Why are South Asians obsessed with being white?

“Have you been hanging out in the sun a lot? Your skin has darkened by a ten-fold!” Comments like this are not uncommon if you are a Pakistani or Indian. Our culture and society is obsessed with being “fair skinned” and I always wondered why. The reason never actually struck me until my African-American friend revealed, “It’s because of your colonizers!”

She was right. Since the beginning of colonization, Europeans have brought bigotry and hate to the Indian subcontinent. The Englishmen during the British Raj treated the Indians like scum. Their racism is evident and portrayed in the British television series, “Indian Summers.” One of the first things I noticed in the opening scene of the pilot was the “No Dogs or Indians” sign posted outside an English club. To the Indians, the Englishman was not just a foreign ruler, but was someone they could also admire. The British were educated, organized, timely, and set up a highly effective system of governance (whose remnants are still present today all over the subcontinent).

This is where the complex sets in. They were handsome men and beautiful women whom the South Asians aspired to be. They could travel abroad and get educated, they could change their habits and become more organized and efficient, but what they could not change was their physical appearance. They could not be white.

Sadly, being white is considered attractive in the South Asian society, and this complex hurts women more than anyone else. In the subcontinent, arranged marriage is still a cultural norm and, unfortunately, females are pressured to look “perfect” for their suitors. Amongst other highly physical qualities and attributes, they must also be light-skinned. It’s a rough world and time for a girl whose is even slightly dark. The mothers and relatives looking for a bride for their precious sons are formidable and very frank about their demands. If the girl is not white enough (or skinny enough, or tall enough), she is bluntly rejected on that basis. This can be depressing for women and can lead to inferiority complex.

Models and actors are photo-shopped to look lighter than they are. If you ever see Bollywood actors in real life versus in the movies, you wouldn’t be able to recognize them.

While many people are standing up and accepting their skin colors and bodies as they are, it will be a long time before this deeply-rooted complex is cleared from the South Asian society. Skin whitening creams generate a large amount of business in these countries. Furthermore, almost every morning or talk show has a segment with herbal or homemade skin whitening tips. You cannot escape it.

What Pakistanis and Indians do not understand is that this complex comes from our subjugation by our colonizers. We considered them a civilized, superior, and good-looking race. This in turn led to us discriminating amongst ourselves. We divided ourselves over characteristics we saw in our colonizers, continue to do so today.

We may have gained independence and rid ourselves of their rule, but 68 years onwards, we have failed to accept ourselves as we are.

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Pakistani Truck Art

One thing that defines Pakistani culture around the world is the Truck Art seen on Pakistani vehicles. Truck, rickshaw, van, and bus owners usually paint elaborate designs and decorate their vehicles in ways that express them. Some trucks have calligraphy, geometric shapes, patters, traditional art work, poetry, or jokes intricately designed on them. When I was visiting Pakistan a few months ago, I got to see and photograph some of the artwork on these vehicles, as well as captures some funny photographs. These photographs showcase the rich culture and creative side of Pakistan.

P.S. I heard sometimes the art work costs more than the vehicle itself and the owners have competitions amongst themselves for who has the best decorated vehicle! It is something they are extremely proud of!

Visit http://www.PakistanTruckArt.com for a collection of pictures and information on Pakistani Truck Art culture.

Camera: Nikon D5200

 

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Pakistani Truck Art 2014

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Animals, like these cows, are often transported on these trucks. Pakistani Truck Art 2014.

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A tractor on the field is also decorated with vibrant colors and designs. Pakistani Truck Art 2014

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School boys ride on top of a public transportation Coach bus in Islamabad.

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A man looks at my camera curiously as I try to snap a photograph from inside our car. The man is seated inside a passenger van that is also decorated elaborately. Pakistani Truck Art 2014.

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The back of truck and a coach bus on our way to Islamabad. Trucks are usually expressive of their owners; some have pictures, designs, poetry, quotes, or funny jokes written for the amusement of the reader.

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Pakistani Truck Art 2014.

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A van/pick-up truck in Rawalpindi used to transport marble. Pakistani Truck Art 2014.

All photos shown were taken by me. All photos are the property of wanderingderwish.com.

Dear Shahid Afridi

Everyday a new video, photograph, quote, news piece, or meme circulates social media and becomes the “trending topic.” Recently, a video of Pakistani cricket star, Shahid Afridi, was made public and became the topic of discussion all over social media.

Shahid Afridi, whilst giving an interview on a Pakistani news media channel, made a comment about how the women of Peshawar, Pakistan (his home town) were better off cooking in the kitchen, instead of trying out for sports like women’s cricket. My first reaction: “He is such a jerk!” I was and am absolutely outraged that a man of his position would say something like that!

Shahid Afridi, sometimes known as “Lala” or “Boom Boom Afridi” is a an internationally renowned Pakistani cricketer. He has been playing cricket for Pakistan’s national team for over a decade and has been a favorite, especially amongst the youth, for his good looks and style of hitting 4’s and 6’s (4 point hits and 6 point hits) in a match…usually when the team is doing not-so-well. He comes in and makes the game look so easy, scores a bunch of points, restores peoples’ faith in their team and leads them to victory. Good for you Afridi, you make Pakistanis proud. You make Pakistani men, women, boys, and girls proud.

