February 23, 2011

Ain't no matter if you're black 'o' white

I grew up in the Fair & Lovely era, like many of you. I was part of the generation that was obsessed with being fair, least of all in spirit.

You know what I’m talking about. We’ve all been through it. Wanting to look fair and lovely. There was a time when I’ve experimented with every damn face cream in the market, or anything that would make my skin lighter. I was obsessed, to say the least. Because in my eyes, being fair was equivalent to being beautiful. And can you blame me? My sister was fair, my mom was fair, her entire family was fair. I took up on my dad’s genes, in every sense. I inherited his looks (lucky him, right? I know), his skin-colour, his adamancy. Sadly (or not, now that I look back) I didn’t inherit his genius for science. I tried my hand at it, but we all know how that went.

I can’t exactly put my finger on what triggered off this obsession with being light-skinned, or when it started. All I remember is tubes of fairness creams, tins of talcum powder and hours spent in front of the mirror. It’s not like my parents ever treated me lesser because I was darker than my sister was. Neither did I get picked on at school by my fairer friends or get excluded at games. No teacher left me out of cultural activities just because I probably needed an extra layer of make-up on me. Yes, mild jibes would come once in a while, but nothing that was life-scarring or anything.

I guess it was the typical Indian psyche that I acted on. There were so many ads on TV that showed the dark-skinned girl left behind in the race of life and love, and the fair-skinned beauty rising up to the occasion and claiming her spot at the top of the world, that I also wanted to be that confident fair girl. The girl who will always be confident about her looks, the girl who will have a line of boys behind her, the one who realizes all her dreams, the one who gets recognized. And then three were the popular girls in school who were fair and popular and had the maximum number of guys vying for their attention. I didn’t want to be left behind. I used to do everything possible in my ability (and my dad’s pocket) to be that girl. If anyone suggested a face pack that would be good for my skin, I’ll use it. If there’s a new cream that’s being shown on ads, I’ll have it soon as it is out in the market. I would read obsessively about beauty tips and how to make your skin look better. I would not eat vegetable or fruits, but would rather put them on my face. If my mom had trouble making me eat any, she would say, “It’s good for your skin”, and it would go in instantly. (She still tries that old trick with me. What can I say. Your daughter's grown up, Mommy!)

Then as I grew older, I realized that the colour of your skin is of least importance. (And no, I will not go into clich├ęs and say that it is the colour of your heart, not the colour of your skin that matters. Because, well, I’m no authority on that.) To all those people who said “ She’s so pretty, even though she’s dark” with the tone of surprise, I used to bear my fangs and defend my colour sisters. I would say, and still continue to say, “What do you mean, even though she’s dark?? Can’t dark women be beautiful??!’ And then I would go on to take the examples of Nandita Das, Cleopatra, and now, of yours truly :) . I had even considered filing a case against all these fairness cream companies for portraying the whole thing in such a bad light, for making the country a difficult place to live in for the dark ones. For being the main reason why people give matrimonial ads that go “Wanted Bride: Fair and good looking, education doesn’t matter”, “Wanted Bride for Tall, white, handsome boy. Studied till 10th standard. Did we mention white and handsome?”, for being the cause of so many dowry deaths in the country, where the father had to pay a few lakhs extra because his daughter was a tad darker than her husband, and when the money still failed to make her any fairer, they killed her, or worse, for the girl not getting a groom at all.

I’ve learnt to accept my colour, and better still, learnt to love it. The day someone called me dusky, my own skin started to seem exotic to me. I realized I need not worry about having marks on my face, because how much can really be visible on a brown skin. I do not obsess about tanning, nobody’s anyway going to come up to me and say ‘Oh my god, you’ve become so dark!”, because quite frankly, how fair was I in the first place?! I don’t care a damn that my matrimonial ad might not have the words “fair and beautiful” on it, nor do my parents worry about finding a guy for me for the lack of those qualifiers. I used to think that only certain colours would suit me, sticking to mainly greys and blacks and dark colours. But now I go first for the purples and greens and oranges. I do not worry about not getting male attention, because if a guy has to judge me based on my colour, he’s not worth it anyway. Fair may or may not be beautiful, but dark needn’t always be ugly.

