Chapter 2- Ulterior Motives

Swapnil Hiremath takes a look at the second chapter.

‘Ulterior Motives’ OR ‘The First Three Encounters’

The story moves rapidly in the second chapter - and is anchored by the three times the two protagonists meet over a period spanning about 2 years in three strikingly different settings and roles, and against the backdrop of dramatic personal events. Without giving away too much, it is indeed hard for Vanessa to hide the immediate attraction towards Robert at their first meeting. She suppresses this with a paradoxically forced feeling of colour based resentment based on the experience of her own family. Indeed, Malcolm Gladwell describes a similar sentiment from his own family history here:

“Aunt Joan married what in Jamaica is called an Injun–a man with a dark complexion that is redeemed from pure Africanness by straight, fine black hair. She had two daughters by him–handsome girls with dark complexions. But he died young, and one day, while she was travelling on a train to visit her daughter, she met and took an interest in a light-skinned man in the same railway car. What happened next is something that Aunt Joan told only my mother, years later, with the greatest of shame. When she got off the train, she walked right by her daughter, disowning her own flesh and blood, because she did not want a man so light-skinned and desirable to know that she had borne a daughter so dark.”

Closer to home, skin whitening also is a huge industry in India (estimated at a mind boggling $432 million in 2010) and actual research has been undertaken to understand and explain this phenomenon. In Vanessa’s case, it takes friendly intervention to overcome her inhibitions and for her to get to know the real Robert.

Another nugget of information mentioned seemingly as a throwaway line, is that of Robert bemoaning the disparity of transplantation rates by race: that in his dialysis unit Whites were getting transplanted way faster than Blacks, who seemed to be languishing behind on dialysis. Indeed,  as described in the scouting report for this years #NephMadness Disparities region, “among patients considered to be appropriate candidates for transplantation, African Americans are less likely than whites to be referred for evaluation (90 % vs. 98%), less likely to be placed on a waiting list (71% vs. 87%) and therefore less likely to undergo transplantation (17% vs. 52%).” Things have changed since - legislation passed in 2014 is now taking effect, and the latest UNOS report shows a remarkable progress in reducing disparities. But back to our story: we are still in 2003, far away from these glad tidings. Robert is still on dialysis, and the only silver lining, is that he may have finally found someone who really cares for him.