"She walks in beauty, like the night of cloudless climes and starry skies;
And all that's best of dark and bright meet in her aspect and her eyes:
Thus mellow'd to that tender light
Which heaven to gaudy day denies" - Lord Byron.
Let's talk about Butter Milk today. Two random plebian words that show the Indian mentality in a perfectly fair light..Let me correct myself. In a perfectly unfair light.
The second I utter these words, the image of hoards of aunts and grannies comes to my mind. Not coz they affectionately "pull" the buttermilk and give it to us in big glasses to soothe our parched throats. Rather coz as far as they are concerned, Butter & Milk have only one business. And that is to be slathered on our pretty little "dark" skin so that we can become fairer.
Till date, I have been unable to understand this national obsession with the color of one's skin.
The second a baby is born, people start remarking on the color of the skin, more so if its a girl. In a country where the girl child may not even be allowed to go to school or have an opinion of her own, everyone takes a rather undignified and unwarranted interest in her skin!!
The mother of the dusky little baby won't be spared either!! From well-meaning far removed aunts patronizingly patting your arm to your own tedious and bossy mother in law suggesting you are to be blamed for your daughter's skin, that if only "she" had taken saffron milk like I had suggested, the baby wouldn't have been born dark!!
And no, before you start thinking of explaining the concept of basic genetics to them, let me make this clear.. "it doesn't matter if their son is really the one that's dark, while you are fair," you are to be blamed.
You and the damned saffron milk.
Sweet motherhood begins... !!
The girl will grow up listening to snide comments about her complexion, playing second fiddle to the fairer girls, hiding behind the fairer cousins in family reunions, adoring a fair-skinned friend and longing for it and many a jibe about her bleak future from anyone and everyone who wishes to speak. The poor mother will give into others views, and start smothering the hapless little child with butter and milk...and then some more!!!
The child will begin its life like a queen..bathing and being massaged with butter and milk.
Cream, besan (gramflour), turmeric (haldi) will be mixed to form a ubtan (paste) to be massaged into her young baby body to make her fairer. As she grows the little dusky beauty will be given jars and bottles and tubes of fairness cream! (its a half billion $ industry in India!).
Apparently they can magically improve one's complexion. Not just by a shade..but turn you around completely from dark to fair, or so the advertisers would have us believe!
And sadly, the gullible majority of the Indian populace believes it. Ever heard of Photoshop??
I haven't faced any of this. I am quite fair by Indian standards, and not in the least coz I was subjected to such torturous massage routines. It's my genes. But I have been a witness to so many beautiful women and girls worrying themselves silly about not being fair enough. The parents worrying that they won't make a good match coz they aren't fair enough. Even the bosses giving them the glance over coz of their complexion.
Don't you realize a woman is so much more than just the color of her skin, her complexion??
Fair or dusky, the fact is a woman is beautiful if she feels confident. and is charming. That's what makes her attractive. Not the color of her skin.
I wish people would wake up and instead of lusting after the doodh and malai, soni kudis, realize that their duskier daughters are by no means less beautiful or any less deserving than their fairer counterparts.
Dark is beautiful. There is an incandescent, luminous quality to the caramel like color of dark Indian tone that the fairer colored sisters (me) long for..and frankly are quite envious of!!
The best of Indian supermodels are dusky, and not pasty colored. The glow that comes from a dusky beauty is just not the same when it comes from fairer girls. Imagine Smita Patil..Now tell me you wish she was fairer!!!?? Or Suchmita Sen? Or Konkona Sen Sharma..? Or Ujjwala Rout?? Or Nayanika Chatterjee? Or Nandita Das?
It's time Indians moved away from this prejudice. There is enough of racism and casteism in the world, without us throwing in colorism to the mix!
And be fair. I mean Just. Not the color fair.
That hard working, sincere girl who rocked the client presentation should NOT be passed over for her fairer skinned colleague when it's time for a promotion.
That wonderful, loving, dusky homemaker should NOT have to hear jibes from her MIL or husband.
That budding,precocious teenager should NOT have her spirit crushed under the weight of your disgusting prejudice.
That innocent little newborn should not be smothered with butter and milk to make her fairer.
Rather feed her with Buttermilk so she grows into a strong, confident, charming and beautiful woman, who values herself, dark skin et all!!
Teach her to love herself, just as she is.
Show her the color of her skin means nothing.
Tell her how beautiful she is in your eyes, that there isn't one thing you would change about her..
That she is beautiful just as she is, coz Dark is Beautiful.
Let's end this unfair obsession.
Mix everything in a big bowl. Pull from the mixing bowl to a tall glass
- Curd 2 cups
- Cold water 1 cup
- Salt as per taste
- Ginger minced 1 teaspoon
- Coriander and mint leaves chopped finely 3-4 tbsp
till frothy and light.
This is a basic summer cooler found in almost every Indian refrigerator. It's healthy, cooling and subtlety flavored making it a perfect accompaniment to most Indian meals. Till date, the sound of the buttermilk as my mom pulled it from glass to glass, is something that calms me down...that and the sight of all those teeny tiny little air bubbles!!