April 14, 2012

Common Clay

A haiku by Stacy Wiebe
We're not fashioned from
diamonds or opals, but clay
warm with divine breath.

 I snapped this photo of my son participating in a
hands-on sculpting activity at Government Museum, Chennai.

March 12, 2012

On Raising Children

By Kavitha Emmanuel | Director, WOW

The issue of skin colour goes deeper than we would like to admit. It is actually more than just ‘skin’ deep; it is in our hearts. How does this bias against people of a darker skin colour, really affect the way we live and relate to others? 

I have a daughter who is 5 years old. I would like to describe her skin colour as 'golden brown'. She is my honey bunch. My hope and dream for her is that she will grow up believing that she is beautiful just the way she is. In South India, she probably does not fall in the category of being dark-skinned, but neither is she really fair. 

I am, at the moment, considering adopting a child. I have asked myself this question, “What is my preference, in terms of skin colour, for the child I would like to adopt?"  My first thoughts were that he or she should be of a similar skin tone to that of our daughter. I couldn't bear the thought of one of them being darker than the other and have people make comparisons or comments that would be hurtful to them. I would not want them, in turn, to compare themselves to each other and, perhaps, echo the unfortunate but common opinion that the lighter one is better. I do empathize with parents who are faced with this situation. As parents we want the best for our children. 

We live in a world where we suffer discrimination in various aspects of life - rich against the poor, upper caste against the lower caste, men against women. We discriminate on the basis of religion, profession, designation, status and SKIN COLOUR! Let's wake up to a new world where we spread love and acceptance rather than prejudice or bias.
If I adopt a child and he or she is dark-skinned, I will do all I can to let my children know how beautiful they are. I will teach both my children to rise above the limitations that the world might try to place on them because of skin colour. We need to teach our children to soar!

March 2, 2012

An ideal Indian woman?

By Kavitha Emmanuel | Director, WOW

We often conclude that our worth is based on what we do or how we look. And for many of us, especially women, what we see in the mirror – or what we think we see in the mirror – shapes much of our identity. Added to these notions are our society’s norms on how a girl or a woman should look and behave. The Media sends us confusing messages about who we are and what we should look like often capitalizing on the norms that are already found in our society.

An ideal Indian woman! Who is she? She is tall, slim, with well defined features and FAIR!  
What do we read when we open the matrimonial sections of our newspapers? Have you ever tried to count the number of ‘fairness’ advertisements that you are exposed to on television everyday? It seems the marketing universe would have us believe that the majority of Indian girls and women need to lighten up!
Based on the Global Village Theory, if we were to shrink the whole world into a village of 100 people, 70 of us would be colored! And we are a nation made of up people with different shades and colours of skin – from yellow to light brown and darker shades of brown. To set ‘fair’ as the norm of beauty is so ‘Un-Fair.’

The Dark is Beautiful campaign is all about spreading the message that beauty is beyond colour. We are all citizens of one nation– tall or short , men or women, children or adults, Fair or Dark. Why make a big deal about skin colour when you are beautiful just the way you are?

Is it possible for us to shed our bias against dark skin and give everyone a ‘fair chance’ to be accepted, loved and represented in all walks of life?

Yes, it is possible!

February 23, 2012

Runner Up poem entry in the 2009 Contest

A Lullaby for Yamini* - By Susan Philip

The Sleep Fairy’s coming my little one,
She’ll stay for a while, my pretty one,
She’ll bring sweet dreams to your jet-bright eyes,
And sing you the loveliest lullabies.

Sleep, little Yamini, my life, my light,
Sleep, little Yamini, queen of the night,
The Sleep Fairy’s near,
She’s here.

Her wings ruffle your corkscrew curls,
Fanning them into spirals and swirls; 
Where, she asks, did you get this black,
This dark, deep, rich, velvety black?

God waited till the deepest moment of night
And took a bit of the darkest spot in sight
By dipping His finger in the sky,
I reply.

Sleep, little Yamini, my life, my light,
Sleep, little Yamini, queen of the night,
The Sleep Fairy’s here,
She’s here.

Her breath sets your lashes fluttering now,
Her palm smoothes your winged eyebrow;
Where, she asks, did you get this black,
This soft, soothing, downy, black?

