1. Brandon P.

    Brandon P. Active Member

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    Skin tone variation in Indians (as in South Asians)

    Discussion in 'Research' started by Brandon P., Jul 2, 2022.

    Recently, I came up with a concept for a historical fantasy/sci-fi story about a 19th century Native American warrior from the Great Plains who, after fleeing aggression from the US Army, fell through an anomalous "rift" in the spacetime continuum, ending up somewhere in the Indian subcontinent. Thereafter, he would team up with a local Indian princess who was searching for an ancient MacGuffin in order to rebel the invading British. Basically, my premise asks, "What if one of the so-called 'American Indians' found his way to the real India?"

    In my imagination, the Indian princess is on the darker end of the South Asian skin color spectrum, which is to say she's as dark as anyone in Africa. I don't like the trend to represent Indian people as all paler brown in media depictions. However, I have read the claim that Indians in the upper echelons of the Hindu caste system, such as royalty and priests, tend to have lighter skin and more European- or Middle Eastern-like genetic ancestry than lower-caste people. Would it therefore be impossible or improbable for a Indian princess to be dark-skinned? I would think there would be plenty of dark-skinned people regardless of caste in the southern part of India, but I wouldn't know that for sure.
     
  2. evild4ve

    evild4ve Senior Member

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    It should be pretty easy to research who was living in different parts of India at the time and what they look like. I'd expect it's all on wikipedia.
    But since writing is all words and no pictures, one needn't be particularly accurate. My thesaurus only has about a dozen words for brown, and each reader will associate all of them with a different actual colour than I do. Added to that, it would be easy to make up an explanation for why a princess from place A is living in place B at the time of the story.

    - why write problems for ourselves? It's for the OP to decide if a character's skin colour even needs mentioning. Some of the language in the post raises my hackles, but it might be coming out of an internal process of negotiating an awareness of difference. From a reader's perspective, I don't think I could write two paragraphs about what shade I thought any character in a book I'd read was, put it that way.

    - why a space-time anomaly? Why doesn't he get on a steamer?
    - why an ancient MacGuffin? Most people did pretty well with rifles

    - by the 19th century, the concept of India repelling Britain's invasion (rather than rebelling against its rule) might limit the story to a few specific conflicts, years, and regions. The Maratha Empire up to 1818 might be a good setting because it was big and diverse. After them, my perception is that BEIC had rebellions inside India and invasions outside. But this would need in-depth research because so many readers know the history so well

    These might be useful:-
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Category:Wars_involving_the_British_East_India_Company.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Anglo-Indian_Wars

    - the "American-Indian meets Indian" premise seems like it might be problematic if it's amusing only from a white or an English-speaking perspective. A question for the OP to ask himself/herself might be 'why isn't the premise more specific, such as "an Arapaho travels to Andhra Pradesh" ? ' To me it seems strange to set up a meeting-of-cultures story without knowing which cultures from the outset. Also strange to be considering skin colour prior to and in isolation from culture.
     
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  3. Brandon P.

    Brandon P. Active Member

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    FWIW, I was thinking the Native character would be Arapaho (since I was in Colorado a few days ago) and the part of India he would land in would be somewhere in the southern part of the peninsula (e.g. Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, or Kerala).
     
  4. Naomasa298

    Naomasa298 HP: 10/190 Status: Confused Contributor

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    She could be Tamil, but by the time the British were there, the Tamil kingdoms in the Indian sub-continent had long gone. There were, however, Tamils in Sri Lanka, so she could be from there.
     
  5. Brandon P.

    Brandon P. Active Member

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    Maybe she could be rebelling against the British who had already taken over rather than defending her kingdom from an invasion, then?
     
  6. big soft moose

    big soft moose An Admoostrator Staff Supporter Contributor Community Volunteer

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    The main thing that stands out here is why is her skin colour important … just say she’s Indian and leave it to the viewers imagination

    that aside very few Indians are as dark as black Africans and the caste system does tend to suggest that a princess would have paler skin
     
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  7. Naomasa298

    Naomasa298 HP: 10/190 Status: Confused Contributor

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    She could.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rani_of_Jhansi

    As far as skin tone goes, (some) Sri Lankans are about as dark as south Asians get. Here is a picture of Sri Lankan cricketer Muttiah Muralitharan and West Indies cricketer Brian Lara:
    [​IMG]

    There's one hell of a lot of talent in that picture!

    Having said that, culturally, paler skin is preferred in most Asian cultures. Hence, even in Sri Lanka, higher socio-economic classes will tend to have lighter skin.
     
  8. Naomasa298

    Naomasa298 HP: 10/190 Status: Confused Contributor

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    Also, this.
     
  9. Naomasa298

    Naomasa298 HP: 10/190 Status: Confused Contributor

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    By the way - a 19th century Native American wouldn't have to fall through a space-time rift to get to British India. He could just get on a ship.
     
  10. Iain Aschendale

    Iain Aschendale Ex-Patriot Supporter Contributor

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    Very true. Genetics aside, people of lower socioeconomic status are more likely to work outdoors in the sun and have more of a tan. In hierarchical societies the lack of a tan was a symbol that one was from the upper classes, as were long nails since laborers tend to trim or break their nails. Some elderly Japanese men still sport a "coke nail" on their pinkies because it used to be a status symbol.

    As for skin tone, I worked with an American whose parents were both born in the Philippines, a British Indian dude, and a Black American woman whose skin was pretty much in the middle of what one expects of that demographic. They would run skin tone contests from time to time, and while I never thought of the Indian guy as "dark" he would almost always win.
     
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  11. Brandon P.

    Brandon P. Active Member

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    It's supposed to be a more fanciful fantasy or sci-fi story with mystical elements woven into the world.
     
  12. Xoic

    Xoic Prognosticator of Arcana Ridiculosum Contributor

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    How about a modern-day native American? That way there's more need for a space-time anomaly. Otherwise it's really just a space anomaly. :D
     
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