Shahid Afridi, a renowned international cricketer

I am writing this blog after being inspired by a post on a Pakistani news website, written by a Pakistani woman as a direct letter to Afridi. It is titled: “Why I Won’t Be Cheering For Shahid Afridi Anymore.” So, I need to vent out my feelings to Shahid Afridi and the world, therefore, I am doing the same thing–writing a letter to Afridi. (I hope that somehow, in someway, he reads it someday).


 

Dear Shahid Afridi,

You are the hero of Pakistan, the hero of cricket (the most popular sport in Pakistan). You bring joy to a nation that has a lot going on right now, a nation that is doing a lot of growing up right now. While I am very happy and proud that you help Pakistan win cricket matches, I think that you need to understand that with fame and heroism comes great responsibility. You become the face of the nation and you become the person young boys and girls look up to. You are the person the youth look up to. You are the new and current sensation.

Do you know how many young boys want to be a batsman or a bowler like you? Do you know how many boys want to have hair like yours? Do you know how many boys want to make their family and country proud like you do? Do you know how many boys want to be you?

Do you know what this means? This means that whatever you do, they will want to do. Whatever you encourage them to do and however you encourage them to think, they will want to do that and think in that way.

So, when you go on a TV channel for an interview and the anchor recounts, with extreme pride, that the girls of your hometown, Peshawar, are trying out for cricket and how everyone is so proud that women of Peshawar and Pakistan are entering the sports world (and that Pakistan is continuing to progress), you DO NOT snub him by declaring that “our women have good taste in their hands” and, thus, belong in and should remain in the kitchen.

Shahid Afridi, who are you to take the limelight away from the women of Peshawar and Pakistan? Who are YOU to declare that the women of Pakistan are better off in the kitchen of their homes? YOU, Shahid Afridi, have no right to speak of what a woman can and can not do. The women of Pakistan can decide themselves how they want to represent Pakistan. They can choose if they want to be a teacher, a doctor, a secretary, a politician, an engineer, an accountant, an entrepreneur, an actress, an author, an athlete, or stay home (and cook/clean/do the laundry, or do nothing at all).

Continue reading

Islamabad: Part II

This gallery contains 9 photos.

Islamabad: Part II Earlier this year, I showed you pictures of the Faisal Mosque in Islamabad: Part I. Here are more pictures of buildings, important places, roads, and sunsets of Pakistan’s capital, Islamabad. Camera: Nikon D5200   © wanderingderwish.com 2013-2014 Click here for Copyright information. All photos shown were taken by me. All photos are […]

Nusrat – the helper

Date: January 13, 2013

This one is about the domestic help at my grandparent’s house, Nusrat. She, like Maria, is one of many Pakistani women who work to support their families. But her story is slightly different. Nusrat, whose name means “the helper” is working hard to not only feed her kids but also educate them.

One day, I decided to follow Nusrat around the house as she worked on her chores. It was a sunny day and I was at home with my aunt. The power had gone out for one hour, as it does every two hours over there so the house was calm and quiet. I started by asking for her permission to write her story and take her photograph. She started smiling and said “Sure, why not!” (in Urdu, of course).

Nusrat has no idea when she was born, just that she was about 14 when she got married. She was born in Mardan, a town in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KPK) province. She migrated to Karachi, Pakistan shortly after getting married. Karachi is a long way and a completely different setting from her hometown of Mardan, but Nusrat said that she enjoyed her time in the Sindhi port city. She said that the air in Karachi was a lot better and the lifestyle was faster paced. According to Nusrat, she had little to worry about in Karachi, she felt more relaxed there.

Nusrat identifies herself as a Pathan, someone from the KPK who speaks Pashto, but because she has spent a long time in Karachi and now Rawalpindi, she can speak Urdu very well. She has five children, four sons and one daughter:

  • Adil – son, 18 years old – works as a driver
  • Salman – son, 14 years old – works as a tailor
  • Nauman – son, 12 years old – student
  • Layba – daughter, 10 years old – student
  • Sameer – son, 8 years old – student

Next, I asked her questions I was most curious about but I was slightly nervous because of the sensitivity of the topic – women’s rights and status in Pakistan. So I started by testing the waters and asked, “Nusrat, do you do parda?”

Parda is an Urdu/Farsi word that literally means “curtain” but can be used to mean veil or a cover worn by a person. In Islam, men and women are both asked to cover their bodies. For women, the parda includes covering their head with a hijab, or headscarf; basically, only the face can be shown. While it is not required in the religion, some women cover their face revealing only their eyes (called niqab) or cover their entire face with a see-thru veil that allows them to see the outside but people cannot see them (called burqah).

The matter of parda is one that is religious, cultural, but also personal; therefore, it is much debated and highly sensitive.

“Mein parda karti hu (I stay in parda)….” Nusrat took a long pause to think and continued, “aur mujhay acha lagta hai (and I like it).”

I asked her if she chose to cover and how much she covers and she told me that she covers because her husband asked her to, otherwise she would not be allowed to work.

