She smiles at me as teardrops gather in her pale eyes.
There is a lump in her throat; her voice is shaky.
I can tell that she is trying to be strong for me.
I know I am trying to do the same for her.
We hug each other so tight,
Feeling the warmth of each other’s skin.
I smell her familiar scent, and take in a deep breath,
Knowing that soon I will forget it all over again.
She says something, but I don’t comprehend it.
I am too focused on remembering the smell of her skin.
I kiss her goodbye on her wrinkled cheek,
And can taste her salty tears.
As I take another step towards airport security,
Another step closer to college,
I turn around and see her waving goodbye.
I open my mouth to yell, “Bye Mom! I love you!”
But nothing comes out,
As we are forced to say goodbye yet again.
A poem written for my brave and beautiful mother, about all the times we have had to say goodbye and for all the goodbyes yet to come (boarding school, college, life...).
I love beautiful sentences. I often find myself reading the same old quotes again and again, and highlighting random sentences on my kindle simply because I find them beautiful. When you take beautiful sentences and put them against some beautiful music, especially if those sentences are totally related to my life, I honestly think you've created magic. Sometimes, the words of others explain how we feel much better than we ever could.
I often find myself shuffling through my iPod and thinking, "this describes my life perfectly." Here are a list of my top TCK-related songs along with some reasons why I picked them. Hopefully you'll find the relatable too!
10. I'm Still Here (Treasure Island) - Johnny Reznik (Goo Goo Dolls)
First of all, this is one of the best and also one of the most underrated Disney movies ever. And a huge shout-out to Goo Goo Dolls, one of my favourite bands.
It's kind of hard to explain why I picked this song, since I have so many different reasons. It's not as black and white as some of the other songs below, but nevertheless it's absolutely beautiful and relateable for TCK's.
I feel like every culture has it's traditions and expectations. But, when you've lived in so many, you just take the beauty from all of them and make your own, unique "culture". When one culture tells you, "this is beautiful, this is right," and the other culture tells you the exact opposite, it's hard to fit in to society's perfect expectations. You try to understand, but you're forced to reconsider society's voice and use your unique experiences and your own beliefs and come up with your own conclusions. For example, bi-racial marriage. I've never seen so many bi-racial couples than in the US, but there is so much taboo surrounding it pretty much everywhere else in the world. Why? It kind of baffles me, haha.
"They can't tell me who to be cuz I'm not what they see.
The world is still sleeping while I keep on dreaming for me.
And their words are just whispers and lies that I'll never believe.
And I want a moment to be real.
Want to touch things I don't feel.
Wanna hold on and feel I belong.
And how can they say I never change?
They're the ones that stay the same.
I'm the one now,
cuz I'm still here.
I'm still here."
9. In My Life - The Beatles
This is one of my favourite Beatle's song. It's all about remembering those people and places of your past in a positive light.
"There are places I remember,
All my life, though some have changed.
Some forever not for better.
Some have gone, and some remain.
All these places had their moments
With lovers and friends,
I still can recall,
Some are dead and some are living.
In my life I've loved them all
Though I know I'll never lose affection,
For people and things that went before,
I know I'll often stop and think about them.
In my life I love you more.
In my life I love you more."
8. Talking to the Moon - Bruno Mars
Have you ever been in a long distance relationship? Or even a long distance best-friend relationship (haha I don't know what to call that!)? This song perfectly describes how it feels to have so many people surrounding you, but to still feel lonely because that one person you miss so badly isn't there. I know this is a love song, but it reminds me of my mom too, because sometimes I miss her that much.
"I know you're somewhere out there, somewhere far away.
I want you back; I want you back.
My neighbors think I'm crazy, but they don't understand.
You're all I had. You're all I had.
At night when the stars light up my room, I sit by myself
Talking to the moon.
Trying to get to you...
In hopes you're on the other side, talking to me too!
Or am I a fool who sits alone talking to the moon?"
