Friday, 20 February 2009

A prescription for fairness creams

Is it fare to be fair? Is it a crime to aspire to be a few tones lighter? While most of us would find it usual, the Union minister for health Dr Anbumani Ramadoss does not. Ramadoss is an angry man these days and has taken offense of manufacturers who advertise 10-second spots promising damsels (even dukes) a fair deal. If Ramadoss is serious about his fight against fairness products, for its lack of “scientific proof” as he reiterated in Delhi recently, he would have to lock horns with Kollywood super star Rajinikanth who in a movie tries fairness creams, among other means, to lighten the tone of his complexion, to win over his love interest.
But going by past instances, where the minister has raised objections against - smoking, junk food and alcohol - it would not be surprising if this new-found aversion is soon forgotten. At the early stages of his tenure as minister his TRPs soared during his much-publicised tiff with the previous AIIMS director Dr Venugopal that went in favour of the latter. His crusade against smoking is an apology to the space it occupied in the national media. The ban imposed on smoking was perhaps stillborn. Later, Ramadoss took up the issue of junk foods and even later was for prohibition. All the above mentioned initiatives taken by Pattali Makkal Katchi founder’s son was abandoned after it lost its charm. The enthusiasm that was shown initially soon lost steam.
While the minister’s intentions, as was in earlier cases, might seem noble, what is intriguing is to see what steps he would take to ensure that such advertisements are stopped? One would expect the minister to have learnt from his previous experiences but that does not seem to be the case.
By asking the information and broadcasting ministry to take action against manufacturers of fairness products, Ramadoss, who is a doctor by education, is treating the symptoms and not the disease. We would want the minister, under the aegis of his or any other ministry which would suit the job, to conduct a study in any renowned laboratory on these fairness products and if they are found to be just promising the stars, cancel their licences. In that way Ramadoss would not just be preaching but practising as well.
But that would be asking too much from the minister who is running the last lap of his tenure. We also forget that the importance of this year and what would be an election year without some clattering. Ramadoss might or might not leave the issue but to get back to Rajinikanth - he does become fairer in the movie and wins the love of the heroine.

It’s always good at Kumars’

Staying alone in a city is fun, especially when the city is peppered with family and friends. There has not been a weekend where I have found it hard to get through. It’s always packed --- If last week it was an office party, this week it was a reunion of old friends and next week I would have to spend with relatives calling on from out of station. But whatever be the case, I never fail to make it to the Kumars’ on Saturdays.
Vijay Kumar and his wife Rekha live in a three-bedroom apartment in Chennai. The best part of being at Kumars’ is the post-lunch chinwag we have that at times goes till dinner. Thankam (Rekha’s mother), Rekha and I are regulars at it. Thankam is in her eighties and is full of life, enthusiasm and is up-to-date on the current affairs.
Of late our pet topic is recession. Last Saturday, while I shared stories picked from my workplace, Rekha gave inputs gathered from different apartments in the colony. Thankam who is mostly confined to the house had her take on it. She went into the flashback mode --- On how life used to be ‘then’.
It was at this time Vijay came out of his study.
“If you miss the bus, you better walk it back. No autorickshaws,” he was shouting at Rohit (their son studying in 12th standard).
“Please be careful,” Thankam cautioned, “make sure you cross the road properly.”
“As a part of cost-cutting, the school bus plies only once in the afternoon for evening classes. And invariably some of the students miss it,” Rekha informed me.
“Look how easy she is about it. I am very scared,” Thankam commented about Rekha’s attitude.
“I still remember,” Thankam reflected, “When we were in Koramangala in the early Seventies. One day, Vijay had to go to for classes. And as though it was conspired, both the drivers did not turn up. The cars were at home but without a driver. I was expecting Maya (Vijay’s sister) and could not drive. Vijay’s father was in a foul mood that morning. He asked Vijay to walk it all the way for classes. I could not protest and Vijay had to go that day walking for the first time. I don’t know how he managed it.”
The expression in Thankam’s eyes said she was reliving that ordeal.
“From the time Vijay left home till he got back I was on tenterhooks. Both the telephones were out-of-order. None of our servants had also turned up. Vijay’s father left for work and I was alone at home. If someone broke into the house I could not even call for help.”
“But I was more worried for Vijay. On his way while walking someone could kidnap him. Those days that were rampant and children were taken away for their vital organs. They were even blinded and sent to Delhi for begging. Out of fear I let loose our four dogs. At least they would protect me from any harm.”
“Finally at around five I heard our dogs bark and knew Vijay had got back.”
With a frown on her face Rekha turned to me and whispered: “Vijay was late as he had to collect the application forms for his M Tech entrance exams.”
“Those were the longest few hours of my life,” Thankam said. After ruminating for some time and taking a long sigh she concluded: “Those were actually the toughest times. No car, no servants and no telephones…”