A dash of Pepper…

…with a splash of Mint

N for Nerve

Posted by Pepper on July 11, 2016

Mint is dark skinned. I guess it is quite evident from the pictures I put up. What I haven’t mentioned is that I am absolutely crazy about his skin colour. I think it is delicious. I call him by various names and his colour has been the inspiration for many. Other than the rich colour, his skin also has a smooth, buttery texture. I used to call him my ‘Dark chocolate’. Then I switched to ‘Butter’. Since I thought Butter sounded incomplete, I began to suffix it with ‘Singh’. I addressed him as ‘Butter Singh’ for a very long time. I also had his number saved under that name in my phone. Yes, he is probably the first Tamilian ‘Singh’.

After a point, I thought Butter Singh didn’t have a good ring to it. I changed it to ‘Makkhan Singh’. That name has stayed. I have to give him credit for responding to my calls of ‘Makkhan Singh’ without batting an eyelid. Sometimes I rub my hands on his bare skin and ask him, ‘Are you chocolate or are you butter?’, only to answer the question myself and call him ‘butter chocolate’, or ‘chocolate butter’, depending on what I fancy at that point. I often ask him what his name is, just to make sure he remembers his basics. He says something to the effect of ‘Chocolate Butter Makkhan Singh’. He knows he cannot ever utter his real name in response to my question, unless he wants to repeat the names I have given him a hundred times.

So, the point is I am in love with his skin colour. Of course, there are days when I actually poke fun too. I am not sure how, but he got a lot darker after we moved back from the US. I guess it has a lot to do with playing for hours on the beach, under the harsh Indian sun. He also refuses to use sun screen each time he goes to the beach, which is atleast 3 to 4 times a week, each visit lasting a minimum of 2 and a half hours. He is extremely tanned and I often pick at that. But, only I hold those rights. And our family.

I was in the kitchen with our cook the other day. She was telling me about a marriage proposal they had received for their daughter. In the midst of her story, she looked up at me asked me, ‘Aapne aapke husband se shaadi kaise ki? Aap gori hai aur woh saavle hai. Kya aapko zabardasti shaadi karni padi?’. It translates to, ‘How did you agree to marry your husband? You are fair and he is dark. Were you forced to marry him?’

I was totally unprepared for something like that. In that one moment, I felt enraged, offended and shocked by her audacity. What nerve did she have to say that? I didn’t even know how to respond to that. So I continued to be speechless. Was I forced to marry him? If only she knew how much we fought the world to be together. If only she knew how crazy I was about his skin colour. At that time, I chose to not reply, because I really couldn’t think of a fitting response.

I should have probably just laughed. I knew Mint would. But for that fleeting moment I had the desire to protect him from all scorn. Anyway, I did mention the incident to Mint later that night, and as I had predicted, he had a good laugh. Given our nation’s obsession with fair skin, I am sure a lot of people think he isn’t ‘good enough’ because he is dark, but this was the first time somebody said it aloud to me. I am glad it happened though. It taught me to not care. Next time I’ll just laugh.

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42 Responses to “N for Nerve”

  1. renxkyoko said

    Asians are obsessed with fair skin.

  2. I could have written this, Pepper! In my case, I get questioned a lot on how I fell in love with S despite him being bald. I had been with him when he had a head full of lush, dark, silky hair and I have also seen him lose hair so much so that his head got shiny. S is whom I fell in love with and it doesnt matter if he has hair or not. Few times, people (including S’s friends) have told us how lucky he is for getting married even though he is bald. And it is better for my BP, if I dont start talking about my relatives and their golden thoughts.

    • Pepper said

      Seriously, I don’t know how you’ve tolerated all that. I need to physically stop myself from smacking some people.
      Which brings me back to the point, in a few years my husband is going to be dark AND bald. Wonder what people will say to that.

  3. My Era said

    Laughing off such insensitivity is often the best thing to do.
    So glad to have you back to blogging. Hope all is well at your end 🙂

  4. Just say you had promised a dahej of ‘Fair n Lovely’ and you supply it annually to him. 😀
    I can imagine the furious need to protect him from any scorn. It’s like Jo bhi hai, mera hai.

