Tuesday, December 30, 2008

A Black Year

It was Queen Elizabeth II, who I first heard using the phrase “annus horribilis”. It wasn’t a part of Prince Philip’s anatomy that she was referring to, but to the travails of the recently concluded year of 1992, in which she witnessed the break-up of several family marriages and a fire at Windsor Castle. More recently, the Economist referred to the year 2008 as Wall Street’s annus horribilis – at the end of which, of Wall Street’s five big securities firms, only Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley still remain in recognizable existence.

It has been a shocking and all-pervasive black year – even extending to the White House. However, with a Black in the White House and a Brown at 10 Downing Street, the Indian community is celebrating a hard earned victory, and preparing itself for an age of Indian domination of the world. Black - a color which used to be dreaded in all its shades, and at all places, but particularly on the skin of the female offspring, is no longer an anathema. We expect the Sunday editions of Hindustan Times to soon carry matrimonial advertising mentioning “wheatish skin” with a sense of pride, rather than a tone of apology.

Unilever India, which swelled its corporate coffers on the sales of Fair & Lovely, is already thinking of phasing out the product and is evaluating preliminary concepts of Dark and Comely. China, another country with fondness for fair skin, except on Western journalists (and where, Olay the market leader, refers to the product category more precisely as whitening creams, rather than fairness creams) has started a campaign to educate its people on the benefits of black color. Chinese companies, which are desperately trying to remain in the black, as the rest of the world plunges further into red, also support the change.

The real question is to what extent this victory will benefit the poor blacks who have been receiving a raw deal from the world. A prime example is Michael Jackson, who was sued by the son of King of Bahrain for failing to write a new song and was expecting to be bailed-out by Obama. Michael also received inspiration from Obama’s victory and was seen humming “It don’t matter if you are Black or Brown” but was eventually disappointed and was last reported to be writing Chapter 11 of his autobiography.

Al-Zeidi, the Iraqi journalist, who threw his shoes at George Bush, said that he will continue to throw shoes at all American Presidents, regardless of their color. Asked whether he will match the color of the shoes with the color of the President, he said that in shoe throwing a contrasting, rather than a matching color makes a better mark. That is the reason why he threw a black shoe at Bush and soon plans to order white shoes, in case an opportunity arises to use them on Obama.

In the meanwhile, sipping black coffee in snow white Alaska, Sarah Palin was heard vehemently denying allegations that she is unfamiliar with the concept of contraception. Having five children was her single handed attempt to populate Alaska and increase its share of the electoral college – a mantle that she successfully passed to her sixteen year old daughter. “I hope we will have a black child in our family soon,” she said, hoping that her future generations may succeed in the task that she failed in.

Written by Ashok Sethi