Fair and Frank

It does not take more than a few seconds for people to conclude that I am a north Indian. One reason being my surname. Apparently,Suri is a very common surname in Punjab. I say apparently because I am not an expert on Punjabi surnames and the only Suris I know are Sanjay Suri and Suri Cruise :). Second reason being I can speak Hindi well. Sometimes I do not bother to correct people because a) why would I want to waste time trying to explain to someone the story of our ancestors’ migration to Andhra Pradesh and b) it is a lot of fun watching people struggle, trying to figure out how one moment I speak on the phone in Hindi and the next moment talk to the cab driver in Telugu :).

This has been happening for quite some time now and am sure happens to a lot of other people too. But what I find interesting and sometimes annoying is how people stereotype. It is okay to like some habits and dislike some. It is also perfectly okay to like some people and dislike some. What is not okay is basing these likes and dislikes on petty things. We all come with notions and ideas thanks to our upbringing, education and friends/family. But, any kind of upbringing, or part of education or friend who leads one to believe in notions such as being dark means being not attractive is preposterous.

I find it amusing when people find it very complimenting when someone says “you look like a north Indian”. Are north Indians by default good looking or ,are non-north Indians by default not good looking? We all belong to different regions and hence, we all obviously do not look the same. But, from when did being different become such a bad thing. I have personally known many people – both guys and girls – who look at a dark complexioned person and dismiss him/her off as ‘south Indian hai’. Most of these people are North Indians and a few of them are my friends. They are nice people but this mentality of theirs is a rampant disease. Okay, he/she may be a south Indian or maybe he/she is just dark complexioned. Why this stereotyping?

A part of the fault lies with us southies too. We need to stop obsessing over fair skin. Come on, we have our own set of features to be thankful for. Yes, we may not be blessed with genetically fair skin and yes we may not become fair even after applying layers of Mysore sandal talc but, that is okay. Why do we have to fit in when what we actually want to do is stand out. And on a lighter note, wearing lots of gold will not do it :). Speak any language which you are comfortable in. It may be English, Hindi, Telugu or Tulu. Embrace your colour. Do not try to be someone you are not in an attempt to please others. I genuinely hope that people go up and talk to someone because they want to know the person and not because that person was a particular color and looked like a particular type of Indian!

It pains me to see and hear educated people harbour such narrow-minded notions. I am not trying to create a controversy here by taking sides. I am a southie who speaks 90% of the time in Hindi. Not because I think it will make me look cool but because most of my friends are/were Hindi speaking and I am fluent in it. I do not take a statement like ‘you do not look like a Telugu girl’ as a compliment. I do not take a statement like ‘you look like a north Indian’ as a compliment either. I look like me. It is as simple as that.

PS: A serious post after a long time. I decided against writing content like this because people invariably took the writing out of context and jumped to conclusions. Also, I was having a good run with all the fun writing. And for the record this post has no agenda to serve!

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31 Responses to Fair and Frank

  1. Pankaj Saini says:

    It’s in-born… by default… no education can wash away that predetermined prejudice… maybe a total brain-washing can help… 😀

    Having said that….. I’ve to say somethings which shall point that I’m not that shallow… I’ve spent a considerable amount of time in south (5 years now…) .. and well yeah.. it is easy to identify northies-southies… but it’s only after you get to know the person that you should try to judge (if at all that is necessary) .. but then again…. there is a lil bit of resistance and reluctance in establishing communications across cultures….

  2. Namrata says:

    I do not mind reluctance because we all come with baggage, but, I do not think it requires a total brain wash. Just a little bit of sensitivity and broad mindedness.

  3. Rishita Paruchuri says:

    Nice post yaa! Can totally relate to what you said. Even I had many people asking me if I were a North Indian. Just b’coz u can speak Hindi fluently and are not dark skinned, people assume u are a North Indian. Such stereotypes!

  4. Trisha Singh says:

    Couldn’t agree more. Both the stereotypes you mentioned are sadly and undeniably present in Indian societies everywhere. I have heard that “you dont look like a south indian” line being used enough times. I makes me frown but stereotypes of some or the kind are here to stay. People will always be judgmental about these things. If I were you I would just make up a super offensive comeback line and use it the next time somebody says that stupid line lol.

