Colored thoughts

Last evening I sat down for dinner with an old friend by huge glass windows that overlooked the patio of the eatery we were at. Unfolding her napkin gently, she laid it across her lap and nibbled on her dinner. I dug in with gusto punctuating my conversation with references to the momentous route K and I were on. She squealed with delight, hugged and wished me well. We went on to talk some more. After an hour and half of catching up, I reluctantly made my way home.

The drive back was slow and filled with thoughts. Of color. Of disturbing thoughts. In my references to the child we will eventually adopt, I found myself harping on our reasons. I was surprised to see how much color played a part of it. Not too white, not too dark, somewhere in the middle I said. She smiled and said ‘Olive’. It sounded perfect. This conversation would have been probably normal with any of my desi friends. After all we grew up with references like this. This post by Phillygrrl on Sepia Mutiny touched a chord.

Going back to what I was saying, there we sat, a white blond haired woman and me an ‘olive’ black haired Indian. We sat there talking of skin color and racial heritage. Many times in the conversation, I felt apologetic for my choice of words. Yet, I was saying nothing wrong. A conversation that would have been normal with K or Akay or my sister suddenly felt strange. I was trying to be politically correct all the time. This is not about racism or preference of lighter skin tone over darker but it does graze the edges. The problem definitely was with me.

Driving home, I probed into my psyche. Why is it that I am conscious of what I say when I am around people of a different race or nationality? Shouldn’t friends be friends no matter where each person is from? Is this just the beginning of a huge series of adjustments I am to make in my life?

How or where does one start? I have prided myself on my ability to be fair. To be equal. Yet, there are parts of me that are so seeped in old notions that they shock me on occasion. I have cringed when people around me talk about racism against them. I have chosen to believe it lies in perception and that people are inherently good.

A simple conversation with no racial overtones brought about an avalanche of thoughts. I have been processing it for over a day now. I have no answers but I am glad I am thinking about it.

6 thoughts on “Colored thoughts

  1. I could imagine the uneasiness you felt. I think it is is really good that you were able to talk about these topics to someone non-Indian. That itself is a healthy beginning. I am not sure if I would have ventured to talk about racial topics – I do have such non-Desi acquaintances/colleagues with whom I could talk freely. But even I would have tried to be politically correct all the time.

  2. There is no need for you to be apologetic about wanting a child that looks like you and your hubby. There is nothing racial about it. It is natural for people to imagine their loved ones as someone like them – it is not because you prefer one over the other. It is racism when you start feeling either superior or inferior becaue of color.

    It is an important phase of your life so just enjoy it without polluting it unnecessary guilt! Best wishes.

    BTW I am intrigued that a ‘close’ non desi friend of yours would ask you about the color of your would-be child. Why did it matter to her at all?

  3. “Why is it that I am conscious of what I say when I am around people of a different race or nationality? Shouldn’t friends be friends no matter where each person is from?”

    You are being extra careful about not hurting the other person’s sentiments. And it’s hard to know what those “sentiments” are because they are subjective and to a certain extent stems from his/her cultural background. Yes, friends should be friends no matter where each person is from. But it takes a while for the friendship to mature to that stage. And You need to get through this phase to reach that stage.

  4. Hey Laksh, it is perfectly normal. My friends wanted only Caucasian kids saying they needed those who come into the family to not look different and feel more a part of the family. So,it is absolutely fine!! 😀

  5. @Gayu: Guess it is more of a reminder to myself than anything else.
    @Anamika: Being politically correct will be the death knell of us all.
    @Anonymouse: Its not being apologetic. Am just surprised at my reactions myself. Like I said nothing wrong about my friend asking me. What is wrong is my reaction and the way I felt queasy about it.
    @Suman: True. I hope to someday reach that level of comfort.
    @Apar: I know it is fine. Yet something about it disturbs me.

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