God went to the big, glossy raven’s nest
And waited till the bird was at rest,
Then took a tiny feather,
I answer.

Sleep, little Yamini, my life, my light,
Sleep, little Yamini, queen of the night,
The Sleep Fairy’s here,
She’s here.

As she caresses your cheek so soft and tender,
You flash your sweet little dimple at her;
Where, she asks, did you find this brown,
This bronzed and burnished shade of brown?

God scoured the woods and the forests deep
For the sweetest honey the bees do keep,
And scooped some in a frond,
I respond.

Sleep, little Yamini, my life, my light,
Sleep, little Yamini, queen of the night,
The Sleep Fairy’s here,
She’s here.

She strokes your enchanting bow-shaped lips,
The merest touch with her fingertips;
Where, she asks, did you find this colour,
It looks so pretty, so perfect on her.

God found it in the dreamy, secret part
Of a sun-soaked grape’s garnet heart
One happy day
I say.

Sleep, little Yamini, my life, my light,
Sleep, little Yamini, queen of the night,
The Sleep Fairy’s here,
She’s here.

You have all my blessings my pretty one,
As you grow up a woman, my little one.
May the world be your oyster, my pretty one,
And you a precious black pearl, my little one.

May you ever be sweet as warm caramel,
Yet hold the fire of a black opal.
And always be strong, as coffee,
Or ebony.

Sleep, little Yamini, my life, my light,
Sleep, little Yamini, queen of the night,
The Sleep Fairy’s here,
She’s here.

The Sleep Fairy’s come, my little one,
She’ll be here a while, my pretty one,
She’s brought sweet dreams for your tight-shut eyes,
She’s singing you the loveliest lullabies.

Sleep, little Yamini, my life, my light,
Sleep, little Yamini, queen of the night,
The Sleep Fairy’s here,
Right here.

*The name Yamini is a Sanskrit word meaning ‘night’.

February 16, 2012

Winning poem entry in the 2009 contest

Good Mothers by Saudha Kasim

Good mothers obey the old crones who hang
By the windowsills, staring into low-ceilinged, dark rooms.
Toothless and ashen-skinned, they suggest remedies:
Rose water, milk, honey, jasmine, powdery sandalwood.

Good mothers, pregnant and blooming, bathe in all that and
Listen to their mothers echo the interfering old crones.
The ones who suggest bleaching agents
Dredged from the earth and plucked from trees.

Good mothers rub gold rings in honey (vigorously)
And put the gold-flecked syrup drop by little drop
In their newborn’s mouth.
My mother, I guess, was not good.

She didn’t burn cattle skulls and catch the moon
In her bedtime glass of milk. She drank 7 Up and ate
Sardines with relish, burnt frankincense and read up
On Vodka and Cognac brands in Kala Kaumudi.

My mother didn’t stare at snow, but watched Ronald Reagan,
Stetson on his head and mounted on a mustang, chase villains
In black and white cowboy movies subtitled in Arabic.
My mother was not surprised at my burnt bronze skin.

My mother, unlike good mothers, didn’t cover me in Cuticura.
She didn’t want me paraded in whiteface, the Keralite Kabuki artiste.
She kissed my bronze toes and admired my unfair skin.
My mother sneers at whitening unguents and loves my dark brow.

My mother, stuck in a desert town, blew raspberries at
The old crones who gave good mothers white chicken feathers.
You couldn’t be anyone else, she whispered in my ear,
Black, brown, red, yellow.

My mother didn’t name me after Ayesha, the fairest consort.
Instead, she gave me the name of the Abyssinian widow.
Blackness, she says, it means blackness.
My mother gave me the gift of colour.

About the Author:
Saudha Kasim studied architecture but decided to leave the designing and construction of houses and office towers to people who know what they are doing. She now works as a graphic designer and content writer in Bangalore, India.

"As for why I chose to enter the contest: Like most women in India I experienced the prejudice of not being 'fair or wheatish' in complexion. As a child I heard catty remarks from neighbours and relatives who couldn't understand why I was so much more darker than my mother or sister. My mother didn't really care and taught me not to care - though those lessons were hard to learn and accept for a long time. But as I have grown older I have grown more comfortable in my skin. And my name does mean 'blackness' quite literally in Arabic. And I have grown to love it over the years as well."