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It was a Sunday night when I had tuned into one of my favourite talk shows on TV. The whole forum was getting ready for an ‘ all-woman’ talk show that day. It was a ‘ Beauty vs. Brains’ battle.
The show started with a simple question put in front of the women present there: “What physical feature of yours do you like and what do you think could have been better in your looks?” 8 out of 10 women replied, “A fairer skin”.
Though a reply like this is not abnormal in India (with half the marriage alliance ads starting with a ‘ Wanted: Fair looking girl’ tag), it made me think a lot about how this complex begins among female children.
I started looking back at my own life. When I started with my swimming classes at the age of 8, the chlorinated water had taken a toll on my skin colour. I had tanned a lot. With around 3-4 years of swimming, I had gone many shades ‘down’ and my mom used to tell me, “You look like a fisherman’s daughter”.
As a kid I never realized the intensity of it, but I would not say I was mature enough to look beyond the ‘fairness-craze‘ either. I was in the third or fourth standard when a new girl joined my school – she was really fair and cute and soon became the favourite student of every teacher. Everyone in the class wanted to be friends with her, including me. The fair skin did attract me. I remember my mom using the “Fruits give you glowing, fair skin” dialogue almost everyday.
I was one of the best performers in my school. One fine day, I was called by my teacher (I was the class monitor) to go and call good-looking, fair girls to give away the mementos to the Chief Guests of the Sports Day. That time I just did my duty without any thoughts, but now when I think of it, it appears highly stupid and shameful. It was just a school sports day and any child could have given away that memento!
If you would like to know whether the situation has changed at least now, I am sorry- it is a big NO! I just heard my aunt over the phone that my cousin in kindergarten had been denied from participating in the Annual day dance performance considering her dark complexion (might sound exaggerated but its true!)
Now, moving on from my school days to college; Being in the NCC was my childhood dream and I got to fulfil it during my college days. I was in the NCC Navy for two years. After the weekly parade of around 4-5 hours in Chennai’s scorching heat, when I returned home at 12 p.m., my mom’s standard dialogue was, ” I don’t understand why on earth you want to do this – losing all your weight and colour“. Post-camp scoldings would go on for days. The same was the case with my cousin who was in the Army wing. When we asked her brother studying in class two how she was, the reply came from the kid, “katta kare nu irukka” (black like hell)!
A month after my Annual Training Camp was my sister’s marriage. I do not remember all my mom did to make me look fairer. All that I remember is entering a beauty parlour for the first time and then a pair of hands doing ‘God Knows What’ stuff to me. However, my mom was happy that the beautician had done a good job for the money spent.
My next venture was for a market research project with a month of continuous roaming in the sun for data collection. Now, I couldn’t help controlling my laughter when I stood in front of mom and this time mom was at her best. Out came her reply, “For every shade of colour you lose, I have to give an extra gram of gold!” (Mom’s imagination was really great). All I could do was laugh at her innocence and at the only worry she had about me right from childhood.
So… where does it all start? At home? School? College? To be precise, right from the time you are born. There are three standard things people ask/look for when a baby is born. 1. Gender 2. Whom does the baby resemble 3. How fair is the baby. I have seen the ‘old ladies’ of the family taking a look at the ear of the baby, saying that is the shade which will be the true lasting colour of the child. So much discussion on the skin just a few hours after birth?
Not to forget, you always have your grandmom to tell you every time you meet her how fair you were (like a rose, lemon, flour blah blah) and how you have you lost it over the years.
How can I forget the matrimonial market when it comes to fair skin? This is the place where it is all destined to end. ‘Wanted: Good, fair, looking girl’. I am a Dravidian, how on earth do you expect me to be fair looking when the trace of it died far before in my genetic anthropology? Well, I had a perception that only dark-skinned people have an attraction to the fair skin until I was proved wrong when a Kashmiri friend of mine (probably ten shades fairer than you and me) told me about the shade demands on their side. All that I could imagine for a fairer skin tone than her’s was a bucket of white paint!!
Are we really gaining anything out of this craze? As far as I can see, the only people benefiting from this could be the plethora of so-called fairness cream brands. Whenever I click on a video on Youtube these days, it starts with a fairness/fairness cum pimple/fairness+something advertisement (most of the times without the desperately needed ‘Skip ad’ tab). Aren’t these products capitalising on the weakness Indians have for a fairer skin tone? Aren’t they making you feel insecure?
Probably the only good thing that fairness products have done is to bring Gender Equality – Yes, you have fairness products for men also these days! According to their ads, even Virat Kohli and SRK seem to have developed a huge fan base just with fairness products.
Why are we crazy about this still? When would a change come? My dark-skinned friend at college had the best features possible. The comment she used to receive was, “Despite being black, she has amazing features”. Why does that “despite black” come up in the first place?? It was ‘Black Beauty’ that brought fame to Anna Sewell and not the ‘White beauty’ that is sold in the market these days. Be proud of your skin tone – dark or fair, it is your identity.
The time has come to change your views – to look beyond ‘skin-deep’ stuff. Wish for a healthy lifestyle, physique and skin. Love yourself… To all those running behind the so-called fairness market, STAY UNFAIR, STAY BEAUTIFUL.
Pic credit: The Dark Is Beautiful campaign
An HR professional with a MNC. Highly passionate about music and loves singing. Interested in
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