Monday, August 16, 2010

Monochromatic Vision

As I have discussed in my previous vision—“Vision of Eyesight”, there are two types of vision accorded to us—physical, which varies with time & situation. Time, because generally those who have been blessed with great eyesight, find their vision to be faltering with advancing age. Though of course there are many who are not that fortunate—having to use specs from their childhood. This vision signifies the physical vision—eyesight. Another vision of the physical nature, is the one we have of happening(s) around us—perception(s) based on the assessment made by the heart and mind—a deeper vision—akin to ‘reading between the lines’.

Apart from these there is another one, which though has a bit of metaphysical implication(s). Vision, which hits upon the inward eye in moments of solitude, to enlighten with realization.

In this one I shall restrict myself to the physical plane, but at times I might become repetitive, as “Monochromatic Vision” is a continuation of “Vision of Eyesight”. Funniest part is the fact that the precursor was written later!

I am sure the title of the piece must be evoking some vision of colour! But before proceeding, I must acknowledge the grace of God for having endowed us with eyesight, which makes it possible to enjoy the riot of colours on the spreadsheet of nature. Nature is truly polychromatic. We look around us and find innumerable variants (shades), of even a single colour—no two colours are identical. But this riot—of colours—is harmonious!

Talking of colours in scientific terms also yields harmonious dividends—as far as accruing of knowledge with regards to its implications and its application is concerned. Implications and applications in fact keep swapping their position(s) as per the need.
Thus we know that “White Colour”, signifying peace, is a result of the ‘harmonious combination’ of the seven colours of “VIBGYOR”! Could one ask for a better harmony and utility of colours? “An apparently monochromatic quality (colour is a quality) is composed of polychromatic components—seven to be specific.” Another manifestation of unity (unit—single colour) in diversity.

While I am talking of colours, how can I not consider the pigments, as pigments are actually the colouring materials? These can be natural as well as artificial. The latter are the precursor of dyes of various types that find use in our life.
But it is the natural pigments that I shall be concentrating on, being pertinent to my purpose.

To do that a bit of Chemistry needs to be discussed and for that I apologise. Though I am sure the extent to which I would go, in my chemical discourse, that much Chemistry everybody is aware of.

Let us start from the plant kingdom. Chlorophyll, a natural green pigment found exclusively in plants, allows them to absorb sunlight and they use the thus absorbed photochemical energy to prepare their food. The plant(s) absorb the photochemical energy and use(s) it to convert the carbon dioxide that it has ‘inhaled’—the one that we have ‘exhaled’—to convert it into carbohydrate. And this entire process is referred to as PHOTOSYNTHESIS. This sustains them and this sustains life in general, around them, with the lives depending upon them to survive. This way the cycle continues—‘all because of Chlorophyll’. Just imagine what would have been the situation in its absence.

Now switching our attention to the animal kingdom, we are aware of the presence of natural pigment: MELANIN, which imparts colour to our skin, hair, and iris of the eyes and scales of the concerned inhabitants of the animal kingdom. It is even present in plants.

Just as we have been made aware of the utilities of chlorophyll, we need to know what are those, for melanin—so as to appreciate its presence and fear its absence.

In humans, those with darker skin have higher concentration of melanin and those having less of it are light or fair-skinned. Melanin is the metabolic product of an amino acid, Tyrosine, in the body.
Though this information is easily accessible from Internet, there is a purpose behind incorporating them here and enforcing inescapability, from reading it. But believe me, once you read the piece in its entirety you will appreciate my action, and your reaction would be positive.

Utilities of its presence, pitfalls of its absence and vagaries of its presence, but in excess:

Apart from its action(s) as pigment other important effects are as follows:

(i) The photochemical properties of melanin make it an excellent photo-protectant, absorbing harmful UV-radiation and transform the energy into harmless amounts of heat via “ultrafast internal conversion”.
This property enables melanin to dissipate more than 99.9% indirect damage, which is responsible for the formation of malignant melanoma. Though it does not provide complete protection from the sun and individuals with dark skin tones too are still at risk form the sun’s damaging rays. But generally, darker skin tones can tolerate exposure to sun for hours without being sun burnt, while fair skinned people feel the contrasting effect(s).
Sun exposure has also been linked with cataracts; one of the causes that leads to cataract in certain cases.

(ii) In the skin, melanin is formed by cells called Melanocytes.
Defective melanin concentration: Certain medical condition(s), viz., Albinism, are associated with lack of melanin: marked by the absence of a normal amount of the pigment in body. Humans suffer from it. Even plants and animals too can have albinism.
Albinism: It has many variants. Depending upon the type—the skin, hair and eyes—all might be affected. Ocular albinism affects not only the colour of the eyes, hair and skin, but leads to poor vision.
Furthermore, some types of melanin deficiency are associated with increased mortality rates.

