Monday, February 19, 2007

Is Shilpa Shetty white?

It's a rhetorical question; I don't need answers on a postcard thanks.

I was just eating lunch and listening to the podcast of Simon Mayo's FiveLive book panel from last Thursday. They were interviewing the author Sujit Saraf about his book the Peacock Throne, when the other guest author mentioned an excellent article of Mr. Saraf's website with Saraf's take on the Big Brother racism controversy. The point can be summed up in his own words: "I find it extremely funny and amusing that 'our' [meaning an Indian] white woman is being treated like a black woman by a 'real' white woman". The article is in a word document format and hopefully if you click this link you should be able to download it, or alternatively follow the link on the front page of Mr. Saraf's website. Saraf argues that where Jade (for anyone from Mars, click here) sees a "Paki", the vast majority of Indian's see a white woman. Shetty is a Bollywood actress in part because of her fair skin.

Over the last week I have been listening to the "India Rising" series from the BBC World Service, and like the Foreign Policy article I noted in an earlier post, it is an education in the complexities and paradoxes of modern India. Sujit Saraf does an excellent job on spotlighting the bluntness of Indian racism in this article, but if you listen to the BBC documentary series you start getting a feeling for all the other often more complex tensions - socio-economic, rural/urban, caste, religious - in modern India.

On a less India-specific note, Jade Goody has become famous for being thick, but she can serve as a reminder for us all that seeing people defined by race, or some other singular and preeminent identity, smudges out all the complexities of human nature, both good and bad.

You can get Mr. Saraf's book at this link:

According to the FiveLive book panel it's meant to be jolly good.


Jukka said...

"It's meant to be jolly good"

You mean bolly good?

(Don't saw aaaaw, you know you were asking for it)

A.E. said...

When I think of the Shilpa Shetty affair, I'm surprised that it happened in Britain instead of America--considering the reality of reality TV and polarized racial politics here.

It's definitely fascinating though.