  5. Nitya Subramaniam said

    Good for Makkan Singh, I say. Growing up, i have faced SO many comments along the lines of uh oh you had better do something abut that complexion of yours. My mom who is very fair to boot taught me to hold my head high and either ignore them or preferably just laugh at the, Laughing confuses them, they truly dont get it.
    Inspite of such an encouraging family atmosphere and full fledged support, i used to really not like my skin color till my early twenties. such a twit 🙂 But i can imagine how it might be affecting other women (and lets face it, dark skinned women have to particularly hear about it) who dont have such support at home.

    • Pepper said

      How sad is that! Tell you what? I’ve always been wheatish but even then I have been at the receiving end of comments. People told me to make sure I don’t get tanned so I can save myself from turning dark.
      I know, I can imagine how hard it must be for dark complexioned women in India..

  6. Such questions can make one awkward. The Fair & Lovely is a flawed ad and product of media working on our mind. On another note, I am glad you working hard to finish the challenge. It’s fun, trust me and do share on social media:)

    • Pepper said

      I don’t think Fair & Lovely is a flawed ad. They are only giving in to the demands of the society. It is our collective thinking that is flawed.
      Thanks 🙂 Nope, I don’t share anything blog related on social media. I don’t mind others linking my blog, but I don’t share anything on any of my personal accounts.

  7. parijat shukla said

    Really liked the first half and its really good to be kids sometimes :). About that cook incident its just sad many of us have this mindset…still i feel yoy should have told the cook that color is immaterial.

  8. In India, fair is pretty and dark not so much. Even if someone who is dark is actually prettier, so to speak, than the fair. Even then, people will just say as a compensation, “You have sharp features”

    • Pepper said

      Yes. You are so right. I’ve heard the ‘sharp features’ bit used for dark people so many times. It almost is unheard to call them pretty or good looking.

  9. That cook really did have the nerve to say such things !
    May be laughing off is what one can do until there’s a change in the way people think !

  10. Dee said

    My darling 11 year old daughter would get such comments from “well meaning” relatives when we visited India, once i had to butt in loudly and firmly ask them to refrain from making such insensitive comments. I told them that “what I see is a beautiful, sensitive, intelligent, self-confident girl, if you don’t see that, then please do not open your mouth” and stormed out of the room. Since then, haven’t heard a thing from them :). As someone who has constantly received jibes for being dark, I decided enough is enough and took a stand for my daughter. You know pepper, she is such a sweetheart, she rescues stray dogs every time we go to Bangalore, she is a fantastic artist, she is a third degree black belt in taekwondo and a gold medalist, some of the older kids in her taekwondo are scared to spar with her. Yet, all folks can see is her dark color?!! They should get a life!

    • Pepper said

      Wow, your daughter sounds like such a winner! And to think of those remarks. It is really exhausting to deal with them. I am glad you spoke up though. Your daughter shouldn’t have to hear that nonsense, especially not at an impressionable age like 11!

  11. Wanderer said

    Love your blog! You write less frequently these days, I am a dark skinned female and that too the second girl in the family. It was unbelievable how much people sympathized with my parents when they didn’t care a bit, neither about my color nor being parents to 2 daughters. But people still didn’t leave us alone. I can never relate to something in India.

    • Pepper said

      People sympathised with my parents when my sister was born too, even though she was very fair with brown eyes and hair. So I can imagine how much more sympathy your parents would have gathered. It is such a stupid world!

  12. Makkhan singh is such an adorable name!

    Sigh. Im trying to come up with a funny comment but just not able to. What to do. As a tamilian growing up in Pune, ive been the bum of many such jokes in school and its quite awful. Took me many many years to realize and truly believe that it really doesn’t matter and then some more to start liking my skin colour. Now i love it 🙂 Ive also realized that most people who judge based on such irrelevant things, are quite immature. Which is why the teasing reduces after a certain age. Because people grow up. And realize its just another colour. There is pink, brown, fair, wheatish, pale, black. They are just different colours and nothing is better or lesser than the other.

    So yeah, just laugh it off. Its not worth getting worked up over.

    • Pepper said

      That’s super sad ya, what you had to go through in school. But you know, I don’t think that kind of teasing is only restricted to kids. I have seen reverse teasing too, if I can call it that. I have a Tamilian friend from Chennai who is now working in Bombay, she keeps getting asked how come she is so fair? Isn’t she supposed to be dark. It frustrates her no end. I suppose some people never grow up.