    But the whole dark skinned = not good looking prejudice, present endemically in India makes me soooo mad. Thats just derogatory.

  5. Rajat says:

    Suri…cool down!! 🙂
    Liked this post of yours.

    Just wanted to put my opinion. When I say some one is from north of India, I don’t mean that he/she is good looking/fair(ppl think that being fair is a synonym for good looking). Same goes for the south.

    May be we just want to relate that person to certain lifestyle, type of food, choices, likes and dislikes so that we can understand that person better, find some common points to talk about. I won’t call it stereotyping. Its mentally preparing yourself. You need not differentiate based on the side of country/world they belong to.

    I am a North Indian.I like South Indian food-sambhar, dosa…tamarind rice :); Know some good, humble, intelligent, smart, GOOD LOOKING South Indians (why is looking good SO important) and am proud to call them my friends. Like South Indian temples and am thankful to Tamil Nadu, Andhra, Karnataka for the varied experiences that they gave me.

    We live in a country full of variations- an impossible democracy. Yet, we can celebrate our differences. Its always fun to call a telgu- gulti and some one from UP a “bhaiya”…as long as the speaker and listener are taking it sportingly.

    And Nammu, when someone says- you don’t look like a telgu girl, he doesn’t mean that you are beautiful. 😛

    • Namrata says:

      Rajat, cool down 🙂

      I am not saying anything against you. Its good that you like South Indian things and am glad that you are smart enough to not get drawn into all these stereotypes. But, not everyone thinks like this and also, at some level, these prejudices have become a part of the Indian psyche.

      As far as the last line of your comment goes, thanks for enlightening me. I know what people mean when they say something.

    • Anand says:

      I agree with Rajat, that we relate person to certain traits which they possess. And i think that it not only applies to North India/South India but its everywhere…

      No offence to anyone, but if u see a black guy, u’ll immediately identify him as a african. or a flat nose guy as chinese eventhough that guy is an indian like us (from sikkim, manipal, nagaland, etc.). What I think, me or you can understand this and try to not to make judgements (good/bad) which might offend them. Its just an initial identification (which might be right or wrong) but don’t make any judgements based on that…

      Also I think generation gaps also plays a role. My parents are from small town and not exposed to other culture/region/country ppl. If i get them to Singapore with me, they might take a lot of offence on their diet, dressing, etc. We understand but they don’t. And we can’t help it.

      And its not only India.. If u go to HongKong and ask for some help say directions from some auntie, she will just run off… Why, because they make some judgements that I am indian and i might harm them….

      People are understanding these things and i think over the years this streotyping might come down….

  6. Guess who says:

    Yeah well my experiences are @ a new level. Uttaranchal (small eyed) stud born in Kochi. The closest they got to placing me in India was Nepal.

    Well on a serious note and being exposed to both north and south cultures pretty well, perceptions on both sides are already set. And to add to it both sides prefer to keep their asses close to home, thus the dillusion of northies being fair and southies nigers carries on ( and this is just one of them, there are more wrt to education, cleanliness, aggression etc).

    P.S. Yes even i was surprised to see a fair gulti girl to be frank. I have heard and seen fair tami and mallu chicks. But a fair gult i’d have to say u were the first one.

    • Not Pahadi says:

      Mallu chicks are hottt..
      I dont know why guys from cochin are gay??

      • Namrata says:

        Guys or whoever you are,

        This is a blog space, not a chat room. So please, do not use this as a platform to yap 😀

  7. Badrinath says:

    I first came across the northie-southie debate when I entered college. In a metro, nobody cares about your caste/religion/language, so at least there do exist places in this country where stereotypes don’t come to the fore.

    Onto topic – having spent 17 years in Mumbai, if I ever do meet someone else who has also grown up there, my eyes light up and I tend to probe for more information. I can draw a parallel to what someone from UP or Andra Pradesh would feel like, if an opportunity to interact with a fellow UP/AP-ite came up, in a place far from home.

    Suppose someone said ‘you look like an Aryan’ instead of ‘you look like a north Indian’, would you really be pissed off? That phrase is just politically incorrectness, with no sinister motives.

    However, saying stuff like ‘typical southie – he speaks yendu-gundu’ (which I have heard far too often) or ‘typical northie – he is a total cheat’ (which is equally common) is sinister. Stuff like that needs to be stamped out.