The good thing: we're all in luck! No more need to talk to the moon, we have Skype for all us long distance peeps! ;)
7. Leaving on a Jet Plane - John Denver
This song makes me cry. Little personal story: I started boarding school in Jordan when I was 15, and my parents were living in a whole different continent. I still remember standing in the airport saying goodbye to my parents after winter break. I don't think I'll ever forget that moment. My dad hugged me tighter than he ever had before, and I couldn't look at my mom, who was trying her hardest to be strong for me. I couldn't look at her, because I too was trying my hardest to be strong for her. We both knew that if either of us let even one tear fall down our cheeks, we'd both break down crying. So instead, we hugged each other with tears in our eyes, swallowing that huge lump in our throats, and pretended like everything was totally okay. I wasn't necessarily sad or scared about being so young and on my own. It was more like, I could imagine all the emotions my Mom was facing (sadness, anger at the fact we had to say goodbye, worry, anxiousness to name a few) and yet she still hugged me and was strong for me. She's my sunshine. This one is for you, Amma.
" All my bags are packed,
I'm ready to go.
I'm standin' here outside your door.
I hate to wake you up to say goodbye.
But the dawn is breakin',
It's early morn,
The taxi's waitin',
He's blowin' his horn.
Already I'm so lonesome
I could die.
So kiss me and smile for me.
Tell me that you'll wait for me.
Hold me like you'll never let me go.
'Cause I'm leavin' on a jet plane,
Don't know when I'll be back again.
Oh babe, I hate to go.
Now the time has come to leave you.
One more time
Let me kiss you.
Then close your eyes,
And I'll be on my way.
Dream about the days to come
When I won't have to leave alone,
About the times, I won't have to say
Kiss me and smile for me.
Tell me that you'll wait for me.
Hold me like you'll never let me go.
'Cause I'm leavin' on a jet plane.
Don't know when I'll be back again.
Oh babe, I hate to go."
6. Daylight - Maroon 5
Goodbyes totally suck. They're the worst. Think back to the last time you moved and had to say goodbye not only to everyone you became so close with, but also the place you found yourself learning to call home. Maybe even a significant other or your own family. Remember that anxious, horrible feeling you had the whole day and night before you got onto that plane and left, not really sure when you would get to return again? Yeah. That's this song, summed up, but much more catchy!
Similar to Leaving on a Jetplane, but more upbeat.
"Here I am waiting, I'll have to leave soon
Why am I holding on?
We knew this day would come,
we knew it all along...
How did it come so fast?
This is our last night,
but it's late,
and I'm trying not to sleep cuz I know when I wake I will have to slip away.
And when the daylight comes, I'll have to go,
but tonight I'm going to hold you so close.
Cuz in the daylight we'll be on our own,
but tonight I need to hold you so close.
The sky is getting bright.
The stars are burning out.
Somebody slow it down.
This is way too hard
cuz I know when the sun comes up I will leave
This is my last glance that will soon be memory."
5. My Sacrifice - Creed
I used to listen to this song pretty often growing up simply because it reminded me of happy times to come, when I would get to see my friends again, and basically that feeling of reconnecting and reminiscing about the past.
"Hello my friend we meet again.
It's been a while, where should we begin?
Feels like forever.
Within my heart are memories of perfect love that you gave to me.
Oh I remember.
When you are with me,
I'm careless; I believe.
Above all the others, we'll fly...
This brings tears to my eyes.
4. Breakaway - Kelly Clarkson
Ever lived someone where you just didn't feel like you belonged? You weren't happy there, for whatever reason, and couldn't wait to move yet again? I felt this way the first time I moved to England from Saudi Arabia. It's funny to think that now, because England is one of the few places that I truly can think of as home and I am always looking forward to visiting it again.
Anyways, this song is perfect for when you feel like you just don't belong and are still longing for that place you'd love to call home.
"Wanted to belong here,
but something felt so wrong here,
so I prayed I could break away.
I'll spread my wings and learn how to fly.
I'll do what it takes until I touch the sky.
And I'll make a wish, take a chance,
make a change, and breakaway.
Out of the darkness and into the sun,
but I won't forget all the ones that I love (the place I come from)...
Wanna feel the warm breeze,
sleep under a palm tree,
feel the rush of the ocean.
