June Issue 2014
The Fair Affair
Goray rang ka zamana kabhi hoga na purana, gori dar tujhay kis ka hai? Vital Signs have been saying it for ages so why are we so surprised when Zubeida Apa announced that its time we all had a fair share at becoming Fair?
Gora rang is the ultimate Pakistani dream. Just ask the expectant mother who consumes milk by the gallon, hoping her newborn will take on its colour, the mum-in-law who makes light skin a prerequisite for her son’s bride-to-be, or the men who find Deepika sexy but Katrina Kaif the take-home, meet-mummy type. Gora Pakistan is nothing to be ashamed of. After all, isn’t that what every Pakistani wants? To shine chittafrom the outside despite a blackened heart or whatever else that lurks beneath the layers of over-bleached, peeling white skin? Why the shor and the sharaba, the uff tauba? Why the outcry that her claim to change our racial characteristics is a set back to a society trying to stop dark skin discrimination. Who asked you to in the first place?
Afterall what has poor Zubeida Apa done that’s so shocking? Merely put aside her Masalaydar Dhoohadar Keema Aloo Bengan and listened to what people have been asking her on her show for ages, “How can I become fair?” And when she does come up with a mass-market solution, what does she get? Bricks and bracks by the same people who are rushing to buy her whitening soap even as they blast her for promoting color-coded racism.
Fair and Lovely, Ponds, Mod Girl, even some unknown types like Faiza have been pushing harmful skin lighteners for ages. So why the outpouring of hatred when our own Apa Jee does it? Just because she didn’t target the lone darky but tried to change the racial characteristics of the whole country? So unfair! True, the other brands have not openly declared that being dark is a national offence. But implying that it’s better to be lighter is more or less the same thing. Atleast Apa is daring enough to own up that to be dark is to be inferior — a complex she has set out to put right.
One must admire Apa Jee’s courage in trying to do collective good by reinventing the wheel — that is changing our racial features. So where is the racism in all this?
Perhaps it is the foreign hand at it again. Across the border, a lady called Nandita Das has been misleading people that Dark is Beautiful. Her slogan is Stay Dark, Stay Beautiful. According to her, the pursuit of fairness pressurizes people into desiring the unattainable — like an obsession with size zero for which our South Asian body shapes are not structured. Little does she know that is exactly what Zubaida Apa is trying to fix. No longer is being fair an unhealthy, unachievable obsession. Thanks to her whitening soap we are barely a step away from turning into a Stepford society of whiter than white clones of each other. Its not a healthy glow that counts, its how deeply eroded and bleached white your pallor is, Ms. Das!
The competitors have also joined forces with the Enemy. Have you heard how some of these Aamina Sheikh type unapologetically dusky dames, are going around saying Fair is not Lovely? I think they are actually Fair and Lovely agents trying to promote the competition in a very subtle way. Have you noticed how lightly they say ‘is not’ and how loudly they shout Fair and Lovely?
And that Saeen toh Saeen chap is another self appointed activist against the Gora Pakistan drive. Apparently he has taken it upon himself to launch a Kala Pakistan campaign to oppose Apa’s. Last I heard Ali Gul Pir wanted to raise the dead by renaming Gora Kabristan as Kala Pakistan. Some people will do anything for attention!
I feel sorry for poor misunderstood Zubeida Apa. Infact I apologise to her on behalf of all those ungrateful baboons who have been interrupting her cookery shows with requests not of recipes but of fairness potions (Meri shadi nahin ho rahi, jaldi say batain rang saaf karnay ka tareeqa?) and now that she has poured all her energies into a bleachy skin eroding soap they are berating her for calling them kala in the first place. But you know how it is, never call a madman mad…
Anyhow, Apa must ignore these misguided people who can’t digest her new avatar as saviour of the kala kolotas,and carry on creating more and even more powerful whitening substances. Why just skin, lets bleach our hair, teeth, tongues, eyebrows, palms, toenails, intestines, afterall one can never be too white. I say lets give the Scandinavians a run for their money. They’ve had the monopoly on being Brite white, way too long. Afterall if we can score at cricket, go Nuclear, hide away Osama, then being white is no biggy! If America can have a black President, we can have a white voter!
And after all this effort to lighten our complexions, if they still harass our Apa Jee, know that she has become a scapegoat. After Bilawal Bhutto and GEO TV, it is now her turn. As it is the blame game is our nation’s second favourite pastime. The first and most popular one being hypocrisy.
Having said that, Zubaida Apa, is also partly to blame. Has she not heard “when in Rome do as the Romans do?” She is in a way responsible for this backlash. She has broken a-not-so-secret code. And that is the unwritten rule of never voicing what we really mean. Call it takalluf or jhooth or simply denial, its a crucial part of our daily life. How could she let down the all important principal of hypocrisy? So many of our national institutes are built upon it. Everyday governance, trade, politics, history and clergy all rely upon it. If even a single brick is dislodged from this hypocritical structure, the whole nation is in danger of collapsing! How could she take such a chance and voice that which was deep in our hearts but never publicly acknowledged. That’s almost like admitting to the Americans, yes we knew where Osama was all along but didn’t want to tell you.
One of the observations my nine-year-old son made when he first moved to Pakistan was that, “people in Pakistan don’t always mean what they say.” Not something he would have observed like an anthropologist had he grown up here. It’s a given thing. People say what they don’t mean and mean what they don’t say. The fidgety girl opposite you commenting on how beautiful Aamina Shiekh is with her caramel skin or how bewitching Bipasha Busu’s dusky skin looks, is most likely getting late for her own whitening facial. The mother who tells her daughter its ok to be who you are is probably looking for a fair bride for her son, the doctor who says at a seminar that young girls with dark complexions in this country suffer from self-esteem issues probably promotes fairness injections at his clinic.
And where there is hypocrisy, there is shallowness. We are obsessed with our appearance. Nevermind what happens beyond the four walls of our whitewashed residence, nevermind that there are potholes down the road or a whole basti of impoverished poverty stricken people right behind our palaces. We look good (and whitened). Our lawn joras are designer. Our blowdries immaculate. Our Filipinos imported. And that’s what matters.
However now that Apa has, by default, dared to call Pakistan Kala, she must bear the consequences. Zubeida Apa has unleashed a monster. Hundreds of these Feminist types have come out against the Gora Pakistan (wishful) campaign and are voicing their dissent. And from what it looks like they seem comfortable in their (unbleached) skins. They don’t have blowdries to worry about, or nails that get easily chipped. And their help is local. These, Zubaida Apa, are the most dangerous type.
What more can I say? Poor Apa Jee tried to help them, but she forgot, kalay hain to kya hua, baray dil walay hain. Given the rage and response against her campaign, if even five per cent of it is from the heart, I’m afraid I have to say, ab hoga kisee ka mu kala!
The writer is a writer. Her first novel â€œNobody killed herâ€ published in 2015. She tweets @sabynjaveri