An addendum to Khushwant Singh's column in the Hindustan Times, courtesy Vipin Bucksey, New Delhi:
"When I born, I Black
When I grow up, I Black
When I go in Sun, I Black
When I sick, I Black
And when I die, I still Black.
And you white fella,
When you born, You Pink
When you grow up, you White,
When you in Sun, You Red,
When you cold, You Blue,
When you scared, You Yellow
When you sick, You Green,
And when you die, You Gray ...
And you calling me coloured?"
I understand the necessity of having some sort of counter to the predominant message that whitness is greatness. But if India is going to flip a collective shit over Jade Goody being "racist," it might be worthwhile to note that these amusing limericks and anecdotes don't do anything to improve race relations. Actually, it makes me feel pretty shitty, and when you call me a gora, or a firang, and assume that I don't speak Hindi or understand the somewhat negative connotations of the words, it's insulting.
This poem is part of a corpus of work, oral and written, that focuses on mocking the white other. When I was teaching in Kerala and attending, I believe, an Onasadhya, a man came up and introduced himself to me. We got to talking, and he starts telling me a story.
"Have you heard about God's oven?"
No, actually, I haven't. Please, sir, explain?
"You see, God was making the people. First he made the African. And he put the dough in the oven, and he left him in too long, and when the first man came out, he was burnt black. So the next person he made, your people, he put in, but he was afraid they would get burnt, too, and so the Europeans, the whites, they're pasty and undercooked. Finally, he got it just right: perfect and brown, the Indian. Not too dark or too light, just right. The Indian."
There's a part of me enjoys the fact that people are so upfront about differences; my co-workers will talk about "chinks" and I'll cringe because I'm a PC thug, but they'll just shrug and be like, "They look different, you know?" Still, there's a part of me that wishes there was some intervention; some way to explain that even though my country is incredibly chauvinistic and full of rich people and stuff, white people don't like being called firangs any more than Indians like being called Pakis.
I donno; ever since the man told me I was undercooked, I've started thinking that my face does indeed look a bit Pillsbury-esque, pinched and risen but not quite set.