Saturday, March 21, 2009
A colorful life
Just happened on to this post .
And it just occurred to me that how we perceive "color", really is a function of where we live, our family , our ages when color becomes an issue, and who else is involved in our handling of the "colorful" situation.....
This issue is not about race. It is about how our thinking processes are so sensitized to "color" per se, that sometimes we forget that we are dealing with someone for whom color is a fun thing, something in a garden, and a thing of beauty.
Children associate color with fun. Till , we adults , and maybe their growing-up, teaches them , about how the world thinks about it amidst humans and perceptions of power.
It sometimes makes me wonder,though, how , in this land with such vibrant colors , we insist on the two extremes.
My daughter has a wheatish complexion, and my son, older to her , is generally classified in India, as "fair". Till she started primary school, color was never an issue. She was supremely confident about her unshakable position as the family "star", thanks to being the youngest, a fairly competitive swimmer, and every one's favourite.
She once came back seething with anger from school. Cribbing about some girl or boy in her class, who ribbed her about being "black", unlike her brother, who was "white" , they said. She used to earlier deal with nasty comments saying "Come to the pool, I'll show ya.." and possible humiliation by a slip of a girl kept folks away.
Till we told her that one didn't go around threatening and challenging like this. And I kept thinking about how to explain things to her. She was at an age when her color was not a burning sociological issue to her. She just wanted to get back at her troublesome classmates.
And so I told her that NO color was bad. There were very fair types who had very black minds, and very dark types who were white as snow in their minds. You needed to know a person's behaviour well, to know whether he was good or bad.
She kind of looked at me skeptically. I was talking to her like their teacher sometimes did, and it was like some people spoke on TV and everyone applauded.
Then I had an idea.
"Look, if anyone calls you black/dark, just go ahead and call him yellow, orange , green or blue. You can even call him pink and purple, and brown. "
Her face creased into a smile. This was doable.
Growing up when I did, aware of the problems of race, apartheid, social distinctions et al, I was trying to be ultra sensitive about color and explain things an adult's way.
That world surely existed. But she had not yet plunged into that world. Her world was all about taking on the teasing. She would do the same if anyone dared comment on her brother, who was supremely unaware of all this stuff going on in my daughter's primary class.
The next time this happened in class, the whole thing degenerated into a game of calling each other by various colors. Instead of it becoming an ultra sensitive issue, it got trivialized to such an extent, that it even developed into a game played in the recess, where the girls enjoyed my daughter's take on the whole thing and it became a girls vs boys thing.
Today, 15 years later, she is a young woman, comfortable in her own skin. She is still wheatish, her brother is still "white" :-) . She has seen the ways of the world. She reads, She watches current events unfold. She accompanied me to the US a few years ago, and I caught up with my grad school roommates from 38 years ago, with whom I still keep contact. We stayed with some of my roommates, and she got along better than like a house-on-fire, with them. One of them was African American, and one of them , well, a European American. She had a whale of a time in both places, and enjoyed meeting their families. She is treated by both as a favourite niece and indulged in.
She has learned what color means, in a gradual way, commensurate with her development from childhood to adulthood. She knows how the world treats color. She has seen the ways of the world. And she can deal with them.
And to paraphrase something Albert Schweitzer said, she knows, that her true worth , today, is not to be found in herself, but in the colors and texture that she can bring alive in others around her......
But back then in primary school, maybe she should have seen this :
While walking in a toy store ,The day before today,
I overheard a Crayon Box, With many things to say.
"I don't like red!" said Yellow, And Green said, "Nor do I!
And no one here likes Orange, But no one knows quite why."
"We are a box of crayons that really doesn't get along,"
Said Blue to all the others, "Something here is wrong!
Well, i bought that box of crayons And took it home with me
And laid out all the crayons So the crayons could all see
They watched me as I colored With Red and Blue and Green
And Black and White and Orange And every color in between
They watched as Green became the grass And Blue became the sky.
The Yellow sun was shining bright On White clouds drifting by.
Colors changing as they touched, Becoming something new.
They watched me as I colored, They watched till I was through.
And when I'd finally finished, I began to walk away.
And as I did the Crayon box Had something more to say...
"I do like Red!" said the Yellow And Green said, "So do I!
And Blue you are terrific! So high up in the sky."
We are a Box of Crayon Each of us unique,
But when we get together The picture is complete. ---ANON