Get on board a fast train,
travel on a jet plane far away,
and break away.
I'll spread my wings and learn how to fly.
Though it's not easy to tell you goodbye,
I gotta make a wish, take a chance, make a change,
and break away."
3. I'm Like a Bird - Nelly Furtado
I think this song is perfect for us TCK's who have moved around a lot and are still sick with wanderlust. The chorus, in particular, rings true. Sometimes, it's hard to open yourself up and get close to someone when you know in a year, or in two years, or in four years you'll have to move halfway across the world and you don't know when you'll see them again.
"Though my love is rare,
though my love is true,
I'm like a bird. I'll only fly away.
I don't know where my soul is.
I don't know where my home is.
And baby all I need for you to know is
I'm like a bird,
I'll only fly away.
I don't know where my soul is.
I don't know where my home is.
It's not that I wanna say goodbye,
it's just that every time that you try to tell me me me that you love me,
each and every single day I know I'm eventually going to have to give you away.
And though my love is rare,
though my love is true...
I'm like a bird, I'll only fly away.
I don't know where my soul is.
I don't know where my home is.
2. Drops of Jupiter - Train
Imagine your best friend from "home" singing this to you after you've moved around the world. I lived the majority of my childhood in Saudi Arabia. In 2005, I moved to England, and in 2006 to Italy. Finally, in 2007, I moved back to that same small town in Saudi Arabia and the chorus of this song is how all my friends from that small town spoke to me.
"But tell me, did you sail across the sun?
Did you make it to the Milky Way?
To see the lights all faded,
And that heaven is overrated?
Tell me, did you fall from a shooting star?
One without a permanent scar....
And did you miss me
While you were looking for yourself out there?"
And tell me, did Venus blow your mind?
Was it everything you wanted to find?
And did you miss me
While you were looking for yourself out there?"
And did you finally get the chance
To dance along the light of day?
And did you fall from a shooting star?
And were you lonely looking for yourself out there?"
1. Go The Distance - Michael Bolton (Hercules)
This song is basically my life. Ever since I moved for the first time, this song literally was made for me. Home became a concept I couldn't grasp. I had a bit of home everywhere I went, and yet I still longed for that ONE home. I didn't want a bit of home here and a bit of home there - I just wanted (and still want) that one, perfect place I can call home. I always dreamed of this one, singular, place filled with all the people I love, somewhere that I just fully felt like I belong. None of the places I've lived completed that for me, because as a Pakistani citizen, I can't just pack my bags and live where ever I want. Pakistan never fully felt like that for me, either, because I've always (unfortunately) felt like a foreigner there.
Anyways, I'm still looking for that one, perfect place. I'm convinced it exists, and I'm have faith that I will find it.
"I have often dreamed of a far off place
Where a great warm welcome would be waiting for me
Where the crowds will cheer, when they see my face
And a voice keeps saying, this is where I'm meant to be
I'll be there someday, I can go the distance
I'll find my way, if I can be strong
I know every mile, will be worth my while
I would go almost anywhere to feel like I belong."
This is not an article about how much I "hate Saudi Arabia", because I honestly feel the exact opposite. Saudi Arabia is like home to me, and I'm always super excited when I have a chance to go back! It's a magnificent country, and I'm so blessed to have spent so much time there. This is an article about some issues I've faced particularly in Saudi Arabia, and about me discovering the beauty of the niqaab. Let me repeat one last time: I love Saudi Arabia. :)
What's the first thing that comes to your mind when you read the name Saudi Arabia? Oil? Oppression? Burkas? For me, I think "home". Not only home for me, but home for Islam, as our two Holy cities of Mecca and Medina are located on Saudi soil. I had been traveling quite a bit this summer break, and my adventures took me back to Saudi Arabia, the country I was born in and lived in for 13 years. And, for the first time in my entire life, I wore a niqaab.
