I read the article ‘Obesity and the stigma’ by Srikanth Sharan (The Hindu, Open page Sunday, October 11, 2009) with interest and some reservation. I agree with him that we all seem to have become a slave to the fashion industry as far as being figure conscious or being obsessed with our physical attribute is concerned. This is definitely to the detriment of developing a well-rounded personality.

My reservations to his article is that ‘obesity’ is a health hazard and the person who is on the more prosperous side need to exert the utmost caution lest it turns out to be a major problem. I further agree with the author that one of the causes of obesity is the genetic makeup and thyroid malfunction, but I also feel that in most cases it’s apathy to do something about the same. My friend who was fast crossing the line of being overweight to obese decided to do something about it and lost 18 kg by seeking professional help.

Most health alerts are on the topic of obesity and its repercussions. Sadly, many of India’s youth seem to be facing a ‘weighty problem’ due to their faulty lifestyle; this, in turn leads to an increase in the percentage of people suffering from diabetes.

Appalling

I feel that in the matrimonial market, the obsession with ‘fair skin’ is more a crime than seeking a slim person as a life partner. As far as I am aware of, dark skin is not a potential health hazard, and even more important, nothing can be done about the skin tone that one is blessed with. I find it appalling that in this age of ready information, even educated people fall prey to the quest for fair skin. Just last month I was in a hospital taking care of my MIL, where I had the misfortune of coming across three people : a grandmother, an aunt, and her nephew who were waiting to see the skin tone of a ‘new born baby girl’ before they told the ‘good news’, namely, the birth of ‘Lakshmi’ to their relatives! The older woman passed on the information that her grandson (the baby’s uncle) was very keen that the baby should be fair. I felt so sorry for the child who was born just a few minutes earlier. What a world to come into! The irony of the whole situation was the fact that all of them including the father of the baby (whom I saw later) were of a darker shade. Who did they expect the child to take after? ... Goddess Lakshmi?... If so, do we know the skin tone of her? I also felt a sense of injustice that the uncle of the baby who was humongous should have any sort of expectations. I wondered how he would feel if his brand new niece turned on him and stated her expectation of a ‘slim and sprightly’ uncle!

The above incident brings to light the fact that the bias against the dark skin is not the sole prerogative of the old. The young man should have known better, and he should be in a position to educate his family if they have such unrealistic expectation; instead, he was also perpetuating this stereotypical expectation of a ‘fair baby girl!’ This obsession continues beyond the marriage market. It is there at every place. Dark skinned girls are looked at with askance even when they are interviewed for household help.

In a recent talk show in one of the leading news channels, an entrepreneur said it openly that with all things being equal, he would prefer to employ a light skinned girl to a dark skinned one.

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