And hey, no offense to any of my fair-skinned friends and family. I still think you all are good-looking :). You’re fair, in colour and in spirit.

If Rajnikanth can be a superstar, so can I, eh? ;)

Does anyone remember the song 'Karappu thaan yenakku pudiccha colouru..' ?


  1. Its all a bloody construct. It just shows the shallowness of humans.

  2. Jackon in his song Black or white wrote
    "See, It's Not About Races
    Just Places
    Where Your Blood
    Comes From
    Is Where Your Space Is
    I've Seen The Bright
    Get Duller
    I'm Not Going To Spend
    My Life Being A Color"

  3. @Arun: I ain't no Jackson, but I can't help but agree with that. :)
    And no matter how modern India claims to be, colour will always be an issue. In a land of brown-skins, they will continue to look for the light-browns.

  4. For years i used to taunt a friend, "even after using Fair and lovely for years, u have neither become fair nor lovely!".
    But for you pretty damsel i would say, "even years of usage of Fair and Lovely, wouldn't make you any more fairer or lovelier than you already are!".

  5. Very well expressed :-) of course we have all gone through that phase, and I had to deal with freckles too. Took me so long to understand I was still normal :-p

  6. yeaaahhh i have faced it tooo.....especially when i was in north india ...they used to call me Kalu madrasi (PS: For north indians all south indians are madrasis) .... in school i was a nerd so the thot of being fair and apply fairness creams to attract girls was not there, in academy never got any time to think about it, and now wen there is both time and interest in doing so there are no girls !!! but yeaa.....being dark is sooo good...... for men they say TDH ,,,, but darker women i feel are sexier than their lighter counterparts.....

  7. @Mushy: I stopped trying to be fair and lovely long back. :) Not coz i didn't think i would make. I decided I was more comfortable with dusky and lovely. :)

    @Shru: Do you mean normal in the head? I'm sorry, i don't agree to that. :p

    @Sidharth: :) I agree with you. Even I would go for the TDH types. That's also because I used to read a lot of Nancy Drew's and Sweet Valley High's earlier, and in those books, the TDH types were THE ultimate ones. So it kinda stuck. :)

  8. About 3 years back, I was in Faridabad during the winters. I was staying with my aunt, one fine Sunday morning I was sitting on their balcony when I saw a Punjabi lady applying butter on to her daughter's body who is hardly 10 months old and laying the baby on to the sun. I was quite stunned by this action and inquired to my aunt whats happening? She explained that Punjabi's want their kids not far, not white, but red and this is an exercise they do for that!!!

  9. How much hard to believe...yes!
    And people who are not gifted with that colour of the skin, they try to make up with the colour of the dress. Some just right, some just overdoes it...like the silver fairy we saw in Mysore ;-)

  10. So there are more people like me.I did not use fairness creams,but I did a lot of Ayurveda.:D.
    Have you noticed the two fotos in fairness (s)cream ads?
    Before:Dark Girl not smiling
    After:Bright Girl smiling
    These days I wonder,if the smile had all the difference?

  11. Does this blog site have a like button like FB? Couldn't find one.Anyway...loved the article..so very true..all of it..!! Was thinking the same listening to a radio ad for fair and handsome cream...stressing on fairness for men..why use ladies fairness cream..it seems..:) As if the creams ever make a difference. Nowadays for some people beauty is cream deep.

  12. @Anil: Nope, it doesn't have a like button, but it does have a share button though. :)
    And it's none other than the King Khan who's a model in one of those fairness cream ads for men! Ridiculous!!And in a country that's as cinema-obsessed as ours is, fair skin is equated with beauty...


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