To make sense of why I would do that, I think I need to start at the beginning. Saudi Arabia is a very exclusive country. Chances are, you've probably never been here unless you're a Muslim going to Mecca or Medina for pilgrimage. They aren't exactly tourist-friendly, to say the least, and people (particularly of) South Asian descent who comes here for work are discriminated against. You think I'm exaggerating? I just read on the news a few days ago that Saudi Arabia is going to stop it's men from marrying women from 4 countries, one of them being Pakistan, so it speaks for itself. This all said, I still consider Saudi Arabia to be a very beautiful country and some small incidents of discrimination can't scare me away. One of my closest friends (shoutout to Dareen!) is from Jeddah and she's the absolute sweetest, most fun loving person I've ever met.
In Islam, women aren't required to wear a niqaab (like they are to wear a hijaab), so anyone wearing one is doing so out of their own religiousness and modesty. I wore one for different reasons though, mostly because I was tired of being a target of what my friends and I called eye-raping. For those of you who don't know, women in Saudi Arabia are required by law to wear an abaya/burka and a hijaab to protect her modesty. There are religious police that enforce this and a woman can get into real trouble with the law if she doesn't follow this rule. So, every single woman roaming the streets of Saudi Arabia is covered head to toe, literally, but I've found that men still check us out. And it's not just your everyday check-out, it's more like what I said earlier: eye-raping. They look at your body so intensely, as if they have a super power that allows them to undress you with their eyes.
Catcalling and the like aren't really allowed in Saudi Arabia (nor in Islam, where a man is required to lower his gaze in the sight of any woman...) so these men take all of their sexual tension and just stare at you. And stare at you. And stare at you. And they don't stare at your face; they stare at your 100% fully covered body. There's not much to check out, and it just makes you feel so uncomfortable. If you're out looking all cute, you kind of except at least a little male attention, but when you're covered up completely for the sake of modesty and religion, but get "eye-raped" regardless, you feel disgusted. It makes you feel like a sexual object, there just to satisfy their neverending thirst. It's not the Saudi men who do this either - it's always some older Desi man.
Why? My theory is that it's because of power. As I stated earlier, immigrants are not treated fairly in Saudi Arabia. There seems to be this unspoken hierarchy, that flows something like this: Saudi men. Saudi women. White men. Non-Saudi Arab men. White women. Non-Saudi Arab women. Desi men. Desi women (I would say Filipino men and women are on the same scale as us Desi people too). I, as a desi girl, am at the "bottom of the food chain", and therefore an easy target of these power&sex hungry fools. (Please understand that this is solely based off of my own personal experiences, and of those of my friends, and are in NO WAY a reflection of what ISLAM preaches!) Furthermore, I've never faced this kind of sexual torment in any other country (including Pakistan, which is where most of these creeps are from). Of course, men still cat call, men still stare, men still commit crimes like rape, but honestly I've never felt as victimized as I do in Saudi.
I can't explain to you how disgusting it makes you feel to be covered head to toe, NOT want any attention from men, but still have them stare at you. You don't feel human anymore. You feel, like I said before, a sexual object. Not a person. Not a woman. Just a sex toy. I wore a niqaab to protect myself from their endless staring.
Wearing a niqaab was one of the most liberating experiences of my life.
People, especially in Western countries, seem to think that Islam and Muslim countries oppress women. I've always argued that Islam does not oppress women, and that for the most part Muslim countries don't either (and if they do, it's not because of Islam, but rather because of their own hypocrisy. Again, this is for another post), but I wasn't as sure of it as I am now. I always understood why women wear hijaab. Not only is it required by our faith for various reasons, but it looks beautiful as well. Niqaab? I wasn't ever sure why someone would want to hide their face. Especially if they cover their eyes too. It just looked creepy and uncomfortable to me. Have you ever seen a woman trying to eat with a niqaab? Yeah, I never understood why someone would willingly choose that life until I decided to try it out (to hopefully stop being sexualized) and saw the benefits.
On my second day back in the kingdom, I went abaaya shopping because my old one was getting a bit short. That was when I decided to buy a niqaab as well, because just as I was entering the store, one of the men sweeping the street stopped and just stared at me walk for a good 2 minutes. I had no makeup on, I was wearing a burka and hijab, and I was with my family but he had no shame... I felt disgusted, and thought to myself that I don't want to go through that anymore. A few days later, our journey took us from Khobar to Mecca and then to Medina, which is where I first put on my niqaab.
