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I grew up as the darkest in my family. My sister, mom, relatives , cousins are all fair and I am dark or as they call it nowadays, dusky. I was made fun of mercilessly while growing up . My relatives called me “ karami” ( it means dark in tamil). I grew up envying my sister's fair complexion . I tried to make up for it by being a bright personality. I am a very vibrant personality and understand in principle that beauty is way beyond just being fair.I finally developed some self confidence when I started yoga . My body became my pride and I felt good. But , somehow I still couldn’t change this niggling thought deep inside of me about how the “fairer” sex have it easy when they are “fair” , especially in India and especially in south India .
When I got pregnant, I secretly wished that I would have a boy. I wanted to have a boy because I felt that if I had a girl and she looked anything like me, she would have to deal with all the insecurities that I dealt with while growing up. The world is cruel to people who don’t fit into the conventional mold of beautiful ( fair , thin , straight hair) . I alternatively hoped with all fervor that if I had a girl, she would be fair complexioned.
On July 1st , my daughter was born and she was born with a fair complexion. As the days passed I concentrated on enjoying my daughter and just having a good time with her . Whenever I would post pictures of her , people would say “ looks like she has gone on her dad , she doesn’t have your complexion." I know its crazy, but is that what the world can comment on even when it comes to a baby?! It reaffirmed my faith in what I had now come to accept – the Indian society is cruel to dark complexioned people.
Google tells me that the fairness cream market in India is worth about $432 mn. The HUL’s and the CavinKare’s are making money out of our obsession with fair skin. Many of us are lured by the allure of fair skin and take to applying these fairness creams (guilty as charged). While I know from personal experience that they do nothing to change the colour of your skin, what these creams do is further debilitate your confidence. You feel helpless as they are projected as a wonder drug, a sure shot way to escape from the dark skin that you were born with. And when they fail, you feel you have no way out!
The bias towards fair complexioned girls in India is all around us .Take our Bollywood heroines for eg. Can you think of even one leading lady who is dark complexioned? What about the leading ladies in our television serials? I haven’t spotted even one dark complexioned “bahu”. Our matrimonial ads which blatantly say “we want fair, tall, slim, pretty girl ………”.
You might ask me, “If you can’t be the change how do you expect the society to change. After all, you were hoping for a fair skinned child!” It’s true, I did. But, that is not because I think dark is ugly. It is because I wanted my daughter to be spared of the ordeal that Indian society unleashes on a girl who is of dark skin. Maybe my daughter will have the tenacity to bear it all. Maybe, I am underestimating her confidence. But then, I am human and hence draw from my own experiences. Hence, a part of my "motherhood soul" which is weak just wanted her to be spared of this ordeal and trauma.
I have however made a promise to myself not to obsess over it. I will not bother if she goes out into the sun and plays or if she spends hours in the pool. In effect, if my extended family ever makes fun of her complexion, I will just shrug it off and hope that I am doing enough to instill confidence in her to not be bothered by it all. I hope I can bring her up as somebody who is unfazed by such superficial things and focuses on the inner beauty of a person; herself included.
Ps. just as i finished writing this I came across an article which spoke about kangana Ranuat having declined to endorse a fairness cream brand. Hats off to her ! We need many more like her .