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"Oh, But Only If She Weren't So Dark"

This story has nothing about beads, but is so poignant I wanted to share it. Unfortunately, I did not save the original. It was published in the Indian Express some years ago. I read it out loud to John and have retold it many times since. It goes something like this:

The house was abuzz. The tall, intelligent, beautiful daughter was meeting her prospective husband for the first time. In the inner room, mother, aunts, cousins and sisters hovered around her making sure everything was perfect. She had a lovely new sari and blouse. Her hair was oiled to perfection. She had saffron on her face, partly to lighten it

"Oh, she is so lucky to be getting this boy. He studies in America. He must be very rich. He must be very handsome. We must be sure he will like her. She is such a beautiful girl. Only if she weren't so dark."

The propitious moment came. Father and the household met the boy and his parents in the parlor. Pleasant remarks on the good looks of both suitors were exchanged. The American connection was universally appreciated. She acted properly, not saying a word. He was hungry.

The Fathers were in negotiation.

"And we demand a car."

"A car is very expensive, what about a motorcycle?"

"And we demand this that and the other thing and ten tolas (100 grams) of gold."

"Ten tola! That is a great deal. What about three?"

A pause, and the family (save Father) retired to the inner room.

"Oh, he is so handsome and smart. And he is going to school in America. You will be so lucky to be his wife. Perhaps we should put on a little more saffron."

Only the younger brother saw the Emperor without his clothes. "He's a pig and he eats like a pig."

Back in the parlor, negotiations were breaking down. The dowry demanded was too high. The boy and his parents left in a huff. Voices were raised and words exchanged. The boy's mother had commented cattily just as she left, "And no amount of saffron is going to hide that back skin."

"Oh, If only she weren't so dark."

Dowry, arranged marriages, complexion prejudice. Which is worse? How many people over the years in many places have told me they wish they weren't so "black." Most of them were a pleasing shade of brown. Whose eyes are they seeing themselves through and why?


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