There were some of those Desi workers outside the masjid sweeping the streets in Medina, who stared at me and other non-niqaabis every time we walked by. One day, I took my niqaab out of my suitcase, put it on, and went to the masjid for prayer and literally none of them looked at me. Not one of them. They didn't even dare look in my direction. It was so liberating. I'm almost certain that the staring didn't stop because I was covering my face, but rather because the niqaab is associated with Saudi women (usually they're the only ones who wear one in Saudi Arabia), fear of them, and unspoken food chain which I stated earlier. Anyways, it wasn't only that. When I went into the masjid, many different women talked to me in Arabic, and it made me feel included.
In Saudi Arabia, you'll see different "cliques". The Saudis stick together, the Desis stick together, the Indonesians together, and other Arabs together, etc. You can literally tell everyone apart because Saudi women wear all black (abaayas, hijaab, and niqaab). Non-saudis tend to wear colourful scarves, and if they're not wearing a niqaab, you can obviously tell their race by looking at their face.
Anyways, the Saudi women treated me like one of them. They would come and talk to me, and only after saying a sentence in Arabic and hearing me reply back saying either "Maafi Arabi" (no Arabic) or "Sorry, I don't really speak Arabic" would they realize I wasn't one of them. I was born in this country and lived here the majority of my life, but this was the first time I ever really felt accepted by them. Please don't misunderstand me: no Saudi woman was ever rude to me, nor am I calling them racist, it's just that like I said before: people here tend to stick in their "cliques" and don't really mix with anyone else. To feel included in the Saudi one, 13 years after living in the country, felt kind of nice.
Wearing the niqaab made me understand that, at least in Saudi Arabia, women really did wear it out of their own will, just as I did. Wearing a niqaab gave me respect, power and acceptance. No longer did I feel like this helpless girl who was a daily victim of sexual "assault" nor was I an outsider. I felt included, and I felt powerful. The moment that niqaab came off and I went back outside, I felt inferior, ashamed (because of the staring, as if it was my fault) and naked. It's easy to detect a person's emotions by just looking at their face. The way their eyebrows are arched, how their smile goes up or frown goes down, the rosiness of their cheeks... I felt like my soul was vulnerable and exposed.
The niqaab didn't only give me acceptance and respect from men, but it protected me from the women too. Women, myself included, like to stare at each other for some reason. "I like her eyebrows", "her nose is really big", "her makeup is perfect", and "her lips are too thin" are just some of the comments I've overhead women make about other women in public, like at the malls. Before I wore the niqaab, I do feel like women stared at me for whatever reason. No one was ever downright rude or mean to me, nor has a stranger ever complimented me, but you can just tell when someone is staring at you. With the niqaab, I felt protected from that. My identity was hidden deep within me, not open and being shown for the world to stare and judge. Again, this felt absolutely liberating. I'm the kind of girl who likes to wear makeup every time I leave the house, because I simply don't feel beautiful or confident without it. I have a need within me beautify myself for other women's eyes, but wearing the niqaab enlightened me and showed me that I don't need to do that.
Tomorrow, I'll be flying out of Saudi Arabia and back to England. Soon after that, back to college in the US. Will I continue wearing a niqaab there? No. I'm not saying this with any pride, but I don't wear a hijab outside Saudi Arabia. One day, when I'm ready, InshaAllah (God Willing) I want to start wearing it. But a niqaab? I've never felt the need to wear one anywhere else except this country. I've never felt like a sexual object in any other country but this one, which was the main reason I began wearing one here. That said, wearing it taught me a lot about myself and society, and gave me a new found understanding of why women in this country wear one (which is something I didn't necessarily understand before).
