Thursday, January 27, 2005

“Colour of the skin”

As I had mentioned in a post 2-3 days back, I am currently reading the Kamba Ramayana. This is the version written by the Tamil poet Kamban sometime in the 8th century. He attributes his sources as 3 people, and the primary one is Valmiki. As the foreword suggests, the main difference between Valmiki’s version and Kamban’s is that Rama had risen to the status of a God by the time Kamban began his rendition. As a result, his tale is filled with godly metaphors and super-super-human tasks.

The author, the people around the protagonists and the readers realize that Rama is indeed Vishnu incarnate, but there aren’t any indications as to whether Rama himself realizes it. I guess this is background enough to continue with the actual subject of my post.

Rama is walking along the streets of Mithila and when he reaches the ladies’ mansion, he happens to see Sita in the balcony. He looks at her “beautiful face, sword-eyes, skin fairer than the whitest of lilies…” and she looks at his “rain-cloud hue, complexion darker than the collyrium (kajal) applied to her eyes…” and both fall in love! Just like that! The first thing that struck me was that Rama, as a person, must have been pretty shallow to fall in love with a woman on just seeing her exterior beauty. But that’s still fine…as long as he is human. But he isn’t. Not according to the story. So isn’t it weird that a god is smitten completely by physical appearance alone?!

Now to another matter that rankles me a bit. There was this article in The Hindu by the cricket correspondent Peter Roebuck after the end of the 1st Test match between India vs Australia. He states “Harbhajan needs to control his emotions on the field. But if the rest of the team could take a leaf out of his book and be more aggressive it would be good. Then again this is a country where the main ad during the live telecast is of a woman who gets a TV commentator’s post as soon as she uses a particular fairness cream.”. I do not want to get into the appropriateness of this statement in that paragraph, leave alone the entire article. But it does provide food for thought. And I wonder whether the entire “fair-skin obsession” began with our old poetry. As is evident from Kamba’s description of Sita, the primary reason for Rama to be attracted was her “fairer than lily” skin. Do these vignettes from our epics justify the current advertisement campaigns by the cosmetic industry?

Now to the other end of the racism spectrum (no pun intended). Look at the situation in Zimbabwe and South Africa. It is still racism, be it black or white. Mark Boucher isn’t guaranteed a place in the South African team because of the UCBSA stating that a minimum number of black players need to be included in the team. Zimbabwe is an even more extreme case, where all the whites are supposedly being given a “taste of their own medicine”. It seems like the only way to fight racism is with racism itself. A pretty sad plight indeed!

Another cricket correspondent, Ted Corbett, mentioned in one of his articles about how Boucher, a white, lost his place to Thami Tsolikile, a black. Thami comes from a little village, and apparently the news of his induction into the team was a source of long-lasting joy to the struggling community. It even tempered the flames of enmity against the whites in the community. Makes one wonder whether UCBSA is actually doing the right thing? At the end of the day, cricket is just a game. If such moves can bring about peace in the land, and help resolve the conflicts, maybe it makes sense to sacrifice the interest of the nation’s cricket team for the advancement of the nation itself. Or does it?


At 4:02 PM, Blogger eV said...

You talk about how love is shallow etc. Well if love is all about finding one's soulmate, then why have any constraints at all?- why bar homosexuality, or even incest? Also, given that all of us seem to agree on this cliche that every human is very different from the rest, is it fair to assume that a person would live in the same period as his soulmate? (Of course, I define soulmate one with whom one is in perfect resonance with- in certain values as defined by the individuals). My point is that the concept of soulmates exists as an ideal case only, and that in our world, love is always an approximation towards finding one's soulmate. i.e due to one's extraneous constraints (age, peer/family pressures etc), one makes a sub-optimal decision & lives with it.

My funda is almost any love in this world is a bit hollow. So why bother about the degree of hollowness? :) Of course, given that I have no prior experience in this field, maybe someone experienced in this field should present his/her perspective.

Also, about how reverse-racism might be beneficial to the Zimbabwean society, I see the gains as limited to the short-term, while the harm caused by such a trend would remain in the longer term. I believe affirmative action, as followed by US, will serve the disadvantaged sections better than our own quota model of reservation.

At 8:27 PM, Blogger The Village Idiot / Soldier said...

A comment on the previous comment related to Affirmative Action. Affirmative action in the US states that quotas are illegal(like what exist in our country), EXCEPT when a judge determines that the quota is necessary to redress a past wrong.

Also, the priciple behind one of the points in this post about how a seemingly minor wrong (i.e not taking Mark Boucher into the team, as long as it is helping some communities become peaceful) is discussed in this link. Read it


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