My grandma has a lot of hobbies. Like collecting old plastic ice cream cups, talking about the old times, giving us 100 Rupees as pocket money... Here I talk about a very amusing one. She likes to browse through old albums, pause at my baby pictures and say "Molku enthu nirram endayirinnu, ippo adokke pozhi". Literal translation: You had so much colour, everything's gone now. What She really means: You are not fair any more. You are...*cue dramatic music*...dark!
This obsession with fairness is not exclusive to my grandma, though I am sure a lot of it lies with her. I can't count the number of times I have heard people comment about the 'colour' of the babies and brides. "Did you see [insert baby/bride's name]? Theere nirram illa. Paavam. (She has no colour. Poor thing). Westerners might be amused with the Indian metonym of 'colour' for 'fairness', 'cause there it's the non-whites who are referred to as 'coloured'.
To cater to these Colour Crazies (As they shall be called from now on), there is a HUGE market, providing 50 shades of whiteness. Soaps, scrubs, facepacks, creams, lotions- all compete on the shelf to land on the under confident, desperately-looking-for-a-husband/job/her lost keys- brown girl's vanity bag. All promising her better jobs, more suitors, and general well being. Because, obviously, it's the shade of your skin that will win over an interviewer, not your education, your skills, or your confidence.
We have actors who have dusky complexion promoting such creams and it is SO obvious that it's photoshop and not the cream working its magic and yet we have millions throwing away their money at these products. For many it has become a ritual of sort. I remember a house help who used to live with us, along with her husband and son. Come rain or shine, every morning the entire family would religiously apply 'Fair and lovely'. And can you blame them? Casteism and colorism constantly intertwine and make people's life miserable in India.
A recent Vaseline advert of an Instant Fairness lotion began - "There is a reason why 4 out of 5 Indian women are getting fairer skins". It guarantees the user '4 times fairer skin. Instantly'. Leave alone the fact that 4 out 5 Indian women have much graver problems than the shade of their skin, like- I don't know: hunger, poverty, domestic abuse-can't those who rush to buy this just stop to think HOW this cream will give them instantly fairer skin? I would run the other way if something can change my appearance that drastically.
This ongoing Indian romance with fair skin is also shared by other Asian countries. I was surprised by the number of fairness products in the Malaysian market. All this screams- Strive to be like the white (wo)man (while s/he sits under the sun, desperately trying to get a tan)! We had been made to feel inferior about our skin for so long that it disgusts us and we'd go to any lengths to get rid of it. It's such a tragedy. Indian/Asian people- we are meant to be brown- maybe of different shades, but that's who we are. We don't need companies telling us that we NEED to put this cream on to impress mothers-in-law, make our spouses 'lucky', ace at interviews, or go to space. All you need to do is just chill and Be Brown
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