“through the act of living, the discovery of oneself is made concurrently with the discovery of the world around us. . ."

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Fair Skins, Dark Souls

" Last month two guys had come to see me, Balan Uncle, and both said no. I am too dark for their taste, it seems." She laughed mirthlessly over the phone. "Guess I should have fallen in love or something, found someone on my own."

I am silent and depressed. I ponder over the nature of men ( and women) of my country who shamelessly proclaim their preference of the 'fair, wheat-complexioned' of their would-be bride.

X is the daughter of a close friend. She is a postgraduate, speaks fluent English ( now, that is another criterion), very intelligent, pretty, charming, an excellent cook, well-read, has a good job. She is around 23/24. Possessed with an attractive physique and sparkling wit, she can charm the grumpiest of men and women. I would have been proud to be her father - her real father is no more. I know her so well, I can vouch for her character and integrity.

"Anyway I have decided that I won't do this anymore, this parading of myself before suitors. I am nothing less than a whore if I do it." I agree.

One has to only browse the matrimonial classifieds across the newspapers of the country to discover how specific are the 'Bride wanted ' boxes about the 'Fair skin' of the female. I don't know if anybody has done a study about it, but I think this phenomenon is unique to India. We Indians are neither fair like the White nor dark like the Black ( forgive me for my political incorrectness). Is it because in our hearts we are still awed by the white rulers of the past? Why is black/brown ugly? This preference of fair skin is not intra-religion or intra-culture. Whether you are a Hindu or Christian or Muslim or Sikh, hey you gotta be 'wheat-complexioned'.

Do we Indians think /hope that a fair skin conceals a fair mind? Or is it that we cannot stand the darkness of our own souls? Is that why we continue to abuse, scorn, smirk and spit upon the lesser privileged? Is that why the upper castes loathe the Dalits? But then our Christians and other communities are no less behind in their deprecation of the dark-skinned (X is a X'ian). The unfairness is perplexing.

Now, I don't know if our women also prefer fair-skinned men! Looking at the pictures of the hunks that appear in undergarment ads in 'Vanitha' ( THE most popular womens' magazine in Malayalam) that display their six-packs and the outline of  genitals , I guess dark skin could be sexy too. Don't ask me what men's 'undies' have to do with women's magazines.  Read the line - 'Who are you inside?'   Tickling, isn't it?

As I have mentioned before in my posts on Alleppey, for a connoisseur of feminine beauty, Alleppey offers its bounty of dusky skinned women. How smooth, how alive, how healthy and soft is their skin! From a glance at their figure, you look up to meet dark, khol-ed big eyes, defiant and  inviting. There is this stirring deep inside, but one smiles ( and sighs!) and looks away. :-)

The obsession with fair skin is amply exploited and fanned by the cosmetic industry and the media. Look at the fashion models - how many dark-skinned girls do you see on the ramp or in the advertisements?

The adage that beauty is skin-deep - I think we Indians have taken it for the solemn, literal truth! Along with 'fair skin' come the question of dowry, caste. If you think casteism is the bane of Hinduism only, you are mistaken. A perusal of the matrimonial classifieds would reveal the dozens of denominations in Christianity. It is laughable that many of the Christians in Kerala still trace their genealogy back to Nambuthiri Brahmins or Nairs and denigrate others as Scheduled caste convert or Ezhava convert. One cannot imagine a RC or Orthodox hobnobbing with a Pentacostal or Salvation Army.

I doubt if there is a one time solution for these ills of the society. Sometimes I wonder what is this 'modern' society. We seem to be as barbaric as our prehistoric ancestors! As individuals we can fight to some extent, but the marriage market of the country will remain the same. The cosmetic industry, the film, advertisements, and other media - all thrive on this absurd, petty nature of the Indian character. To expect the society to transform is just an impossible fantasy.

PS: You can find a 'scientific' study on this subject, written by a dermatologist(!) here. And couple of other sites, if you are interested


Balachandran V, Alleppey, 05-12-2012


  1. This ridiculous craze will continue to stay. I have blogged about wanting fair skin and men and women's desperate attempts few times on my blog.

    Why else will India be a 1200 crore market for these useless fairness products and beauty treatments?

    A similar incident happened at my relatives' last week. The whole family is pitch black; they are searching for a girl for the younger son. A potential family called up, when asked about the color of the girl; the father of the girl said "Ma niram".

    These folks who are themselves pitch dark(the father, son, mother , daughter and daughter's 2 girls included), they were commenting how 'maniram' meant dark.

    I feel bad to comment on the family's skin color; but they deserve it.

  2. Hmmm..the heading says it all..Whatever we say,we are shallow thinkers Balachandran. Hypocrites of sorts.I think this is all about the decaying of a society.Not only color,if I comment on the qualities of X you have given here,who the men ask for such genuine qualifications ? No way..And who puts the demand ? If she is cerebral,it's for her to choose.And in that case,I doubt whether she can find out a 'genuine' man there.Where the men gone Balachandran ? people like you have married earlier no ? haha..Hard to find one.
    And yes,may be coz'ladies don't have a chance to choose,this choice of 'fair' has nothing much to do with them in our society..

    tail piece - I had this acquaintance of mine,one of my friend's daddy.Known for his revolutionary ideals and life.I was eager to meet him at least for once.The very first meeting.He started talking about his daughter.Her beauty and finally the revelation came "White is certainly a superior color"..jeethe raho..(what a communist !)