(iii) In (i), it has been stated that melanin absorbs UV radiation of sun’s rays and converts it to harmless heat, whereby acts as a photo-protectant.
Now the added incentive of conversion to harmless heat is that this becomes ‘useful heat’ as well. Melanin also thus forms a part of a mechanism for absorbing heat from the sun.
This purpose is of particular importance to cold-blooded animals: snakes, lizards, certain types of fish and a wide range of other animals, which depend on their surroundings and sun’s rays to establish and maintain the body temperature.

(iv) It is also important for sharpness of vision as melanin serves to minimize the number of light beams that enter the eye. Furthermore, it provides for absorption of scattered light within the eye.
Thus, pigmentation allows for keener eyesight.

I owe to Internet huge thanks for providing me these data, in a systematically tabulated manner. Now that the indispensability of melanin has been enunciated, I hope people would really appreciate the gravity of what melanin does for us and fear the wrath caused by its absence.

Apart from the health hazards, imagine what would have happened with a low level of melanin or its complete absence. A completely ‘Monochromatic Nature’ would have surrounded us: white or pseudo white. Our eyes would have cried for mercy from this enforced vision, which naturally would have to be ‘Monotonously Monochromatic’.

So it appalls to see melanin being denounced when we have denounced black & white television to embrace colour television. ‘Coloured vision’, brings us closer to nature, with its myriad of colours—green appears green; white is viewed in its true colour—white. But green appears black, in black & white television. We love to watch colour television as it gives us the true picture of things, with the projection of their true colours. Nature is beautiful because it is comprised of diverse colours. The hue that it projects is a resultant of the complementary attitude these colours have towards each other. They show unity of purpose amidst their diversity and provide us with a ‘picture perfect’. It is a sheer gift and joy to behold—but we would have been deprived of it had there been no variety in colour(s). We have what we have, only because there is variety and these varieties—of colours—are in perfect balance with each other and thus in total harmony. Thus existence of variety is must; otherwise a balance would have been struck with whom?

If the colour of the skin, of humans, has a varying percentage of melanin, is it unnatural then? It adds variety and forms the world in which we live.
In this context, I would like to state an observation from the “Doctors”, a classic by the Late Erich Segal. In it he has described melanin as, “a case of too much of melanin”. And yes, it is as simple as that. So why this furor and fuss over the colour of skin of an individual. It cannot be used as an introduction—primary or secondary or tertiary—ever, of a person.

In this context there are certain things on which I would like to draw attention, like many others before me have done.

(i) The longest surviving example in Indian society, of a fetish for the fair skin is portrayed in the desire(s) for a ‘fair’ bride for a prospective groom, who along with his family members prefer to ignore the colour of his own skin! Though times have changed; and thankfully continue to do so, a complete eradication of this malady is next to impossible. Generally, the primary criterion in an almost endless list of requirements, for a bride, is to be fair-skinned. As if it is in her hands!

The only positive out of this ‘melano-phobia’ is the revenue generated by the various fairness creams that have flooded the market promising a ‘whiter pasture’ in the form of conversion to white(r) skin! Now even the ‘male’ fraternity seems to be hit by the this ‘bug of craving’, for a fair skin as a consequence of which fairness creams, exclusively ‘for men’ are being made available by various companies.
Well in all ‘fairness to the males’, how could they be left behind and that too behind the females, in the race for fairness! Now ‘men’ want to tread the path—an erstwhile exclusive domain of ‘ wo-men’—and become ‘we, the men’!

Amidst all this frenzy for ‘fairness’, ‘melanin’ has very few takers. It is being tried to be profiled out gradually as the first preference of skin colour, which in any case it never was.

Then why do we cry foul when outside our country time and again we are discriminated on the basis of the melanin content in our skin?
If we want to be treated equally and at par with the fair-skinned people when we are abroad, then the attitude towards our fellow citizens should change. After all “Charity begins at home” & “As we sow, so we reap”.

