Capital Society – Darker than Obama

Darken than Obama

What does Barack’s victory means to dark-skinned Delhi wallas?

[Text and picture by Mayank Austen Soofi]

If America sneezes, the rest of the world catches a cold. After breaking the racial barrier by becoming the first black president of the US, Barack Obama has created ripples from Denver to Dar-es-Salaam to Delhi, a city whose brown-skinned people are obsessed with ‘fairness’ creams.

Ms Shefali, a 27-year-old communication trainer, who describes herself as having a “wheatish complexion”, is thrilled that a “dark-skinned” man has captured the world’s imagination. “You see, I’m the only one in my family who is dark,” says she. “During childhood, my brother and sister would tease me as a ‘black sheep’, but now I can always shoot back by humming Obamaaaa.”

Art critic Ms Amrapali Basu (name changed on request) is another fan of the “hot and happening” Obama. Owing to her “chocolate brown” complexion, she, too, had her share of childhood trauma.

In her B block Vasant Kunj neighbourhood, children would mock her by repeatedly singing, “Kali kaluti baingan looti.” After being named the second prettiest girl in Class IX, a boy confessed that she would have been first if she were fair. Ms Basu is happy with Obama’s triumph, but not because of the skin colour. “That trauma ended once I turned 15 and got a sense of self,” she says. “Besides, it was also the time when we saw the rise of dusky beauties like Bipasha Basu, Nina Manuel and Kajol.”

The ‘dusky beauty’ wave did not leave an imprint on Ms Shefali, though. The years of teasing had taken their toll. “I have a complex,” she admits. “I avoid being friendly with fair-skinned people.”

Nizamuddin East socialite Sadia Dehlvi, too, suffered from a childhood complex. “I was short, ugly, buck-toothed and worse, dark,” she says. Another problem was her gori mother. “Each time mummy would introduce me to guests, they would say that I didn’t look like her,” Ms Dehlvi says. It didn’t help that her brother also had fair skin. “I grew up fearing that I would never be as beautiful as mother.”

Ms Dehlvi was overjoyed when Obama swept the elections. “He is a Democrat, a liberal, a Muslim man’s son and he has dark skin.”

Ms Shuchita Bagga, manager in a knowledge process outsourcing company, is happy with the Obama phenomenon. But not because she is dark herself. “I don’t like fair-skinned guys,” she says. “My mom, dad, brother and I are all very fair, so I’m attracted to people with darker skin.” However, she rushes to add that her support for Obama was never influenced by his colour.

It is Ms Dehlvi who points what the rise of a dark-skinned man to top leadership in a racially complicated country implies: “Obama’s win is a morale boost for the underdog.”