  3. And this is the land where Krishna and Kali are worshipped.

  4. Hi,

    Ur post reminds me of the countless ads I see in the Sunday matrimonial. Almost each ad in the "brides wanted" column will mention the words "fair,slim" even if their own boy is dark & fatso. I hate it when women are treated like objects in the marriage market. When will we have matrimonial ads mentioning qualitative aspects of one's personality than outer appearance since u r ultimately marrying someone, not buying a showpiece...

  5. It's a case of 'the other side of the meadow is greener' I guess. And most often, I've noticed it's the people who are not really fair (or 'white' as the matrimonial columns proclaim) who expect the other to be fair. Should be some sort of 'complex over complexion', eh?! Truth is, everyone is beautiful from within. If only, we could see!

    And the matter of caste and a zillion and one denominations within a particular faith, I wonder when all this will come to an end. When will we be able to love unconditionally, give without expecting anything in return...

    We're so caught up with the frivolities of life, that we've forgotten to move on :)

  6. First of all , the whole arranged marriage business in itself is absurd!

    Marriage market - doesnt the word itself make you sick ?

    Commercialising the most personal and intimate thing in two people's lives?

    i've seen so many of my cousins go through what your friend's daughter had to..

    Never stops boiling my blood..

  7. @Insignia: Tamilian's obsession with white skin is notorious. One has to only look at the chubby north and south Indian female actors in Tamil movies for that. Why do we have this inferiority complex about our dusky skin? We should promote it as the 'loveliest tan'.

    @Melange: Ha ha ha! Now, your compliment is sure to make some reader jealous!

    The preference of the white skin is not restricted to men; I remember the terrible 'Vicco Turmeric Ayurvedic cream' ad that used to be shown at the movie theaters in my college days! Literally and figuratively jaundiced! :-D

    I remember the 'Mills& Boone's I used to glance through when I was young. ( Looking for the love-making scenes, of course) The men were 'tall, dark and handsome' with that brooding macho look. Why weren't they cerebral, with glasses and shabbily dressed? I look at my fellow men, dyeing even their chest fuzz black, wearing gold and studded rings and heavy wrist watches and right wrist decorated with coloured threads? In my younger days they would have been ridiculed as sissies and effeminate. I suspect( have a theory) that there is gender transition going on. One day women will be in real power!!

    Kavita: You couldn't be more succinct! God, that was a revelation, Kavitaji! But then we had/have our Ram aur Sita, too!

    @Shaivi: Thanks for visiting my blog. Yes, Shaivi, so who should begin the revolution? Women. They should come forward and protest against this discrimination. Likewise the issue of Gold. How many have been driven to madness and death and ignominy because of this yellow metal? Don't think of it as an investment. See it as a trap, a death-trap. Say no to Gold. Let women be the choosers and not the men and their parents.

    @RGB: I am reminded of a limerick.
    There was a lady called Miss Starkie,
    Who had an affair with a darkie.
    The result of her sins
    Were quadruplets, not twins:
    One black, one white, and two khaki!

    If only, RGB, if only!!

    All we can do is change ourselves and set an example. Long ago I went for a friend's marriage ( he later on became an MP) where the guests were served Lime Juice and fruits. How relaxed and easy was the atmosphere! They just exchanged a ring. Neither wore any other ornaments. There wasn't another consummation I could think of more touching!

    @Gymnast: That was what I said! Fight it!!

    There is another one that irks me. Why do women change their last names after marriage? Why should 'Susan Thomas' become 'Susan Idikkula' or 'Sreedevi Pillai' become 'Sreedevi Ramashankaranarayanan' or something? Should they be thenceforth known as tied and bound to a man?

    Btw, Parvati Menon remains Parvati Menon herself, not Parvati Balachandran! :-)

  8. Balan sir,

    Its not true in every case. I, and some guys I know, we happen to prefer the dusky ones to the very fair ones. In fact we find a bright and kind lady of any colour tone more attractive than a person who brings nothing to the table but for some white skin.In any case, haven't your friend heard of online matrimonial sites? Many of my lady friends (and guys too) don't care to parade themselves before strangers any longer. Now they put a profile with a pic or two, chat on the phone, may be see over a cup of coffee in an informal setting with friends (not family) etc before a formal family visit. In my opinion saves a lot of effort and embarassment on all sides

  9. Such a place we live in , where outside beauty is what everyone seems to be looking at ..

    I beleive in my own heart that if one is good from heart that is the most important thing in life, looks dont remain for ever there comes a time where the fairest of all also get old and fairness vanishes ..

    yet we make songs and what not about how beautiful Sawlaan rang is,

    We are hypocrite people end of...


  10. http://www.insigniasblog.com/2010/07/not-fair.html
    Another good one.


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