A small storm recently brewed in the small teacup called the progressive conscience of India, over a certain brand of beauty and fairness cream… Someone filed a PIL, someone was penalised and some ads were retracted… And, things are back to normal with the soaps, lotions and potions up again with their tall claims to fair skin!
Fair skin is desired by all. This is a fact and it goes far back. From Cleopatra rubbing in donkey’s milk for fair and lovely skin to young girls in all tropical cities of India covering themselves up from head to toe with scarves, cloaks, gloves, socks etc, when out in the hot sun as it would make them ‘dark’ and ‘ruin their marital prospects’. The married ones also do it for keeping the myth alive, and men on the streets guessing. 😬 Jokes apart, most of us are besotted with fairness( only for the skin tone, nothing beyond). You can witness this phenomenon of fair skin obsession at all tourist attractions as an Indian male goes ga-ga over a gori mem ( fair skinned woman of caucasian origin) even if she may not be blessed with remarkable facial features! The other races get secondary response! This is nothing short of a mental and social hang up that has become a social norm. Matrimonial advertisements still shamelessly underline the colour of a bride’s complexion ” as milky white”. But have we always been obsessed with fairness?
Ancient Indian literature, is filled with references to dark complexion as the ‘epitome of beauty’. Shyam varna (dark complexion) of handsome men and beautiful women, from Ram, Krishna, Vishnu and Shiva to Sita, Draupadi Satyavati and Mohini… they were anything but fair skinned. I guess, we can blame it on our history now.
Central Asian invaders were very fair, coming as they did from Mongoloid stock. And a whole new progeny with changed skin colour happened in India! The progeny( of all distinctions) of these rulers were the lords and masters again, so the myth of good fortune also associated itself with the fair skin tone! With the passage of time, the enslaved people of India also began to feel that dark was inferior. By the time the Mughals lost, the British were upon us. And “you dirty dark Indians!” happened all around( Tum gande kalu Hindustanis!).
So much of this ” dark is inferior, fair is superior” fallacy has entered our collective psyche, that there is only a grudging admiration for dark complexion, if we Indians are whipped hard by education and reasonable thinking. Had we not been ruled by fair-skinned people, we’d never have been so conscious about our complexion — which is predominantly dark or wheatish.
I don’t want to end with the typical cliched examples of beautiful non- fair skinned ramp models and divas…so let’s find our own epitomes of beauty in this wide world and celebrate the gift of life, above all! ‘thought I would end this post on a song but , it was difficult to find a good Hindi song celebrating this idea(eew!).
Nonetheless, here is a beautiful vintage number , which starts on a revolutionary note only to dissolve into a fantasy later ( the belle wants to give up her fair skin tone for a dusky colour, so that she can hide herself in the dark of the night while meeting her paramour 😬😬…