Swarthy: a short story

"Ada Chi, what kind of episode is this Ranjani?", reacted Amala with a grimacing face when her student Ranjani unveiled the Neeya Naanaa promo for the week on her phone.

Ranjani replied, "Ma'am, the program crew have stooped to crude levels to produce this episode. How could they belittle our beauty categorically when it's unique and should be cherished by self? And, these stupid girls....How could they agree to do such a program, when it abates femininism."

"Calm down Ranjani. We'll do something about it. Just post this video in SWAG group. We'll chalk out a plan to raise red flag on this sick episode"

"Thank you ma'am. Will do"

Amala grinned at confident Ranjani and proceeded towards her chamber in staff room. Ranjani was outraged when she saw the Neeya Naana promo, where the topic for discussion was 'Who is beautiful: Tamil girls or Kerala girls?'. Furiously, she rushed to Amala so that feminine crusaders could voice out their dissent over the stupid discussion about to be aired.

Amala works as an Associate Professor of Philosophy at M.O.P. Vaishnav College for Women, Chennai. Ranjani is one of Amala's favorite students. Ranjani went through a serious identity crisis during second year and it was Amala who counseled and helped Ranjani discover her self-worth. Besides being mentored by Amala, Ranjani also became a feminine crusader in the SWAG (Swart Women is Also Gorgeous) team that visits various colleges and schools to educate women find their value and arm them with the courage to stand for their rights in vicious patriarchal society.

The disgusting cuddling portions of the promo replayed in her mind as she reached the staff room.

"Phew. TV programs don't get better these days. All freaks in the media industry create programs worth only shit and make millions. Shitty program begets shitty minds", she cogitated in her minds. On entering the staff room, she thudded the book on the wooden table. Taking a sip of water, she diverted her thoughts in reading a journal which is part of her doctorate studies.

She read the introductory lines of the essay by Judith Butler:

...gender identity is a performative accomplishment compelled by social sanction and taboo.

She etched these words in her mind and started reminiscing her life events to corroborate the statement.

Amala's thoughts traced back to her primary school days, when she was deprived of 'The Best student award' in third grade, because of her dark skin tone. Seeds of inferiority was sown so deeply in her heart at such an young age that she started applying more talcum powder to look fairer like Renuka who bagged the award, despite lagging behind Amala in studies and sports. Using simple cosmetics during her teenage days did not strip off the inferiority complex which had offshooted from her peaked melanin pigment. She was upset with God too for creating her ugly.

During her bachelor degree days, a huge blow came from her mother when she eavesdropped into her mother's yenta with a neighbour. Her mother was explaining to the gossipmonger on how giving Amala into marriage will cost them a hefty dowry because of her swarthy looks. During the course of conversation, Amala, being a dark girl child, was tagged to be a curse for the family.

…Amala, being a dark girl child, was tagged to be a curse for the family

Amala knew that her mother loved her more than anyone else in the world. But, only today her mother's gossip brought cognizance of the cursed shoots that protrudes from pernicious layer of her skin. She became even more conscious of her skin color and started emulating celebrities and lighter skin tone class mates at college. Even that didn't strip off her knotty inferior image.

Third most unforgettable moment occured, when she did Masters degree in Philosophy from Loyola College, Chennai. She was asked to take a seminar on Post-Modernism.

During the tea break after seminar, the abusive conversation with her classmate almost proved fatal.

Her classmate Regina walked up to her and said, "Amala, I want to tell you something regarding your presentation"

"Sure Regi. Tell me", replied Amala ardently hoping for a progressive criticism.

"Amala, actually your presentation was horrible because of your awkward makeup. I felt like throwing up during the course of presentation. Makeup doesn't suit you Amala. First understand, a crow does not become dove just by soaking itself in white distemper. Okay? Don't get me wrong, just giving my honest feedback about your presentation. Hope it makes sense to you"

Regina spewed fiery darts to stealthily kill her sensitive soul. Amala became stolid with the verbal spat.‎ She didn't want to live this fiendish life and only suicide seemed to be the most auspicious thing for her assassinated soul.‎ Is there a Savior to save Amala from the ashes?

