I’ve known since my very first trip to India, from my very first interaction with those beautiful, brilliant, bright children of Child Haven International that honesty in India was a whole lot different that honesty in America. It is true that children in general are much more honest than adults. It takes time to develop that filter that keeps the not so nice comments at bay. But here in India that filter never seems to develop. The adults are just as brazen with their honesty as the children. Maybe it’s their accents or their broken english that makes their honesty so glaring, so harsh. I don’t know, but I’ve had just about enough of it.
What are those spots on your face? Isn’t there a cream you can get for them? They were speaking of my freckles of course although India does have a tendency to bring out some pimples as well. They wanted me to have perfectly fair skin – no spots, no blemishes and heaven forbid a tan. In fact, just last week I was told, Your face is darker than the last time you visited. This was definitely not meant as a compliment.
While the western world is paying millions to be golden and tanned, India and many other countries are spending increasingly large sums to do just the opposite. The world of whitening creams, lotions, soaps, powders, have invaded this land and the names Fair and Lovely, White Effects, etc. are well known household names. It really is a shame to witness the obsession with fairness. These children have such beautiful skin, from a pale cafe au lait to an intense deep dark chocolate and every shade in between. I just want to eat them all up.
“Oh, please don’t go – we’ll eat you up – we love you so!”
-Maurice Sendak, Where the Wild Things Are
Sister, you’re so thin. What happened to your health? Before you were like this (holding both their arms out with an imaginary hula hoop between them. But now your like this (holding one hand up with index finger extended). They tell me I’m too thin and it’s not meant to be a good thing, and they tell me I’ve gained weight and it’s meant as a compliment – go figure. On this current trip I’ve been told I gained weight twice and that I’ve lost weight once, so I’m not sure what to think. I know that I gained some over the summer at home. Too many good things to eat and too much sitting on the couch watching ‘Call the Midwife’. My pants were getting a bit snug and I desperately needed to head back to India to resume my diet of rice and veggies, sweating some pounds off and gaining some normalcy once again. Body image is a funny thing when it comes to different cultures.
While we’ve been striving for thinness for decades in North America and are just now coming to a more healthy cultural body image, here in India the fatter the better has been the motto for decades stemming from the luxury of the wealthy who could just eat and be lazy -they are just now adopting a more western body ideal. So in the cities my additional weight might be considered a negative, but in some of the more rural areas my extra pounds are quite good. Funny.
“Honesty is the best policy”. -Benjamin Franklin
I’m afraid I’ll have to disagree with you on that one Mr. Franklin. There’s only so much honesty I can take and unfortunately I’m about at my limit. If someone points out an oncoming wrinkle or errant grey hair, I might just cry. Let’s hope it doesn’t come to that.
Thanks for reading!