We are ignorant racists

Last week the news channels were buzzing with Tannishtha Chatterjee’s claim that she was racially abused during the shoot of Color’s ‘popular’ show ‘Comedy Nights Bachao’ (CNB). This is not the first time the said TV show is in the question of being racist. Earlier this year when the team of ‘Houseful 3’ came for the promotion on the sets of CNB, it was widely reported that one of its actors racially abused Lisa Hayden as well. Right after that incident happened on the sets Lisa’s co-actor in the movie, Akshay Kumar reportedly slapped that actor in front of everyone including the lead host Krushna Abhishek. So, it is easy to understand that the lesson wasn’t learned by the team CNB and its producers even after Lisa Haydon incident and racist comments were still passed on Tannishtha Chatterjee this time.

As I went through Tannishtha’s Facebook post she seemed to be furious about two things majorly. One is that she was racially abused about her skin nature and the other is that the roast was actually not the roast but it was bullying to the core. As per Tannishtha she had a different idea about roast watching a foreign roast show regularly, but over here, despite her being cool, calm and collective during the shoot of two segments of CNB, she couldn’t identify any roasting and hence decided to quit the sets of CNB. Even then, as per Tannishtha, the organizers felt that it was a roast and she does (probably) not understand the concept! At this point of the time the organizers, I believe, were right that Tannishtha was unable to understand the concept of roast in the particular format she faced. In addition, I would say that the same goes with our understanding with racism.

I don’t claim that I know the ins and outs of racism, but what I have understood is that racism is what when you abuse someone by downgrading him or her by keeping the color of his or her skin in mind. In India, probably after the entry of different European races, especially the British in 18th Century, our fascination about fair skin has grown leaps and bounces. When I was a kid and growing up as an adult male, only girls with a dark complexion were lured by the famous Fair & Lovely brand, but since last decade, even males of our country need to be ‘Fair & Handsome’ and the concept of ‘tall dark and handsome’ has been thrown out of the window. So on one side the rest of the world is trying to get fairer on the other skin toned people, in India we are doing exactly the reverse. Being a big fan of Bengali actresses all my life, the likes of Rani Mukherjee, Bipasha Basu, Konkana Sen Sharma and Nandita Das, it is really surprising for me that why the dark tone has been wrongly downgraded for not less than three centuries.

But when I am writing this, I suddenly understood that our fascination for fairer skin is really three centuries old only or it takes us right there with the Mahabharat age? In all our Krishna loving poets’ descriptions, we invariably read Krishna being called ‘shyam’ (dark skinned) and Radha ‘gori’ (fair skinned). Since Krishna is god in our mind for ages, his darkness is not on the negative side the same way we see any dark skinned girl around us today. I am sure even Krishna must have laughed at the ads and the entire concept of males being fair and handsome, when he got the chance to see them. The concept of racism and having fascination for fair skin are two different things altogether and we, the Indians probably ignorantly don’t understand this difference. Looking at fair skinned girls (add males too now) with more respect and liking than the dark skinned girl is for me certainly a fascination over fair skinned people. But what Tannishtha suffered was racism and we, the Indians are till today ignorant about what this ignorance can land us in, if we travel to US, UK, Canada or even Australia.

When that huge controversy happened at the Sydney Cricket Ground in 2008, when Harbhajan Singh reportedly racially abused Australian cricketer Andrew Symonds, a real meaning of racism I learnt. On the one side Harbhajan and other Indian players were claiming that ‘Bhajji’ just gave that ‘popular’ north Indian abusive expression ‘Teri maa ki…’ and what Symonds understood (and Matthew Hayden also at the other end of the crease) that as ‘monkey’. At that point of time, I learnt that calling someone a ‘monkey’ is a racist comment in Australia and it could be similar in the west too. There must be plenty of similar expressions which we express with relative ease in India could be termed as racist in those countries. But being ignorant or not willing to remain updated with the modern thinking of the rest of the world about racism, we will continue to actually repeat such mistakes which CNB people made with Tannishtha and Tannishtha being an international actor, knows about the theme called racism, felt she is being abused racially in its real meaning and spirit.

Even then many of our column writers and a few of our Bollywood actors called it a publicity stunt since Tannishtha was there on the sets of CNB to promote her upcoming movie ‘Parched’. Maybe it was a publicity stunt from even team CNB as well to up their TRPs, but that shouldn’t allow us, the common Indians, to remain more ignorant furthermore about the real means of racism in current world. We literary get agitated when we are reminded about our cast and religion, but getting abused because of our skin tone still doesn’t make us angry at all, not at least in public. Even if it was a publicity stunt then CNB producers and actors should have refused it in the first place because they have already faced the heat by Akshay Kumar, not so long back. This shows that we refuse to change to understand what racism actually is about and how serious it is around the world.

I would repeat again, that fascination for fair skin in India is totally different than what the world sees and trying to give just to the ‘skin abused’ people today. But even then this fascination for fairer skin in today’s generation is meant to be damned for sure for different reasons. If we want our nation to be a global leader by mid of this century only, then we must understand what the other people of the world think about various things right now and that includes racism as well. We simply can’t remain ignorant anymore. We must learn the modern vocabulary about abuses for the sake of our good.

Stumps!!!

‘Comedy Nights Bachao’ show, which has been alleged of being racist twice now, is aired on a TV channeled named ‘Colors’!

Is it apt or contradictory in itself?

03.10.2016, Monday

Ahmedabad

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