Sunday, June 24, 2012

Snow White

Something you may not know about India... is that it is currently monsoon season where I am and incredibly hot. This means that temperatures can reach up to 120 degrees Fahrenheit and it dumps rain. While I was lucky enough to miss the hottest part of the season (which occurs in May and early June) the monsoon rains are particularly late this year, making temperatures still on the hot side. 

You are probably wondering what this has to do with Snow White...don't worry I will explain it in a second. 
Needless to say the extreme heat and lack of air conditioning, plus incredibly modest clothing, means I'm definitely not looking my best these days. That said, I am not here to look good, I am here to work. But despite being drenched in sweat majority of the day, I have never been told more how beautiful I am by the young girls taking classes here. They are enamored with the color of my skin, which to them is quite fair (despite a tan that I was pretty proud of before I left). A few of the girls have even started referring to me as Snow White... a nick name I never thought I would get. 

To me they are the beautiful ones.. for as I sit here unaccustomed to the elements, dripping sweat... they seem quite at ease in some of the most colorful and beautiful saris and dresses I have ever seen. 
But here light skin is something to be revered...the color of one's skin became a part of the caste system when the light skinned Aryans conquered India. They used the caste system to help keep themselves in a higher position, and the Tamil people, a darker skinned people below them. 
That's why today the Dalit (the group I am specifically working with here) are traditionally some of the darkest skinned people in India. 
The Caste System is often referred to as Varna which means color, and sadly the color of one's skin often dictates how one is treated. Unfortunately, this statement has been true the world over. 
But the fact is the world would be boring if everything and everyone was all one shade. It is my hope that one day people everywhere will realize that true beauty comes from within, and that the skin we wear is nothing more then the shell that our soul resides in for this lifetime. 

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