x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

India’s colour divide is deeply entrenched

A reader says the issue of skin colour – raised after Nina Davuluri was named MIss America last month – still resonates in INdia. Other topics: dress code, Indian politics and drink-driving.

A reader says the issue of skin colour – raised after Nina Davuluri won the Miss America contest – still resonates in India. Michael Loccisano / Getty Images /AP
A reader says the issue of skin colour – raised after Nina Davuluri won the Miss America contest – still resonates in India. Michael Loccisano / Getty Images /AP

I enjoyed Ujala Ali Khan’s take on the “colour issue” in India (Desi girl: New Miss America Nina Davuluri might not make the cut in India, September 30).

I am from the southern part of India, and when I was going to school in Bangalore in the 1970s, I remember how people with a dark complexion were regarded as more unsophisticated.

This was all a bit confusing for me back then, because the Hindu god Shiva does not have a light complexion.

In hindsight, I’d say that in many parts of India, the obsession with being fair is a residue of the ancient caste system that dictated aspects of Hindu culture.

Despite the conversion of many Indians to Christianity and Islam, the tendency to associate light skin with a superior race or a higher station in life has yet to disappear.

However, I have noticed a slight difference between the south and north of India. Southern Indian men are under less pressure to be light-skinned.

For example, the Indian actors Rajinikanth, Surya and Dhanush are not “fair” and yet this has not been a hindrance to their becoming superstars.

In comparison, Ajay Devgan is one of the rare north Indian actors who has done well despite his dark complexion. His wife, Kajol, also has a dark complexion – but she seems much lighter since she became a model for a skincare brand.

M Mathew, Dubai

Ms Davuluri was subjected to racist taunts from Americans after she was crowned Miss America.

While India has much ground to cover in terms of losing its colour bias, I would like to read about America’s shortcomings as well.

Mudassar Ali, Dubai

Proactive stance over dress code is worthy of support

I applaud Dubai Marina Mall for being proactive over the issue of dress standards (Dubai shoppers asked to wear ‘respectful clothing’, October 1).

Most malls and public areas simply have signs, but these passive forms of communication are not enough because they are always ignored.

Dress standards have been discussed again and again over the years, but people just want to look for loopholes and excuses to not follow the code simply because it’s “inconvenient”.

I think the benefits that we receive in this country – tourists and resident expatriates alike – far outweigh the “price” we pay for cultural sensitivity.

Implementation of the code should apply to people regardless of gender and nationality.

I believe that education should start inside planes, through “welcome to our destination” videos played just before landing in Dubai or Abu Dhabi.

These messages could be reinforced on public transport, with videos explaining specific cultural guidelines.

The idea is not to impose any form of control, but to educate the public on the required cultural standards in a clear and straightforward manner.

In my opinion, simply saying “please dress respectfully” does not help, because it leaves much of the judgement on what is acceptable to non-locals who may not be sensitive to other cultures or traditions.

Name withheld by request

Gandhi faces a test of resolve

I am writing in reference to Prasad convicted of fodder fund scam (October 1).

Many years after the offence, former Bihar chief minister Lalu Prasad is now facing a jail term.

India’s highest judicial body, the Supreme Court, has also instructed the government that no politicians with criminal backgrounds should be allowed to sit in the parliament.

Will the government adhere to the court’s direction?

This is a test for vice president Rahul Gandhi and the ruling Congress party.

K Ragavan, India

Drink-drive penalty must fit the crime

Your editorial calling for stiffer penalties for driving offences, Zero tolerance for deadly drink driving (October 2), was spot on.

Where I come from, the basic penalty is a six-month licence suspension, a fine and either three days in jail or driver’s education classes – and this is for simply being caught driving over the alcohol limit, not for causing harm.

When injury or death is caused, it is an automatic felony with a prison sentence, as it should be.

The only way to motivate people to drive more carefully – and that includes not driving under the influence – is to institute penalties that will deter this behaviour.

Name withheld by request

I am concerned at suggestions that cyclists should stay off the roads for their own safety.

Perhaps we should get everyone else except the drunk drivers off the road, so they would only smash into each other and everyone else would be safe.

JS Allen, Dubai