Say Cheese

Can we take your picture? No. Before I see their exuberant smiles diminish, I’m off, walking briskly to whatever destination I need be at. In India, I am given the attention usually bestowed upon some celebrity or other, and it rubs me the wrong way. I am told by friends I met on a tour group that I am “celebrated” here. What makes me so deserving of this celebration? My entitled upbringing as a Caucasian and an American? Two things that took no work to obtain, them being identities that I was merely born with. I already feel privileged enough for the entitlements I have as a citizen of the USA, so why bestow more privileges upon me? Then, for the matter of having white skin, all it is is a color. And frankly, it is a bland color that doesn’t protect me well in the sun’s rays.

However, I understand that the color of one’s skin is hardly just a color, but a representation. A representation of past colonial values that are now ingrained in societies worldwide. India has a system of valuing lighter skin, with those of such skin color usually belonging to better-off/higher-up castes. Therefore, I understand to some degree the fascination me bearing white skin brings, especially in a part of India that sees few foreigners.

I went shopping by myself yesterday for groceries, and the number of stares I received was innumerable. I have gotten into the habit to just not look back unless they are young children. Young children I feel more comfortable around, and so will talk to them briefly and occasionally let them take a photo. Though, I usually say no to photos, because I just want to get on my way and blend in if possible. However, I have found that to be quite impossible here.

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