I come from a region, no, country, where Rajnikant a.k.a Sivaji needed to go in for a facial to become ‘white’, to woo his lady love, and the naïve Suhasini a.k.a Arkani unknowingly smeared shaving cream all over her face in a bid to impress her fair husband. And this was only in the movies- in the real world, things are magnified hundred fold. As much as we’d all like to convince ourselves that our thinking has broadened, we all know deep inside, it is all bollocks- the Great Indian Fair-Skin Obsession hasn’t waned. Not even a bit.

Fashion pundits will proclaim, “Dark and dusky are the ‘in’ colours right now.” They will also helpfully point out to you how the Indian models who have made it big on the international arena (like Lakshmi Menon, Tinu Verghese and Ujjwala Raut), are dark, “not even dusky!”

But let us take the example of the Menon and Verghese girls. They probably made it big because of the exotic element, or whatever. But show their pictures to an average mallu, and you will see them cringing, “She’s a mallu ah? No way! She’s sooo black.”

While it is a totally different matter that we South Indians don’t have a taste for the ‘starved’ types, the point is- the average Indian associates ‘fair’ with beauty; even in this day and age, when every Tom, Dick and Harry walks around with multiple degrees.

Education in the country has done nothing to season minds. We are fed with stories of fair princesses in gossamer gowns right from the word ‘go’. And to this day, when we look at a dark beauty, all we can condescendingly say is, “For that colour, she is quite nice looking.”

Sure, we may occasionally wear those bronzing lotions; but we will still, at the end of the day, daub on those fancy night whitening creams.

With every passing day, the number of these ‘colour enhancing’ products is increasing and after Fair and Handsome for the men, one wonders, what next?

Bleaching products for our pets, to keep them fair and glowing, or will we be so kind as to spare them?

Take a look at the marriage scenario.

If the girl is ‘blessed’ with fair skin, her ad will proclaim, “Fair, beautiful girl looking for suitable boy,” while for a dark girl, the ad will read, “Intelligent, well-educated, helpful, kind, homely……,” blah blah blah. Note the omission of colour.

Are we ashamed to proclaim our true colours?

You may cry hoarse that you come from a forward-thinking family, but come on, can you actually see your parents saying on a matrimonial, “Wanted dark and dashing man,” or “Wanted dark and beautiful girl,” ?

I think not.

Even in movies, the division is clear. The dark ones invariably get edged off into ‘parallel’ cinema. We are definitely not mature enough to accept a dark heroine like Nandita Das doing an out and out glamorous role; running around trees et al.

Even as I write this piece, I am reminded of the numerous occasions where, as a kid, I was treated differently because I was so ‘horribly’ tanned. See, I was just a young girl living up every minute of her wonder years on the tennis court, not worrying about all the annoying sunscreen lotions that were in the market then. But then, to the world outside, I was the girl who looked like roast while her peers looked like fresh orchids. Outsiders and third persons politely suggested I use sunscreen, but my more blatant relatives lamented openly about how I looked awful. But that is the beauty of childhood; I didn’t give two hoots about what they were saying. I continued playing my game, minus all the suggested anti-tanning and de-tanning measures.

Those were truly the best years of my life.

Now that I play the game no more, the tan has vanished and everyone says, “You look so nice now. I can’t believe it is the same you.” And I try in vain to look indignant. But in all honesty, I am a hypocrite. I now try to stay away from the ‘harsh and damaging’ rays of the sun, and when I have no choice, I take all the necessary precaution; sunscreens, caps, umbrellas…the works.

I wish I didn’t give two hoots about my colour now, but sadly, I do. I, by the way, represent the India of today.

Image Credit: Bionic Hedgehog

5 Readers Commented

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  1. Sid on January 4, 2009

    Sumati, I agree with you.

    Having said that, skin care in my view is hygeine rather than beauty management.

  2. Krish on January 4, 2009

    Sumathi… There is nothing wrong in taking good care of our skin… No matter what our complexion is…

    When I feel fresh and good in my skin… I feel good about myself…

    Well now talking about complexion in particular… Hmmm… I wish there would be a change in people’s attitude in terms of their inclinations…

  3. Tinu Verghis on January 12, 2009

    In your childish nonchalance you were color blind but with age and maturity you became color conscious? You worry about what people think of you? That is depressing if, I assume, you are an independent woman with a mind and a purse of your own.
    I think taking care of your skin is fab but doing it for color maintenance…!!?…Girl please…!!!

  4. Sumathi on January 26, 2009

    The piece is a generalisation. A very accurate generalisation, I may add. Every friend (boy and girl )I have, still craves for fair skin. So I stand my ground on that point.

    On a personal note, I might have exaggerated in pointing out that I take all those precautions now. I have sensitive skin which warrants such care. I am not a 100% sure if I really do care about skin colour.Perhaps I need to ponder on it a bit more.

  5. Ethyl Bartholomeu on March 24, 2010

    At times it will require someone that will put the info before you before you recognize that everyone must consider alot more care.