LEARNING – honest to a fault

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.

Emami-Fair-n-Handsome India’s-Whitening-Cream-Is-It-A-Fair-Deal-For-Women-2 modelco-tan-mousse-self-tanning-instant-bronzing-foam-180ml

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!


11 responses to “LEARNING – honest to a fault

  1. I can see where hearing these things might get a little bothersome after awhile. Hang in there, they love you and they mean well.

    • Sometimes I write something and think my sarcasm comes out more than it really does. I think this was one of those instances. Their comments don’t really bother me. I know they’re not intended to be mean or malicious, they’re just honest. It is more interesting and humorous than anything else. I never know what to expect. Thanks for the comment Mom. -Rene

    • Aww. Thanks Lauren. I made peace with my freckles a long time ago. It’s funny when I try to explain to the kids about freckles. I usually end up telling them they are kisses from the sun – they sure get a kick out of that. Thanks for the comment! -Rene

  2. Honestly, you look so serene and beautiful in this picture. And that is a compliment! Cultural differences make life so interesting, don’t they?

    • Why thank-you! This is one of my favorite pictures of myself, which is saying a lot since I tend not to like too many self portraits.
      Traveling is all about experiencing the differences and similarities between cultures. I am constantly amazed and shocked and humbled on these trips – it’s wonderful. -Rene

    • Thanks! It’s one of my favs. It’s taken at the Child Haven International home in Kaliyampoondi, Tamil Nadu, India with Rachita – one of the cutest little creatures ever. -Rene

  3. What a great perspective on the way women around the world view themselves. I remember a few years ago Oprah had a special with 20 women from different parts of the world on what they feel constitutes beauty. it was very interesting.
    As for you, what a beauty you are…

  4. I felt the same way in Lesotho. I think you’ve handled all the looks and comments with grace.

    I love you and they do too. I hope tomorrow is better and filled with sweet comments and a sense of goodness. =)


  5. Now, I know you know you are not your physical body. And so do many Indians, I think if you throw it back at them with humor you will see their comments in a different light and probably make them think. It is a shame about the color thing – but I think it’s a reflection of American and Western culture’s influence via movies and TV in which white and fair skin still dominate, particularly for women. But, if you keep telling those little brown beauties that they are SO beautiful they could rule the world – they will someday.

What do you think?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s