Black or White?

Indians have always been obsessed with fair skin. We’ve had models and actresses inducted into the film industry purely on the basis of skin color without any regard to talent. Our fairness creams sell faster then condoms, which tells you how screwed up our priorities are.

Fair skin is mostly associated with north-Indian women. As you move southwards, you see darker skin tones. South-Indian women for example, have a chocolaty complexion, which is no less appealing than fair skin but Indian people don’t seem to get that. In people’s minds, fair skin is associated with beauty, vanity, confidence and good luck. People who have an orthodox background, believe that a girl born with fair skin is a princess. Even fairy tales glorify snow-white skin. Fair skin is considered  an indication of good karma, just like disability and deformity is taken to mean bad karma.

As exalting as adolescence is for fair-skinned women, it is equally humiliating for dark-skinned women. From the time they’re born, they’re told they need to work hard on their education because it won’t be easy to marry them off. No guy will marry a girl with skin the color of cocoa beans and the girl must improve her mind and her manners if she is to win over a suitor. She must be sporty, thick-skinned and hard-working, for society will always discriminate against her.  Conversely, fair-skinned women are kept out of the sun and generally told to lay off the studying. They’re advised to concentrate on their social skills and poise because they don’t need anything else to get married. There’s going to be a long line of boys by the time they’re 18, so just be a darling and wait for an NRI to spot you.

For someone who has fair skin, I’ve never been particularly proud of it. When I hit puberty, I went through a painfully awkward stage where it looked like somebody had forgotten to turn off the headlights in my face. My legs were too long, I was fast leaving my preteen body and my voice sounded like my mother’s. Every where I went, I’d be the center of attention, which is horrible when you’re 13, gauche and anti-social. Even today, people compliment me about my fair skin as if it’s a personal achievement of mine that deserves recognition.

I didn’t pick my color. I didn’t choose my face. I don’t want people to stare at my legs when I go for a run in shorts. I don’t want you to ogle at my pale chest. I’m not confident. I’m not vain. I don’t apply a layer of honey and lemon to my face. I wear kajal, forget to take it off and wake up looking like a raccoon. My color is the way it is because my father’s family is pure Pahadi and I’ve inherited my color along with short height, fast legs and general complaisance. I don’t like being stalked by guys and I don’t enjoy the dirty phone calls. I don’t appreciate the sleazy comments about how so many men would like to make fair babies with me.

I haven’t had it any easier than a dark girl.

If dark women are ignored, then fair women are persecuted. In this country, you won’t find too much racism going on, but you’ll find plenty of meaningless comparison.

The problem with our Indian mentality is that we just love to compare. The Hindi word for this is Tulna. 

We compare our daughters with their aunts and their cousins and their sisters and their best friends and then we wonder why they don’t get along. We’ve created a divide between women on the basis of something as shallow as the color of their skin. We like to while away idle hours, comparing our women on color, intelligence, wit and fuckability. In essence, Indian society has become a huge market where we’ve put up our women as lucrative investments.

Fair skin + attractive girl = Rich groom, big house and respectable family

Dark skin + ugly girl = any guy ready to marry, big dowry, low family income.

We’ve made our girls into factors in the grand marriage-equation and the bottom line is :

Skin color.

My firm belief, and this is not something I’m saying off-the-cuff, is that if it hadn’t been color it would’ve been something else. This is just another anti-feminist, divisive, calculated strategy to belittle women and devalue them. We think their worth can be assessed on the basis of how fair or dark they are and we think they should be as obsessed with their looks as we are.

We’re not. I’m not. I’m not any less or more marriagable, any less or more fuckable and any less or more valuable because I’m fair and another girl isn’t. I’m much more than that and so is every other girl.

The day we start encouraging our girls to be comfortable in their skin, this tulna will stop, this obsession with color will stop.

Until then, we’ll be seeing a lot more of Fair and Lovely and much less of Manforce which is a pity, because I’m pretty sure if I wanted to be with a guy, he’d be far more interested in the latter than the former.

 

 

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Published by: Abby

Abha is a final-year law student; She's a trainee family law advocate, a virtual speaker on sexual violence and a volunteer at the local legal aid cell. She enjoys listening to indie rock, reading romantic thrillers and eating Chinese food. She also loves her dog, but suspects her dog isn't too thrilled about that.

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