The point of this post was to show that women aren't forced into wearing hijaab or niqaab by their families, as people often believe. I wore the niqaab by choice here in Saudi Arabia. In less religious cities like Khobar, many women don't cover their hair, but I did/do out of my own comfort. Don't tell me women in the Middle East are forced by their families to cover up, because we're not. We do this on our own, not because we were forced by our families. Some women are forced into these things, but you can say that about any religion, race, and tradition. Women around the world are "forced" into things, so it is unfair to focus on that very minority that were forced by their families to cover, when the majority did/do so out of their own will.
Families don't force their girls into covering up. Are women forced by society, though? Yes. I can't argue with that. Society forced me into wearing a niqaab in Saudi Arabia; something I wouldn't have ever done otherwise. Niqaab is not required by religion, it was literally the society that made me feel like the only way to protect myself was to cover my face. Anyways, on one side of the world, women are pushed by society to cover up their bodies, making them feel like they're just sexual objects, and in the other, women are pushed by society to show more and more skin, again making them feel like they're just sexual objects. Neither society is really totally free, nor are either totally oppressed. Only when women are able to truly choose for themselves what they want to wear, and not have any consequences for their choice, will women around the world be free from man and society's grip on not only our dress 'codes', but also our overall lifestyles.
without water, and without other luxuries that are not necessarily relevant to my life today. That was what it was like to fast in Ramadan in England this summer (2014). Imagine going 18 hours without food or any drink, every single day for a month. There are 24 hours in a day, and for 18 of them you can't eat or drink anything. It was not easy at all, but it sure taught me a lot about myself that I would not have learned otherwise.
The main thing I learned was discipline. It is truly amazing what the human body is capable, if you just change your mindset. When you start getting into shape again, your body screams "stop! stop!" because it hurts and you're tired, but you ignore that and keep going with the end goal in mind. After your tough workout, you feel proud not because you were able to run 2 miles, or lift those 2 kg weights, but because when your body was telling you to stop, you took control and kept going. You pushed through it. Similarly, this was how it felt to fast, but I would say it was much more extreme and harder to say no than it is during a workout.
I was surrounded by food for the entirety of Ramadan, and even cooked iftari (the food you open your fast with - dinner) a few times and never broke my fast. I saw foods I don't normally crave, and I craved them more than I crave foods I do usually crave, but even when my body screamed "eat it", I consciously said "no". I don't think you can understand how hard it is to do this, unless you too try it. Let me explain. For 18 hours every. single. day. for one whole month, I went without food and water. Was that hard? Not really - our bodies are able to go days without these luxuries. Saying no to myself, to my desires... That was where things got difficult. For a moment, my body would scream at me, telling me to give in to my desires and shove that chocolate cake down my throat in one bite, but I would just say no, and then a moment later I was in control again.
Muslims are told to only have a few dates and water for iftaari, pray the maghrib (evening) prayer and then eat as much as they want. This is because it helps jumpstart one's metabolism because after not eating for hours upon hours, your body tends to go on starvation-mode. Even though we're taught to do this, most people just eat and eat and eat as soon as the adhaan (call to prayer) is heard. I was one of those Muslims too, until this Ramadan. I'd eat a few dates, have something to drink, pray, and then finally eat a normal sized portion. I found myself more in control of my hunger because of the discipline I learned through fasting. You'd think that after not eating anything for 18 hours, you'd literally eat a whole cow, but that wasn't the case at all. I've been fasting every Ramadan since I was an extremely little girl, maybe like 9 years old, but this Ramadan was the longest, most rewarding, and surprisingly the easiest.
Of course, I was fasting for religious purposes, but this made me question that if I am capable of doing this, what else can I do if I just put my mind to it? The possibilities are limitless. The human body is amazing, and only by pushing ourselves to our limits are we able to truly see what we can achieve if we just believe.
Another thing I learned from Ramadan is how hard it must be for those who fast not our of their own will, but because they literally have nothing to eat. There are people all over the world who can't afford to eat every night, or don't have access to clean water for days. And I'm not just talking about those starving kids in Africa you see on TV; there are hungry people everywhere, so there is no excuse for us not to help them. If you see a homeless person on the street, and you don't want to give them any money because you're afraid they might spend it on drugs or alcohol, then why not stop by the coffee shop down the road and buy them a sandwich? And if you are fortunate enough to live somewhere where homelessness isn't as common, then why not send your extra change (or perhaps more) to those starving children across the world? No, you won't get to see them give you a huge smile when the receive your aid, but you can rest assured that you've helped someone more than you can imagine. You'll be sure you know where your money went, and you'll be giving that person more than you can imagine. You don't know how it feels really be hungry until you've been in that situation yourself. Even I don't know how it feels, because everyday that I fasted I knew there would be a lot of great food waiting for me to devour it soon enough, but I can only imagine.
