eyes now eye her dark companion seeking concurrence.Saffron is supposed to make fairer babies. How stupid! It just isn’t so. Our complexion is polygenic, hinging on many actions of many genes, rather than being decided by just a single gene. It’s a mixed effect. Obviously, otherwise, a black man and a white woman would beget children with zebra patterns. This doesn’t happen, the child’s complexion lies somewhere between the fair and dark tones of the parents.But why pine for the fair complexion?  Our race, our locale has given us the darker shade, it’s protective. Fair is unsafe in the tropics. Nature has bestowed a safety mechanism. Our complexion depends on the levels of melanin in our skin. Melanin protects us against the ample ultraviolet radiation that we are exposed to, in the tropics.  The fair-skinned risk skin cancer if exposed to the tropical sun, not us.This longing for lighter skin appears to be a recent phenomenon, a legacy of our colonial past. Heroes of our great epics, Puranas and folklore are all dark-skinned. The gods are all dark too. Vishnu is as dark as the monsoon clouds, Rama is as dark blue as the sky, Shankar is actually described as black and Krishna; the name itself literally means black. Laxmi, Seeta, Gauri, Radha and other heroines are indeed described as fair, but I guess they are just fairer than their consorts; not as fair as Europeans for sure. But all this does not stop India’s yearning for fair skin. The British have left but have left an indelible mark on the Indian psyche.  A century and a half of white rule have spawned ideological, psychological and emotional slaves amongst us. We still long for white skin.Take talcum powder as an example. It has its uses. It smoothens the skin, masks blemishes, gives a pleasant fragrance and leaves you fresh. But the talc needs to match your complexion. Though most of the Indian population is dark, one hardly finds dark shades in face powders. They are all available in light shades. There isn’t any commercial, advertising a dark face powder. Of course, the necessary shades are there in makeup kits but never flaunted in glam ads. As if the fashion world shuns you for your colour, you may be dark but at least your face should be white!Your complexion and looks are just a small part of your overall personality. There are plenty of coloured people with ordinary looks who have contributed to every field of human endeavour. But we choose to look the other way, we ogle ads for fairness creams and enthusiastically google the correct dose of saffron, dreaming of a fair baby. The child’s education, its contribution to the chosen carrier, its reading habits, general knowledge, hobbies, social etiquettes, manners and behaviour is something that the parents can mould. Complexion can’t be altered. Harbouring a single-minded obsession for white colour is thus, nothing short of stupidity.In fact, taunts about your baby’s colour should prompt you to argue, loudly and aggressively, on the above lines. As the children grow up they should be told to be open and accepting about their complexion. There are several children around who have faced taunts, suffered discrimination, have never been cast as a Fairy or a Prince, just because of the colour of their skin. Their kith and kin shower such acidic remarks that their budding self-respect simply wilts. We must impress upon their minds that beauty lies in the attitude one holds towards oneself and others. Of course, you can’t impress anything upon anyone unless you yourself are convinced about the argument.To suggest saffron to have fairer babies, or even to ideate about it is the racism of a different hue. Racism practised by the dark against the dark. Mind you, racism is not just something that the whites do to the blacks. Stop blaming the whites, the saffron gulpers have no right to do so.Finally a statutory warning. Saffron gives a fantastic colour, adds to the flavour, the aroma is just heavenly… do use saffron, but never ever to lighten the complexion of your baby. It just doesn’t work.And suppose it does? That’s all the more reason not to use it.For the sake of argument, let’s suppose that the baby does develop a very fair complexion if the mother partakes saffron, but then imagine what people will think if a black couple begets a very fair child? They will have ideas, won’t they? They’ll certainly not attribute the baby’s looks to saffron, will they?So beware. Saffron doesn’t bestow a lighter co.last_img read more

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