I was invited to a school’s annual function sometime back. I knew the principal fairly well, so it was no formal guest invite, just a casual invite to experience the creativity of the students.
It was a delightful day indeed. Student’s performed dramas, singing, dancing, plays, etc. Teachers had helped students prepare different activities, and students in their colourful attires did their best and had put on a wonderful show. Needless to say, I enjoyed it to the hilt.
While we appreciate the steps taken towards not selling #FairnessProducts and dropping “fair” from “Fair & Lovely” range of products by J&J and HUL. 👍
How effective will it be for India to overcome its obsession with #fairness?
— Youth Ki Awaaz (@YouthKiAwaaz) June 26, 2020
After the function, snacks were served; everyone ate and then students left the school. All teachers and the principal gathered and sat around the refectory table; I joined too. The principal congratulated everyone and then discussed how few things could be improved, and asked teachers for feedback.
The internal discussion went on for some time where teachers discussed the operational obstacles they faced and how we could do better next time. After the discussion, the principal turned to me and asked for my feedback:
In hindsight, I should have begun by congratulating. But I had only one question in my mind, and I blurted almost immediately: why do only girls with fair complexion play the role of a Goddess in our plays?
In one of the plays, Goddess Saraswati had to sit in the middle and students (devotees) prayed around her. And a girl with a fair complexion played that part. You go to any school anywhere in the country (as much as I have been to), a lean girl with a fair complexion plays the role of Goddess Saraswati always. Why? Do Goddesses have certain body measurements or colour preferences?
The table went silent for a few seconds, and then the principal said, “We all know who will be our Saraswati next time.”
I think it’s high time we realise what our subtle selection of characters for school plays means to children. A child relates with what they hear, see or experience. If we carry the beauty or the deity standards in our heads, children will naturally understand, that is what beauty is or that is how deity looks like.
For diversity to prosper and inclusion to be experienced, we just can’t teach them as subjects. We need to practice it by breaking such stereotypes, and let every student be a Devi.