This happened during my internship days. A senior of mine was telling others ‘who’ interviewed him for the job. ‘A man with glasses interviewed me’, he said. But there were too many people with glasses in our office. ‘He was wearing an off-white shirt and dark brown pants’, he said. We stared back at him. ‘Okay.. That person was very short’, he said. And, we all gasped in unison. ‘Cos he was talking about a very senior person at work and that guy was listening to the conversation from his work station. Thankfully, the senior guy laughed it off and all was well.
When I think about this incident today, I wonder why we all gasped in shock then. Glasses were a good identity. Clothes passed off as okay. But, why did ‘short’ become offensive? Of course, he was short and there’s nothing wrong in saying that aloud. We are okay with saying, ‘that tall guy’ but ‘short’ is a not okay. Why?
I’ve been trying to extrapolate the above analysis to so many other things. Dark is a negative term to use. (Wheatish is PC, it seems. God! How much I hate that word!) But, being fair is an ‘achievement unlocked’. ‘Include saffron in your food; you’ll have a fair baby!’ Boss.. I am dark, my husband is dark and if the baby is fair, that’s surely not because of saffron, okay? That’s what I want to tell people. But again, I have to be politically correct.
But why exactly is usage of the word ‘dark’ un-PC? Why are there so many fairness creams but not one darkness cream? Why do we attribute beauty only to fair people? ‘I have a friend who is really beautiful although she is dark!’ Why am I using although here? Why has Kajol gone for a skin-lightening treatment that made her move from ‘gorgeous’ to ‘awful’? Why is there only one Nandita Das; why aren’t there more? What are we teaching our children? To say wheatish instead of dark because that makes them feel better? No way. I am dark and that’s how I’ve been made; that’s all. Nothing more, nothing less. Will I have it any other way? Hell no!
Next comes fat and thin. I don’t even have to say anything here. There is a word in Tamil. ‘Poosina madhiri’. I don’t know how to translate it. It means not too fat or not too thin. Just the right size, as our Goldilocks would say. That’s the PC word. Again what’s wrong if I am called fat? If making jokes about thin can be seen in a positive vein, so should jokes about fat be, right? Right.
Now, let me talk about the term ‘physically challenged’. I have no problem with this term. It is fine. But so is the term blind. Or, deaf. Or, dumb. Or, handicapped. These are all just groups of letters put together to define something. We know the meaning. Practically, ‘physically challenged’ and ‘handicapped’ mean the same thing. But, politically, only the former is correct. Why? For all that you know, I might use the most PC term to address some one with a disability but might treat him/her quite the opposite way, isn’t it? Which means, the reverse can also happen. I can call someone ‘deaf’ (and not ‘hearing impaired’) and yet treat them with utmost respect and civility. So, who has given a negative image to the term ‘deaf’? It is the intent and tone that needs to be sensitive and not the words per se. It is just that we are conditioned to believe which is politically incorrect and which is not. That’s all, isn’t it?
The other day we were walking from the park to our apartment and I spelled out something to my friend as kids were around. It was the word ‘rascal’. She repeated after me as I’d spelled and pronounced it as ‘racial’. We both burst out laughing. Then, she told me that she’d always, even as a child, had problems with spellings. ‘I would’ve been called a dyslexic now but back then, there was no such term. I just coped’, she said. That made me think. Are we labeling every abnormality that human beings possess with a new name? But wait.. What exactly is ‘normal’?
Is fat normal or thin normal?
Is dark normal or fair normal? (Or is wheatish normal?)
Is tall normal or short normal?
Is beautiful normal or ugly normal?
Is fast normal or slow normal?
Is being serious normal or fooling around normal?
Is rich normal or poor normal?
Is spending normal or saving normal?
Is being rash normal or being cautious normal?
The thing is this word ‘normal’ is just not normal. All of us are weird in ways only we know. And, in my opinion, that is perfectly normal. (God! I am sounding like Visu!) I think most of the time we just try to act normal in front of others to have ourselves included in a group. But individually, even in the group we are all different (or weird, how so ever we like to call it.)
I am really tired of living most part of my life trying to be politically correct about everything lest I hurt someone else. I am completely okay with being called the fat, dark, grey-haired, teeth protruding, salwar wearing, bespectacled mother of two. Because these are just facts about me. None of it can have a negative connotation; okay, none of this SHOULD have negative connotation. These is just truth. And, there’s nothing to be ashamed about truth. Period.