On the T.V. again, it is the same story. Advertisements of “fair and lovely”, “fair and handsome” and loads of other fairness creams which magically promise you a fairer skin in no time, are constantly being aired. Fair and handsome for God’s sake! And here we wasted our teens, drooling and fantasizing about the tall, DARK and handsome heroes of our Mills and Boons novels!
Recently, I came across an article written by an African American on this Indian bias for fair skin. According to him India is the most racist country in the world. In a survey conducted in 2013, India and Jordan were the only two countries who scored over 40% in racial intolerance. It is actually true that Indians are the most colour obsessed people in the world. An Indian will discriminate against another Indian on the basis of the colour of his skin.
The recent case of critically acclaimed actor Tannishtha Chatterjee’s ordeal at a popular comedy show, proves my point. She had been invited to the show to promote her film and since it was a comedy show, she was ready to be roasted in a good humoured way. But she was shocked at the regressive and blatantly racist attack on her because of the colour of her skin. She says that the jokes about her skin colour were not funny at all. According to her, even considering dark skin as a joke comes from a deep rooted prejudice in our society.
If you look at any matrimonial advertisement for brides, everyone wants a fair and beautiful girl. Well, if you are dusky or dark complexioned, your value in the marriage market surely goes down. Parents of girls who are dark skinned are in a perpetual state of worry as they know that getting them good grooms is going to be an uphill task. A dusky girl may have better facial features and personality than a fair girl, but the fair girl wins hands down in every situation. For us the concept of beauty stops at fair skin.
Once my maid servant came to me and asked me to suggest some cream which could make her daughter fair. Well, I can understand where she is coming from, as she is not literate. But what surprises me is when educated people believe in such creams. At least they should know that our skin colour is caused by a pigment called melanin which is determined genetically and no amount of fairness creams can change our skin colour. What these creams can do, at best, is to remove some of the temporary tan that we have acquired because of being in the sun for long.
The desire for lighter skin is intertwined with issues of self-image, racial inequities and colonial attitudes. This is what is running the the million rupee industry of fairness creams in India. Fairness creams are reportedly the most popular in the skin care market. Most creams sold in the market are a dangerous cocktail of compounds like steroids, hydro quinones and tretinoin, the long term use of which can lead to permanent pigmentation, skin cancer, liver damage and mercury poisoning.
Recently, actress Kangana Ranaut turned down a lucrative advertisement for a fairness cream as she said that if she did this campaign, she would be insulting her sister who has a dusky complexion. Well, kudos to her!
Actress Nandita Das, who is an outspoken activist for the “Dark is beautiful” campaign, says that a campaign on its own won’t transform Indian society, but at least it can start a debate on the issue. Ms. Das has refused many a roles where she was asked to change her skin colour. Well, more power to her!
There is so much more to a person than his/her skin colour. When will we learn to be comfortable in our own skin? When will we focus more on a person’s inherent qualities? When will we stop judging a person’s beauty by his/her dark or light complexion?
And yes, our colour is decided by our genes, so people get real and quit wasting your energies on this futile quest for a fairer skin!