Thanks to the millions of rupee invested in the fairness cream industry, Indian girls have managed to glue themselves to the “fair” myth.

Require bride within 20-22 yrs., 5’-2”, fair, pretty, good-looking, homely, minimum H.S./graduate.

Require bride both EB/WB, caste no bar, fair, beautiful, minimum Madhyamik, homely/working bride

Rs. 30,000 P.M. Fair, handsome, Require bride, WB, homely, fair

Professionally qualified slim, beautiful, fair, match.

These are some random classifieds that I found on the Internet. Somehow, we (Indians) tend to associate the term “fair” with superlative degrees of beauty. Like “Fair & Lovely”, “Fair & Pretty” and “Fair & Beautiful.” Sometimes, it gets as absurd as even “Fair & Slim.” I would love to be fair in that case, if I can easily pass for a slim chic! The worst of all the “Fair” beauty myths, the one which I have feared all my life has already happened in India. Yes — Now guys have to be “fair” & “handsome.” Really?! Whatever happened to the “tall, dark & handsome” hunks we drooled over!?

The situation is not as light as it seems. This myth, cultivated by our very own Brits, who managed to sow many such seeds in the very fragile Indian minds, has taken root in our socio-cultural systems, and stands tall posing an unshakeable image. This myth has grown into each and every mind of an Indian so much that when two people meet after a long time, “Hey, how have you been all these years! You have gone dark? you look so dull, what happened?”, such conversations have become very common in every Indian household. So if a guy/girl becomes darker in complexion, it means he/she has ceased to be attractive anymore! Seems ridiculous, you might think. But wait! There is more –

“...The couple wanted a donor with ‘ very fair’ skin, but, since someone with such a special physical attribute was not available on Indian databases, the couple decided to look abroad for Caucasian or ‘white’ egg donors.” (a case in Mumbai which happened earlier this month)

Yes, it has reached this level already! I am dreading a situation in India when “colour” will appear right next to the age, sex, religion, caste columns. It is already there; just that it is invisible for now. But it is implied, like a silent letter in a word.

In 2009, there was a huge outcry against the racial abuses Indian students faced in Australia. The Indian media was all over the place reporting how the Australians were racist maniacs! Well, hello? reality check — aren’t we doing the same, back home? In seeking a “fair” bride, a “fair” groom or even a “fair” donor?

Thanks to the millions of rupee invested in the fairness cream industry, Indian girls have managed to glue themselves to this “fair” myth. So there are these fairness cream commercials, which show a girl, who is dark and low in confidence, and a failure in life: then comes the fairness cream to her rescue, and what a miracle! Life becomes so beautiful, the girl clears a job interview, she becomes a pilot, gets the guy she wants, wins laurels for the nation, becomes CM, PM, and what not!

Aren’t we supposed to be ashamed that we are caught up in such a messy web of illusion? Are we really that dumb to think that “fairness” of skin makes one a successful person? The truth is, we are. Why else would the market for fairness creams in India touch Rs. 2000 crore? And now with more “fair & handsome” guys, I am pretty sure, this figure will just keep rising.

It is “higher” than hightime we woke up and out of this “fair’ myth. Honestly, I don’t see that happening in the next hundred years, at least. But we always have believed in change. So we shall continue to do so.

“Fairness” of skin is just pigmentation. People in India are darker than people in America, it is just for the scientific reason that we are located closer to the equator, and our skin cells are designed to reflect UV radiation better, hence darker. So next time, if somebody “sympathises” with you for not being born “fair,” tell them you reflect much better UV radiation than they do!

Look beyond the pigmentation, at the bigger picture, and yes, fair is not lovely. I want to end this post with a Tamil poem written by the legendary Subramania Bharati.

(Mind you, he wrote this poem in the early 1900s)

Vellai nirathoru poonai-engal

Veetil valaruthu kandeer!

Pillaigal petrathap punai - avai

Peruk korunira magum!

Sambal niramoru kutti - karunj

Sandhu niramoru kutti!

Pambin niramoru kutti-vellai

Palin niramoru kutti!

Enda niramirunthalum-avai

Yavum orethara mandro?

Intha niramsiri dhendrum - idhu

Eatramen runcholla lamo?

[For fear of diluting the amazing content of this poem, I refrain from line by line translation. However, the poet talks about the newborn kittens his white pet cat was delivered of. He describes how each of the four kittens is of a different colour. He puts forth a question to the readers: “Whatever the colour of the kitten, aren’t they all the same? Isn’t it wrong to say that one colour is superior to another?”]

(The writer’s email: sudhamathy.s@gmail.com)