In short: Be humble. Be charitable. Believe that you can achieve anything, and you will.
Over the summer of 2010, I was watching a film called Barbie in a Mermaid Tale with my six year old Pakistani cousin. For the purpose of this post, let's call my cousin Jane. To my surprise, I actually enjoyed the film, but was shocked when I heard a racist comment escape from my little cousin's mouth.
It happened when Barbie’s two best friends, a tanned white girl and a darker African American girl appeared on the screen, Jane immediately expressed her disgust at how “dark” the African American character was, as if dark meant ugly, and how beautiful the other and Barbie were. Shocked by her response, I asked why she thought so, because to me, all the characters looked the same, but with different coloured skin and eyes.
She told me that of course the darker one is “karhaab” (bad, ruined, not beautiful) because she is not fair skinned, and that Barbie and her Caucasian friend are the most beautiful, simply because they are fair. I always knew that fairness was the main epitome of beauty in Pakistan, but to hear my six year old cousin emphasize it so vigilantly took me by surprise.
There were many dark skinned male characters as well, but she did not comment at all on their appearances. This was interesting because it showed me that, in her eyes, beauty is a role meant to be played by women. I even asked her if all the girl's features were kept the same, but she was white, what would Jane think then? After making me pause the film so she could have a better look at her, Jane declared that if she was white (or fair, as she worded it), then she would be even more beautiful than the main character, Barbie.
While the concept of race is foreign in Pakistani culture, the concepts of whiteness and darkness are very relevant. Skin tones and their implications are the main problems. Jane was referring to the colour of the girls' skins rather than their races, but she was also indirectly implying that she believes Caucasians are automatically more beautiful than those of African descent. Specifically, in Pakistani culture, dark skin is not only considered less beautiful, but it also (supposedly) represents poverty. It is assumed that if someone has dark skin, then he/she spends the day working in the sun, or cannot afford skin bleaching creams such as the famous Fair & Lovely.
Of course, this is a completely false statement, but nevertheless it is believed so firmly. Even the name of the cream implies that if someone is fair, then she is lovely, but if she is dark, then she's not beautiful.
To further emphasize my point, fairer skinned girls are often preferred in the Pakistani work force than darker ones. This is especially true for jobs such as air hostesses and actresses. It is very rare to see a dark skinned Pakistani (or Indian) actress in any drama or Bollywood film. Even if they are dark skinned, they are forced by society to wear so much white-coloured makeup to appear fairer. Furthermore, brides always seem to look too many shades lighter than they actually are on their wedding day in Desi weddings. All of this emphasizes to darker skinned women that they are somewhat beneath fairer women, simply because of their skin tone. Darker women are treated like they have a problem that needs to be fixed.
In Jane's eyes, the character was stripped of her identity and just seen as a 'dark girl'. She was placed upon a scale, based on her gender and her skin colour, and then judged harshly whilst completely ignoring every other beautiful characteristics. Inequality based on skin colour in Pakistan is simply ridiculous, but continues to faced anyway.
When one hears a six year old declaring a cartoon character ugly just because of the colour of their skin, as if that concept has been engraved into the child's mind, that person can be assured there is something wrong with the society or the way this child has been brought up. It is not natural for children to see one skin colour as more beautiful than the other. The parents and general society push these concepts onto the children, and this issue must continue to be addressed not only within Pakistani culture, but abroad too.
This is a problem, as a TCK, I've witnessed in many different cultures. From my South Asian friends, to my Arab friends, to my South American friends and even my African friends - skin tone continues to play an unnecessarily important role in what defines a woman as "beautiful".