Savior came in the form of Dr. Malliga Narayanan, a psychiatrist from Women Of Worth (WOW). Amala had all ears on Dr. Narayanan's speech when she visited her college on women’s day, which changed the course of her life drastically and made her understand that beauty is beyond color. Dr. Narayanan kicked off her speech with a brilliant analogy to coherently set the context:

"A little dark skinned girl visited a fun fair in Tirunelveli. She saw a balloon seller throwing balloons in the air which soared high than the ballons she had in her pocket. The seller had balloons of different colors. She observed him take the blue balloon and liberate it into air. It went up high in the atmosphere. Without much thoughts, she approached the balloon seller and said, "Anna, I see all your balloons rising to a greater altitude than mine. I also have a black balloon. How much ever I try, it does not go beyond the ceiling. Can you make my balloon go up to the same height like yours? The balloon seller replied: my dear girlie, it is not the color of the balloon that definies it's altitude. It is the Helium air that makes it rise up on high.‎ In the same way, my dear lasses of great value, we are not defined by our skin color, but the self-image we have about us. A healthy self-image is seeing ourselves as GOD sees you, nothing more or nothing less. God see you as a beauti...", continued the psychiatrist from Ramakrishna medical mission who works predominantly with women for their empowerment. The speech made her day, week, month and even her life too. Such was the powerful counsel from Dr.Malliga.

At the end of presentation, she cried her heart out to Dr.Malliaga, who encouraged her to be a crusader. When she responded in affirmation, a new wave of hope filled her and it apparently added meaning to her life, which once seemed futile.

From then on, she started reading books on women empowerment and involved herself ‎in rescuing young girls from trafficking, women from harlotry and gave hope and support to women in trauma due to patriarchy. She works for erudition of women, which she believes will change the facades of the patriarchal society towards holistic empowerment.

"We have a long way to go to make women empowerment a social sanction", she thought lost in the premise of Judith Butler's essay, which was interrupted‎ by Gubu Gubu Gubu song's (from Magalir Mattum movie) refrain erupted from her mobile. She noticed a call from unknown number. She answered the call by swiping the green circle to the left:

"Hello, am I speaking to Ms. Amala Rajan"
"Yes. Who is this?"
"Am Vinoth Kumar, program manager of NewsOne Channel ma'am"
"Yeah Vinoth. Tell me"
"We believe you would have seen the Neeya Naana promo for this week ma'am”
"Thank you ma'am. It has caused a huge uproar from various factions of the society. The issue is taken vehemently by feminists. So, we are planning to conduct a live discussion on our channel at 7 PM. You'll be a panelist from the feminine activist team. Will you be able to join ma'am"‎
"Hmm. One second... Yes, I will join"
"Thanks for the confirmation ma'am. Our transportation team will call you in few minutes ma'am"
"Sure. Thank you"

She disconnected the call. The home screen displayed 2:32 IST. She opened WhatsApp replied to Ranjani's video on SWAG Group:

"I have a good news guys. I'll be appearing as a guest in NewsOne's 'Vaanga Paesalaam'. Share inputs as I prepare for the show. Thanks"

Amala pulled out a note and started her preparation doing a serious thinking and also referred to each and every part flaunted in the promo.

She contemplated to speak on how beauty is unique to an individual and how beauty paegent contests and movie industry have worked in tandem with patriarchs to portray women as objects and evict the cardinal virtue of womenkind (emphasis added) by insinuation of cosmetic products into their lives. With this presentation, she had planned to debunk why Neeya naana's theme cannot be debated. She skimmed through the comments in the group to equip her with more information. With all these preps, her mind and canon mouth is now ready to sway away any arguments from patriarchs and also in defending feminism.

She contemplated to speak on how beauty is unique to an individual and how beauty paegent contests and movie industry have worked in tandem with patriarchs to portray women as objects and evict the cardinal virtue of womenkind by insinuation of cosmetic products into their lives

By the time, when her content preparation was over, the clock in the staff room signalled fiteen past four. The cab will reach in another one hour.

"This is the right time to begin maquillage session", she thought which she usually does to boost up her confidence.

So, she pulled out the kit from her bag and sanded her face with Lakme pink powder. After honing the layer in kit mirror, she twist open the L’Oreal Paris collection lipstick tube and meticulously painted her lips in red. After amorphous painting, she patted her lips against each other for equal dis-emanation. After lip painting, she took Lakme Eyconic kajal+mascara stick. Twisting open the kajal end, she drew a line above in both eye lashes in closed state. Then, pulling down the skin between eyes and nose, she coated the lower lash with a smoky line. Twisting back, she opened the cap of mascara and plumped up strokes on both the eye lashes. She inspected the the makeup session on the mirror, which will bring program preparation to an end.

Now, the feminine activist Ms. Amala Durai is geared up to lash out patriarchs in the show with her witty mind and embellishing visage.

Feminism is not misandry. As a ring of gold in swine’s snout is a beautiful woman without discretion. Charm is deceitful, beauty is vain, but woman who fears YHWH is to be praised.