    • Namrata says:

      The last para of your comment is bang on. It really angers me to see people talk like that and from experience I have realized that there is no point drilling sense into folks who think like this even after getting good education and studying in premier colleges.

  8. @nks says:

    and I thought only I had to face this problem …

    though it’s the other way round … every one thinks I am South Indian in and around my home town. Some how it never offended me though… and I donno why it does to others .

    • Namrata says:

      Its good you do not take it offensively, but are you sure it was not meant to be?? 😛

      • @nks says:

        don’t know? because ppl saying that were close relatives of mine …

        probably to pull my leg, since my skin tone has gone much darker in last six years I’ve been in Hyderabad. Proves the general notion of dark skinned guy being a south Indian and the fairer being a Northie ..

  9. g2 says:

    my case is a little similar.. Telugu people i run into think i am a north indian which is when i talk deliberately in the east godavari accent i picked up in bombay.. And north indians figure out i am not one of them because i almost always reply in english and use hindi only when inevitable…

  10. sashidhar says:

    this post reminds me of my ism days where there were so many stereotypes. I was shocked when one guy in mess actually asked me how can I eat roti? I thought south indians just ate sambar, rasam and fish(??) o.0

    I think everyone comes with some preconditioning but if they live in a cosmopolitan setting for a few years, they’ll understand the shallowness of that stereotyping and will get over it. If they don’t then there’s a problem 😦

  11. hut says:

    “I do not take a statement like ‘you do not look like a Telugu girl’ as a compliment. I do not take a statement like ‘you look like a north Indian’ as a compliment either”. really?

  12. Pingback: A letter from Kallu madraasi « nothin… much

  13. Sandatlo_Sademiya says:

    im sure dat u hv a certain hatred for the telugu language ; im just as sure dat if u were fair, u wouldnt have bothered to write dis post ; i urge u to pls contact a marriage agency if u have trouble with getting married to a husband with oodles of income and truckloads of property ; i also advise you to buy ‘fa’ perfume if u hv trouble attracting bf’s

  14. Namrata says:

    Hehe, you are the most delusional person I have ever not met :). I am actually fair and I love telugu language. And I have no urgency to get married. But I would recommend some psychiatrists to you in case you are having trouble finding one.

  15. Sandatlo_Sademiya says:

    Pardonnez-moi donc.

  16. Sri says:

    Now tell me which society is not racist. Does any one think south is not racist? Oh! they are at fault. I am not saying this defines southern culture but it exists to a certain extent.

    When people are fair and beautiful they feel proud and there is nothing wrong with this to an extent. Beauty and handsomeness do not lie in color too. For example, take actresses like Trisha, Genelia and Mamta Mohandas.

    I have seen so many marriages where husband and wife differ in fairness. Frankly I feel pity for those who take pride in their fair complex and those who feel inferiority complex about their dark color.

    Finally, I wanted to say some thing on Hindi movies. I have not seen many Hindi movies so I can not make an opinion directly, but here I am quoting from some blog or news paper clipping I came across. In that piece the author has written how Bollywood has stereotyped South Indians not just in color terms but in every manner from sense of dressing to accent.

    Personally I have nothing but low opinion for Bollywood. But can south Indians complain on this kind of stereo typing? Look at all the actresses in the southern movie industry with the exception of Malayalam Movie industry (Yeah, I agree with that guy who said Kerala girls are really beautiful but not with that word used for Kerala). For example take Tamanna and Kajal Agarwal (I myself was stunned by this pretty girl in the movie Ganesh). Why is it that producers love to have these Northern women in their movies? I am not saying Northern girls can not act in southern movies. In fact I want to point the blame at South it self and I have to admit that I am a die hard Southerner. But I draw a line. The reason for this trend of Northern women in Southern movies is pure southern male chauvinism, again I am not saying North is free from male chauvinism. In fact in this regard of freedom for women South fares better than North, based on index of development(To be fair, in the North position and status of women existent now can be attributed to various historical facts).

    The simple reason why producers prefer these charming beauties like Kajal is because southern men prefer to see them. They really do not care if that actress is from South or North as long as she looks beautiful and their favorite hero is from their state. Typical male mentality. And feudal too.

