Too light-skinned to be Pakistani?

We had a Pakistani Dinner late and it was quite a laugh (even though I’m quite Indianised these days & constantly rant about Muslims, I do love my Pakis). One of my friends brought along a white lady who joined us. As we left the dinner she asked me if I was fully Pakistani because I was lighter than the rest and they looked “more Indian.” She then mentioned that I could pass off as a Spaniard, which frankly was BS 🙄🙄🙄.

I was much annoyed (not faux-annoyed because it seemed like she was giving me a compliment) because I’m instantly taken for an Indian (& happily so) whereever I am in the West (not Arab not Middle East not even Persian). I am usually seen as Indian or Muslim (especially when I wear a beard, which is what I am, the collision of the Ummah & Mother India) in an all-white context; it takes a very discerning white person to see me as anything other than those.

A good rule of thumb is that the rounder my face the “desier” I look, the leaner the more Persian I get (an Iranian friend told me that and it makes sense).

What I found interesting is that in an all-desi context (which has been a while) my “otherness” admittedly did jump out (I felt it myself but then this was a predominantly salt of the earth Punjabi table, where the Urdu spoken has a nasal quality to it).  If I had been with Muhajirs (of the KGS strata) or Pathan-Punjabi mixes it wouldn’t have felt so stark; this was a case of regional rather than national differentiation. But Punjabis own Pakistan and good for them, some compensation for the horrid they had to undergo at partition.

I find this bestowing of “light privilege” by white people to be ridiculous and micro-aggressive (microaggression is a thing!).
It’s not that we don’t have our colour fixations in South Asia (and the Middle East) but colour is a spectrum/gradation rather than a stark barrier. There are dark Brahmins after all (even though I once heard a quip in Kampala that never trust a dark Brahmin lol) the Aryans seemed much more partial to mixing & mingling than Southern Slaveholder Landlords.

The divide & rule concept with which goras have categorised and classified coloured people borders on the ridiculous. One can be considered coloured if they have two or more of the following; dark hair, dark eyes and dark skin. The distinction between Meds & Middle Easterners (swarthy Sicilians are essentially like Levantines) does get more hazier but I do have to agree with Ta-Nehisi Coates that I find the concept of “white” to be more of a political than a racial construct. Human societies have always grappled with light & dark (with preference for the former usually but then with few exceptions invaders tend to stem from the icy north) but black & white is a distinction that seems to have arose in the slave-holding societies in the New World (don’t take my word for it I’m not a scholar!)
Adios (gotta practise my Spanish now)
Ps: while my wife has done a very good job in Indianising me; as soon as I am in a Pakistani crowd my Pak-narrative conditioning kicks in and I blend in like a chameleon (that’s what my best friend calls me since I like to constantly blend in). I’m such a Munafiq!

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2 Replies to “Too light-skinned to be Pakistani?”

  1. Haha, some people (particularly in the English speaking area) have the habit of thinking that the Spanish are gypsies who like Iberian ham, dance flamenco and sleep all day.

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