" 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