It is no new news that Indians prefer lighter skin tone. Beauty in the Indian understanding is directly proportional to being fair skinned and this is especially true for Indian women.
One might argue that the Indian obsession with fair skin is not so prevalent here, in Malaysia. Nope. My cousin sister and my sister-in-law’s younger sister who both have successful careers have been rejected by potential suitors because they are too dark. Of course they didn’t say it bluntly. It was tacit – we could tell that they were unhappy with the potential brides’ less than perfect colour.
My favourite aunt too is very particular about skin colour – she chose only fair brides for her sons, touting that her sons maybe disheartened if their wives are not beautiful. Of course, beautiful here means fair.
Indian obsession with skin colour doesn’t end with girls; it also besets guys. My mother tells my dark nephews who are 12 and 10 respectively, “Dei veyil le rombe nerama sutthathingge da. Yerkanave ningge karuppu, innum veyil le iruntha avlo than. Aprom kalyanam panne unggalukku ponnu kidaikathu..” My particularly glib and resilient nephew would counter his lamenting granny,” Ammama, karuppu than neruppu.” I really welcome that kind of attitude – being comfortable in your own skin and dismissing the comments of others as dust.
But, even my carefree nephew was at loss for words when his 8 years old fair skinned cousin sister asked him,”Nee yean ivlo karuppa irukke?” I was there and overheard the question. I understood then that the Indian obsession with fair skin is sown when one is still very, very young. After being questioned like that, later that day, after bathing, my nephew put extra powder on his face, neck and arms. Noticing his efforts, his mother sarcastically said,”Aama, powder pota mattum apdiye segheppa aayiduve..” He responded ruefully, near tears, “Amma…” Then, he went to the dressing table and wiped off the powder. I noticed him sulking in a corner the rest of the day, refusing to play with his brothers and cousins.
This Indian obsession with fair skin is totally nefarious
It is indeed very demoralizing to have your whole worth measured by the colour of your skin. It is as though no matter how good you are in character, how educated you are, how successful you are and how capable you are in various fields, you are still not good enough because you are not fair skinned enough. All ads that peddle whitening beauty products make it look like one can only be noticed, make the cut, attract the opposite sex and be successful if their skin is of light tone – it is a malicious marketing strategy that further cements this bias. Now, there are even whitening products for under arms and the female nether region. Gila betul.
This Indian obsession with fair skin spawned mercantile worth billions of dollars, capitalizing on this Indian colourist fundamentalism that predates to ancient India. Aryan invasion into South India brought about the caste system – fair skinned Indians are deemed as originating from high echelons of caste and otherwise and ooru vittu ooru vanthum, we are carrying that perception to this day, in Malaysia.
This Indian obsession with fair skin has gone insane and defies all biological and scientific logic. Those Indian girls who are dark skinned strive to get fair. Fair Indian girls strive to get fairer. Pesame sunnambu poosikelam. In order to achieve white skin, they are ready to apply whatever cream or lotion that swear that they can make them fair in 2 weeks. Fair and Lovely unggal choice. This is incredibly misleading and most of us swallow those misgivings whole. The amount of the pigment melanin determines skin colour – the more melanin concentration, the darker the skin. This colouration is irreversible. A dark person cannot become fair by just applying whitening creams on face. All the ads are dubakoor of the highest order. If those creams work like that, then only the face will be fair; the rest of the body will remain of the original colour. The only way to get fully fair is via skin bleaching like the late Michael Jackson – he did it because he had vitiligo, not because he wanted to be white.
Rajini eh kude videle. In the movie Shivaji The Boss, velle aaghe avare paada padutitangge. Provided by computerized skin grafting tech, it was possible to make Rajini white in the movie. Also, Anggavai and Sanggavai in the movie were made too dark on purpose, to depict them as ugly and for Sivaji to reject. This is dark skin shaming at its finest. It deserves to be subjected to censure, not applaud.
One can gauge how ingrained this Indian obsession with fair skin on how we depict the skin colour of Hindu Gods. Lord Krishna is also called Kaar Megha vannan which means He who is as dark as rain clouds. Yet, in the Lord’s anthropomorphic manifestations, he is depicted as having blue skin. Same goes to Lord Ram, sometimes, Lord Vishnu and Lord Muruga’s consort, Valli. Valli is depicted as having green skin. The gods and goddesses forms are given unnatural skin tones rather than playing it real. Real blue skinned people exist – they have a medical condition known as methemoglobinemia.
Those with dark skin are less susceptible to melanoma, skin cancer. The pigment melanin protects the epidermis. It is not bad after all for being dark skinned; it is a natural cancer deterrent. End of the day, what is in our hearts is what that matter. Do fair skinned Indians who mock or reject dark skinned Indians have fair and lovely hearts? Ponder on it.