I hesitantly continued, “Would you cover if your husband did not ask you to?”

Nusrat said, with such certainty that I was surprised she didn’t wait to think this one through, “Yes, I would, because I feel safe and protected with my chador over my head.” Continue reading

#America

Since I started my blog more than a month ago, everything has been about my motherland, Pakistan. I have been writing and posting about Pakistan because I spent my winter break there. In fact, that was the main reason I even started blogging… and don’t worry, there’s plenty more I still have to show everyone about Pakistan.

But today, I am posting about America. The United States of America.

January 16 not only marks the day of my birth, but also the day on which the USA decided to grant my family immigration visas to permanently reside in America.
January 30 marks the day that my family immigrated to the United States 11 years ago.
I can still remember vividly how sad and upset I was to leave my grandparents, aunts, uncles, friends, school, etc. I have never cried so much in my life as I did on that day 11 years ago (and unfortunately there’s photographic and video evidence to prove it).
I was a 9 year old girl who was going to sit on a plane and leave the only world she ever knew so that she could live a “better” life and get a “better” education.
I didn’t understand what any of that meant; how could leaving my home and people be any “better” for me? It’s not like I lived a terrible life in Pakistan; I was very privileged.
I thought my parents were being selfish; maybe it was their dream to live in a foreign country that was modern and had tall buildings and where it snowed and the roads were big and you could meet Cinderella and Big Bird… but it sure wasn’t mine.
I was quite the vocal child. I did everything I could to try to delay us moving to the US. I gave emotional speeches to my parents, I cried at the Embassy, I refused to have my medical done for immigration (I actually faked a panic attack and said I couldn’t breathe and was going to die if the doctor tried to give me one more shot, which caused the doctor to stress out and walk out on me. Since 4 nurses couldn’t control me, they had to have my mom and uncle hold me down as well back up nurses, not to mention that I was screaming and yelling so loud that the entire waiting room had their ears pressed to the door– did I mention I was also very dramatic? and have a huge fear of needles/shots?).
In fact, my picture on my permanent resident card is also of me crying. And no, I was not a cry baby.

Anyhow, despite my feeble yet brave attempts to delay the immigration process we made it to John F. Kennedy Airport, NY on January 30th, 2003. My first impression of America: intimidating. VERY intimidating. I don’t remember what the Customs officer who processed us looked like but I did not want to throw a tantrum or start crying to go back in front of this guy– nope, that would not work. Next, we went to a secondary spot where the atmosphere was completely different. The officer processing us was very nice, infact I remember her because she was very nice. I remember that she brought my sisters and I some of the McDonald’s kids meal toys and food too. (Good people always leave an impression and are hard to forget!)

So, at this point America was starting to be not so bad. When we left the airport and got in the car, I, for some reason, didn’t feel like I was in a foreign land. I felt like I had been in America for ages. Because it was late January, there was snow on the ground and that was the coolest thing ever (pun intended). My uncle was driving us from New York to our home in Virginia. The ride was so long so we stopped at a rest stop on the way back. Here I had my second impression of the USA: there’s a lot of food places and people like to eat.
Third impression: there’s a lot of different kind of people, different kinds of language, different kinds of dressing, etc.

Even though I was very reluctant to come to the United States because it is difficult to change homes, languages, cultures, and countries, I consider myself very lucky to be living here. It took me a while to finally accept that America was my new permanent home, but when I did I understood why my parents made the choice they did.

There is no doubt that living in America has given me better education and more opportunities that anywhere else in the world. There is no doubt that America has given me freedoms, as a citizen, as a woman, as a minority, and as a youth, that not many countries can give me. And because of that I am thankful to be living in the United States.
My parents always taught me one thing: to respect and be loyal to those who have been good to you and America has been good to me. Like my mom always says, America has given us a home, education, food, and jobs and we should never forget that. And that is why I took the oath to become a citizen of the United States.

Pakistan is where I was born and I will always have a connection to it. I will always love going there and love being Pakistani and I am very proud of my heritage. But now, 11 years later, I have spent more time in the US and am a Citizen and I am proud to be an American.

I am proud to be an American-Pakistani.
I think that I get the best of both worlds.

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Fourth of July fireworks in my community in Virginia, 2013. 20140204-024047.jpg

 

The American flag at Cedar Point, Ohio, 201320140204-024054.jpg

 

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An extra postage stamp stuck to the dashboard of a Cadillac SUV20140204-024110.jpg

New York City Skyline, August 2012

Camera: iPhone 5

All photos shown were taken by me. All photos are the property of wanderingderwish.wordpress.com.

January 16 :]

Hi all!

Sorry I have been busy and unable to post…
So, yesterday was my birthday and there was nothing better I could have wished for then to spend my 20th in the place I was born.

In a few days, I will once again board a plane, this time back home to DC! That will be a very long flight; goodbyes are hard!

But for now, dear followers, look back at my older posts that you may have missed (As a birthday present for me?!). I have visited many beautiful places, each of which had a special charm of its own.

Khanpur Dam

Buddhist Museum at Taxila

Holiday in RWP

Doha, Qatar

May