31 January 2010

Fair and lovely

One of my friends had once commented on my posts that I do not take a clear stand about the issue. I only discuss the issue from all possible points of view. Here's a warning that this post could seem the same. The only comment I wish to make in my defense- if it seems so, it is because I have not yet formed a clear affinity with any of the opining parties on the subject under discussion.

I belong to the category that was not blessed with a fair complexion by birth. My grandma says that my mom was so fair when she was born that perfect strangers used to stop and ask if she was really her daughter! Same is the case with my sis-in-law(SIL). She is what they call wheat-complexioned, but her hubby, or rather his parents, are very fair. Their daughter takes after that side of the family and looks much fairer than my SIL. So much so that when she used to wheel her toddler's pram to the park, people used to think her the 'aaya' of the baby! My grandmother used to tell me in my childhood that I should apply multani mitti or turmeric and saffron cream to my face to make my skin glow. According to her, I would not get a decent groom otherwise. I can well understand her anxiety - having had to marry off five daughters all by herself (my grandpa passed away even before the eldest was married), she was habituated to hand out such advice.

So, since my childhood, I've hankered after the elusive gori chamdi. I am sure all the folks, especially girls, who are not so well-endowed in the skin color department will empathize with me:) Believe me, 'dusky' maybe in, but even those divas secretly envy the fair damsels. Some smart businessman decided to productize grandma's fairness formula and market it to such desperate souls. And that's where the saga of fairness creams, gels, facials etc. began. It has now taken over the population to such an extent that even TV commercials advocate their use for sparkling at job interviews and brightening prospects in the marriage market. Well-known celebrities unabashedly endorse this.

Despite movies being made on racism, and gyaan being imparted on how the color of skin does not matter - the fact remains that everyone wants to be fair-skinned. Would-be moms partake of milk-with-saffron during their pregnancy so that their babies would be born fair. Drinking coconut water too is advised for the same. When a daughter-in-law is seen by her in-laws, their first comment usually is "ladki gori hai" or "ladki kaali hai". Infact, I loved the dialogue in the film "Lajja" where Anil Kapoor tells Mahima Chaudhary - "Ladka chaahe kaala bhoot kyon na ho, usey biwi gori hi chahiye!"

Many have jumped onto the fairness bandwagon willy-nilly. Some due to family or society pressures, some due to their own insecurities. But after a certain age, they all realize that this obsession about complexion isn't really worth it. Or is it? Well, the jury is still out on that. Despite my grandma's concerns, and my own, for that matter, I did enjoy my share of attention in college. And I am now married to a very fair hubby. Now, now, don't be quick to judge...

4 comments:

Shruti said...

Nilu,

This is a subject that has interested me more and more since I came to the US although I have thought painfully about the different attitudes towards skin color every since I became inseparable from Vidya in 6th grade. If you remember, she was on very dark-skinned and both her sister and I were fair-skinned. I think you might find the three articles cited below, an interesting read. The first one is by an American Indian who recently wrote a book about the unconscious brain and the other two are from a blog that I follow.

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/01/19/opinion/19vedantam.html

http://scienceblogs.com/notrocketscience/2009/12/even_on_mute_tv_can_perpetuate_racial_bias.php#more

http://scienceblogs.com/notrocketscience/2009/11/how_light_or_dark_is_barack_obamas_skin_depends_on_your_poli.php

Nilu said...

Dear Shruti,

Have you seen the movie Crash? It has captured racism very aptly.

Though my post was not aimed at racism as such - more at prejudice within India on color of skin.

Nilu

Shruti said...

I know your post wasn't aimed at racism but it does bring up the point of our deeply ingrained perceptions of color - white is good, black is bad - Devas are always shown fair complexioned while Asuras are dark. As the first article on my list discusses, these unconscious associations influence our response to not just stark differences of black and white but also at the level of subtle changes in color within the same society or group of people.

Nilu said...

Interesting article by Nandita Das on the same subject-

http://week.manoramaonline.com/cgi-bin/MMOnline.dll/portal/ep/theWeekContent.do?sectionName=Last+Word&contentId=6662315&programId=1073754894&pageTypeId=1073754893&contentType=EDITORIAL&BV_ID=@@@

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