“Are you dark? Or very light?”
“You mean like plain..or milk chocolate?”
Following Nina Davuluri’s crowning as the Miss. America and the racist remarks episode, there were Indians that reacted to this saying that it was not fair to call her names and how someone becomes American by a way of settlement and not birth. Yeah, I agree to that completely but I also know that this is some kind of umm..uh.. hypocrisy because we (Indians) do not want to self-identify ourselves as brown. I mean, when was the last time we had a ‘brown’ Miss. India!
In 1994, when Ash and Sushmita won the World and Universe titles, I was just a year old, but of course I knew of this when I was 7 or something. And I was very happy that we’ve had a decent number of beautiful women winning these pageants internationally. Growing older, however I have a different perspective- When you look at Ash or even Sushmita Sen, for that matter it is hard to tell that they’re Indian. Apart from the fact that both of them are shades fairer than the women we see everyday, they are also perfect examples of what the ‘elitist’ western world calls ‘elegant’, which can be interpreted as soft-spoken or ‘clean’.
20 years later, I don’t feel validated. Not yet.
Waking up this morning,I was going through the matrimonial columns in the newspaper. (For those of you that do not know, a matrimonial is like an advertisement for men and women of marriageable age that ask for brides or grooms with certain specifications). And the word that repeated itself so often in these ads was…..1…2..3…say it. say it….FAIR! I don’t exactly lose sleep over the fact that a 30 or 40-ish business man or a software professional wants a ‘fair’ wife,but it confuses me because I still haven’t understood what could be called fair in an Indian context. (‘Should be fair’ is not as specific as saying ‘should wear a size 34’.).
Not just the word ‘fair’ but any word that is associated with looks is inappropriate in a matrimonial because that would just go on to show the reality that marriage is more or less viewed as a union that revolves around sex than other primary factors like compatibility, companionship, love, understanding, acceptance etc. Let’s save that for another post, though.
India is a diverse country. And there is more diversity in India than the whole of ‘the rest of the world’ put together. And because of this geography and habitual influences, the complexion of course varies from region to region. Generically, one can say that the south is darker than the north.
The partiality towards fair skin is however as much prevalent in the south as the north of India. The reason for this is hard to place. Is it because of the fact that we were once ruled by the British that we’ve developed an affinity towards the people of ‘the crown’? Or is it just that we think fair-skinned people are much more beautiful than dusky/dark ones.
The problem however,is more sexist in its essence than racist. While the ‘tall,dark,handsome’ holds for men in India, most dark-skinned girls are convinced that they’d never get a guy to marry them. Although the fear is slightly exaggerated, I can tell it is not entirely false. The obsession with light-skinned girls is everywhere. In the movies, particularly in South-Indian movies, while the guy is a brown tending to black, the girl is generally fair almost Caucasian.
The insecurity among the brown girls was not really evident to me until I started going to an all-girls’ college. I’d find that in a group of girls, each individual would be around the same shade of skin color. While most fair girls would wear pink lipstick or some red (yes, to college) in a way to highlight their complexion, most dark girls would highlight their facial features as if to distract beholders from the fact that they were actually dark. And the adjectives used on light skinned girls would be ‘beautiful’ and ‘gorgeous’ where as on dusky ones would be ‘hot’ and ‘sexy’.
I’m not against any group. What I see as pathetic,is how products promising to lighten the complexion of an individual, market themselves by making good use of someone’s weakness. I personally don’t recommend an individual worrying too much about looks. No, I am not selling any ‘beauty comes from within’ bullshit here; but your looks are something you are born with, and just because yours does not fit into what a group of people would call ‘pleasant’ doesn’t mean you should try and change it. Umm. There’s nothing you can do about what you were born with.
Acceptance. That’s all.
“Foolishly madam- by sitting down,has turned
My bottom raven black- One moment madam! – sensing
Her receiver rearing on the thunderclap
About my ears- “Madam,” I pleaded, “wouldn’t you rather
See for yourself?””