(ii) Affinity for anyone ‘white’ glares at us appallingly in our society. The definition of beauty is in ‘being white’. Anyone white would do! I think this incurable permanent polarization towards the fair skin stems from the fact that we have been ruled, in other words, have been slaves, of the British for too long, rendering the effect irreversible and thus irreparable. Time and again it is a horrifying and humiliating site—doing ‘kurnish’ (bending in respect) to any and all fair-skinned, even if metaphorically with actions that manifest it—fellow-countrymen and foreigners alike—even if that means compromising on our cause.
Let me be very clear—I am not against foreigners or fair-skinned people in general—but what is unpalatable is the abject submission to mono skin colour—white. We need to get out of this Monochromatic Vision.
After all we are inching slowly towards 100 years of Independence! (?). So the residual effect of slavery, which instead of being residual is the major, should dissipate completely, sooner than later. And this can happen if only we can be independent of our foolish prejudices instead of being in-dependence of them!

(iii) What has all this led to?
Yes, racism. Because racism implies discrimination on the basis of skin colour, and in my own opinion, on the % melanin content.
Anybody who is not fair is treated very poorly, which is very unfair, to say the least, in various parts of the world—even today when we have advanced so much, scientifically. Every other day, new creations come up to help us in multitude of ways—be it in the field of technology or in the very important area of medicine.
I hope that one day “something” would be invented, which would cure the people suffering from this malady—otherwise I do not see it happening. People refuse to awaken to the cause. Thus the cure needs to be enforced, synthetically!

(iv) To me thus, apathy for Melanin is RACISM as it leads to profiling or regimentation on the basis of the melanin content in the skin. All variants of this discrimination (even prevalent in India, as mentioned)— have to be Racism.

(v) Racism is hence, a sort of Communalism. The only difference from the conventional communalism (based upon religion) is the fact that the specific community—comprising of all with skin colour, which is anything but white/fair—is tortured and not pampered. And any discrimination for and against, alike, a specific community is Communalism, at least to me.
Though people acting against a group are called communal and the ones who pamper a particular sect are called secular—when applied to actions with respect to religion. Such has been the distortion of the definition. Even pampering is discrimination, albeit in favour of and racism is discrimination, against.

(vi) We are all creations of God.
I know that atheists or agnostics wouldn’t agree with me, as by stating what I believe in, I have tried to defy them, as this is the thought that they deny and hence defy!

So whatever be your belief (s), I don’t want to impose mine. Would like to simply state that by being against melanin the people concerned are actually behaving against an unseen, overpowering force—be it scientific or non-scientific, physical or metaphysical.

(vii) There is “Theory of Everything”, to use the title of the book authored by Stephen.W.Hawking. I too believe in this Theory of, Theory of Everything. It is true that the reason behind a ‘happening’ doesn’t manifest itself immediately, but it does come to the fore at its designated appropriate time—chosen by the same invisible force—only if we could keep our mind’s eyes and be receptive to our surrounding(s) as a whole we would be able to recognize it.
And it is on the basis of this belief I would like to justify the creation of black colour.

One of the beauties of black colour is that a black body absorbs and radiates maximum amount of heat. It is this very property which saw to the conventional colour being chosen as black for umbrellas—used not only during the rains but equally during the summers, for protection from the scorching sun—in olden times. Nowadays various colours are being used but none can fight the strong rays of the sun, as does the black one—by radiating it back.

Metaphorically speaking, when the people with ‘non fair’ skin colour are called black, the impact can be analogized with the inanimate umbrella—in absorption as well as radiation. When people are addressed as ‘black’ and abused subsequently, these abuses steel them and increase their resilience. Since energy is always conserved, the abuses are absorbed and translated into a commensurate determination (useful heat as mentioned earlier, in one of the utilities of Melanin)—manifest in their action(s)—Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King—to name a couple of them who typify such individuals. And exemplified—glorified as well, and not without reason(s)—most recently by the election of Barack Obama as the President of The United States of America. The more you expose these individuals to unfair treatment(s), the more determined they become to radiate these abuses in the form of power they go on to acquire—deservedly—and exude.
So beware how you refer to the skin colour, black. If it is as a matter of fact then it perfectly all right. But if ‘black’ is pronounced with disdain, laced with sarcasm—then you know what to expect.

I know I have stated the obvious in my preceding, innumerable lines. But it has been for a cause. To sate my own self, couldn’t be oblivious of the obvious!

When we know—the utilities of Melanin, what happens in its absence and we also know the simple fact that it is the content of Melanin in the skin that decides the skin colour, not the person concerned, why this fuss over the darker hue of skin colour.

It is simply a colour, which cannot decide the identity of a person. Thus is it not advisable and logical and most importantly, desirable, that we shed this Monochromatic Vision?

If not, then ‘racists’ of all ‘race’ and ‘variety’ should be rendered ‘albinos’—if only to make them realise the simple fact and appreciate Melanin, irrespective of its content. This would render their vision at last Polychromatic.