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  • Kuzhali Manickavel

Conversations- Great White Hope

Updated: Aug 5, 2020

S– I think she meant ‘dusky’. Not ‘desky’.

K- Oh.

S- ‘Desky complexion’ makes no sense. Especially if she was trying to sell you a whitening cream.

K- Yeah, I couldn’t figure out if ‘desky’ was good or bad.

S- Did she say you were pretty BUT dusky? Or did she say you needed to buy whitening cream because if you didn’t you would get face cancer and your head would fall off?

K- Not only did she accuse me of being pretty BUT dusky, she said the duskiness had apparently cancelled out the prettiness completely.

S- And the only way to make everything better was to buy eleventytwelvty million rupees worth of whitening cream?

K- Yes. It took her a while to make me understand that I was the most epicest terriblehorriblenogoodverybad human being ever because I was dark. I said, you mean I’m dark like I’m a Dark Lord? And she said no.

S- Aw, too bad.

K- She said being dark was not only bad for me, it was bad for people who had to look at me. My darkness was also preventing me from getting-job-finding-good-husband-leading-happy-awesome-life. I don’t know if she meant that as separate things or as one very big thing.

S- I thought you couldn’t get a job because you weren’t looking for one.

K- That’s what I thought too. But apparently I’m jobless because I’m dark. She also implied that my darkness was encouraging acts of global terrorism, killing the rainforests and making small children all around the world cry uncontrollably.

S- Wow. Maybe you really are a Dark Lord.

K- So I said, ok what can I do? I mean, I don’t want my skin color to cause global terrorism and make trees commit suicide. S- Yeah. That’s some serious bad karma.

K- So she showed me this whitening cream that was like a kajillion rupees. And she said it was for lightening pigmentation, scrubbing off dead skin cells and I was like blah blah blah and she was like ma’am please listen and I was like blah blah blah. S- Blah blah blah. K- Then I realized what this whitening cream was actually going to do. It was going to turn me into a white person. An authentic, I-Love-All-Colored-People, Indian-Food-Gives-Me-Diarrhea white person.

S- Nowai.

K- For realz! This whitening cream would make my desky skin lighter and lighter until- S- Until you became invisible?

K- Until my brown skin turned white. And a person with white skin is a white person. S- I don’t think it works that way if you were a brown person first.

K- Anyway, I had a feeling this whiteness could help me achieve the dream of every true and patriotic Indian.

S- You mean moving to America?

K- Yes! As a white person I would probably have a nicer time in places like Arizona.

S- Isn’t Arizona in Brazil or something?

K- Eh?

S- Arizona? Big river with a bunch of trees? Named after a website that sells stuff?

K- That’s the Amazon.

S- Ok. And that’s something different that’s not Arizona.

K- The Amazon is not Arizona.

S- Ok. The ‘A’s and ‘Z’s confused me.

K- Anyway, then I wanted to know if there were different kinds of whitening cream, like to become Russian-White or Italian-White. Then she didn’t want to sell me whitening cream anymore and she wanted me to leave.

S- That’s too bad.

K- I am doomed to be a Desky Dark Lord forever. Forests will die and children will become serial killers because of me.

S- Bummer you can’t be white and go to America now.

K- Yeah. I really wanted to bring back Warren Anderson as a souvenir.

an edited version of this appeared in The New Indian Express Zeitgeist Supplement, Multiverse, Conversations, June 19, 2010