  13. senora said

    Indians are very much obsessed with fair skin… I am not fair as per Indian standards and have faced lots of comments even from close relatives…. Once, a close lady in my family had the audacity to tell my mom that it will be difficult to marry me off as no ‘good’ guys would want a girl with dark skin. Today, I am married to one of the most wonderful man I have ever known. The color of my skin used to bother me before, but not anymore.

    • Pepper said

      So glad you found a wonderful man to marry. I hope it serves as a rebuke to all those stupid relatives who commented on your marriage prospects earlier..

  14. B said

    Hi Pepper, This post reminds me of how miserable people have made me feel when I lived in India due to my “dark” skin. Relatives, neighbors and random people have told me “you look nice in spite of being dark”. I suffered from very poor self esteem thinking I was “ugly” and it took me moving to America and many years to undo the damage. I have become totally detached and just don’t respond at all to these comments any more when ever I visit.
    Just learn to ignore such people and shrug it off, because there is nothing much else we can do to change this mindset.

    – Bhavana

    • I have gotten the exact comment so many times. You are dark but pretty. You are dark but have such a nice smile. What the hell does that even mean? I feel like being really mean to such people and respond, “You are fair but have such yellow teeth. You are fair but have so many pimples.” Or may be it should be phrased as, “You have such unhealthy skin, but it’s okay because you are fair at least. ” 😀 😀 Just being mean, I don’t think i can ever retort in such a petty way.

  15. WTH! The nerve. I wish though you had said something to her. A rebuke or something to make her realise that her thinking is flawed.
    My mom is dark skinned and growing up she had to face a lot of flak for that. And she was (is) such a strong, vibrant and individualistic person. It is good that she never let all the crap get to her, but it makes me sad people still concentrate on external versions of the society’s definitions of what is beautiful and what is not.
    Our son is really fair and my in laws have a bengali pet name for him that basically means ‘fair skinned’. I was SOOO disappointed when I found out what it meant. Unfortunately, I cannot change what they call him, but I hope the way S and I live at home, he will not get false impressions on what is beautiful and what is not.

  16. You two are just too cute! Loved reading your antics and all about Makkhan Singh! 🙂

    There are some people who just don’t get how someone can look beyond another’s looks. Next time around, just tell them that the colour of his skin doesn’t matter to you. It was him that you fell for, not his colour. I think she needs to know that – maybe that would be a harsh smack of reality for her!

  17. D said

    Hi Pepper, Can you pls share any mail id with me on which I can mail you. I am moving to Mumbai in next few months, and I remember you had done a post on education system- your sister is teaching in some really good school. Just wanted to get few more details, so it will be great if you could pls share a contact ID. thanks, D

  18. our society is odd about physical appearances and somehow fairness seems to be how beauty is defined. I am dark skinned and all throughout my school I could see how some well meaning fair girls felt really bad for me. Even pimply girls with sickly skin and bad teeth thought they looked prettier because they were fairer. I had a similar experience a few weeks back. The rotiwali didi had the audacity to ask me if my husband was so skinny because I was a nagging wife. I actually didn’t know how to respond and telling her details about healthy weight, other health metrics etc would be lost on her because she is really illiterate and stupid on top of that.

    It’s worse when so-called educated people ask you weird questions like these. I was casually telling a colleague that my husband and I are totally opposite. He is super skinny and a foot and an inch taller than me. I thought it would attract an, “Awwww, so cute” kinda comment. Instead she said, “Aise kaise shadi kara diya?” in a very dry, annoying tone like my parents didn’t care about me at all. I said, “what do you mean kara diya? We fell in love and got married, punto!”

  19. Wanderer said

    I remember hearing some similar nasty comments growing up in India. Being the 2nd daughter added to it since people had lot of sympathy for my parents for not having a male child. They never cared but it still bothered me somewhere. I think I gained my confidence only after I left India. Those fairness creams advertisement still make me mad!

  20. A regular reader said

    Hope all is well at your end…. missing your posts….

  21. Bikramjit said

    I know.. 🙂

    My sis who just got married last year is in exact same scenario , she is very fair, but my BIL is very very dark, and she keeps telling me what others ask her.. it is funny how people make up their mind before hand always .. 🙂

  22. […] I have all sorts of names for people. Mint’s name was once saved as Makkhan Singh on my phone. We’re done though. I get irked every time I see my name on his screen. When I was saving […]

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