    So when southern males want to say some thing on racism, I suggest that they look in the mirror.

  17. Eric Cartman says:

    The notion that dark skin is unattractive (especially in case of women) probably has a scientific basis. Facial features and overall structure, of course, are important but most people I have met seem to prefer fair skinned people, all other factors being the same. I have seen too many people (Indians) who would, on any day, say white actresses are better looking than their black counterparts. Keeping this in mind, it is probably true that the majority of us think North Indian people are better looking than South Indians. I don’t think media influence is a good explanation because it becomes a case of begging the question – why does the media choose only people with these “preferred” traits?

    While judging people based only on their appearance is bad practice, it is probably okay to say you look like a North-Indian (which usually means you look good-looking). And it definitely doesn’t mean you are denigrating South Indians. Rating people either positively or negatively based only their looks is very shallow. It is definitely wrong to say I won’t be friends with A because he is black, but it is probably okay to say A is better looking than B.

  18. Amused Observer says:

    Beauty is by all means an empirical perception. It is no fault of an individual if he finds that he prefers fairer skin to darker skin. For example, as a young south Indian man, I find myself instantaneously attracted to fairer north Indian women (even though I am dark). To deny my impulse and try to artificially nurture the notion that all complexions are equally appealing ( just for the sake of being politically correct ) inside me seems like cheating my sensory perception. Everybody’s perception is unique. Some might really find darker complexions attractive. But going by the craze for fairness products, it seems majority are on my side. 😉
    The thing about stereotyping is also similar. Stereotypes do not arise over a night as a joke on certain section. They have been observed, verified and confirmed by various people at various times. However strong you condemn them, they actually have a fair amount of truth associated with them. I have found them actually helpful in forming some quick judgment. The stereotypes about our group or community also help us identify our weaknesses and make amends. For example examine what google suggests for the completion of the search phrase “why do indians…” you’ll realize.

  19. Adastrossi says:

    @Eric Cartman: You’re a latent racist, if you really believe in what you write in the first paragraph. I have been studying this topic for quite sometime now, and there is NO scientific basis to what you contend. Indians have idolized the “white” color for generations following the ‘Raj’. There are umpteen number of good looking south indian actresses in indian media [ranging from tv serials, ads to bollywood]. Media will look for “awesome” traits because they try to iconize their ideas. Its common sense and shouldn’t be a topic for debate.

    Skin color is a global issue, so its not just our society. At the same time, from my experience, (i have traveled exhaustively) , I’d like to assert that Indian society is far more tolerant than any other society. Yes, there are stereotypes, but generally we do not have a major problem with color or race. I’ll try to explain my point a bit more, – I have never seen any south indian being ridiculed for his skin color in north india.

    I would also like to add this- the problem is really not skin color. Its the mentality of people. Most prefer to be shallow in thinking and attribute their un-acceptance of a different culture to skin color or even different sects within the same state (which is ridiculous, but it only highlights the volatility of their thinking.) From my perspective, the original post talks about ramified behaviors of this behavior, and NI vs SI is a wrong direction to take the discussion in.

    [For better argument, let me introduce myself – I am a north indian, have stayed in 9 states so far, including 4 in south india. ]

    whatever it is, I don’t really care – Peace out! \m/

    • Eric Cartman says:

      Saying I prefer fair skinned women to dark skinned women is not racist. If I deny them jobs, then I’m racist. If I don’t want to be friends with them, then I’m racist.

      • Adastrossi says:

        @Cartman 🙂 If you read the first line of your original comment again. Maybe I looked at it with a wrong perspective, but I still think that you made a very generic statement about “[all] men preferring fair skinned girls” with some scientific argument that you were referring to. Correct me if I am wrong.

        Peace out !

  20. Eric Cartman says:

    @Adastrossi
    I find it a little hard to believe that it was because of the influence of the Raj that we prefer fair skinned people. But Because you say that you have been studying this issue for some time now, I assume what you are saying is true.

    I was indeed making a generic statement in my original comment. But I don’t think that makes me racist in the same way as Hitler was racist. I am not saying dark skinned people are uncivilized or less human or animal-like. I am not saying they can’t live with us. I only suggested that having fair skin is probably more beautiful than having dark skin – much like being taller is generally considered more handsome.

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