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“Oh Look, Mrs. Reddy’s Daughter, She Is So Fair!”

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By Mahitha Kasireddi:

My sister’s wedding is two months away and my mother is constantly insisting me to groom up right from today. My mother is a woman who wishes to grab attention for her daughter at gatherings, and after all, I am the only child. Don’t get me wrong, she does not intend to project me as ‘marriage material’, but she definitely wants people to exclaim, “Oh look, Mrs. Reddy’s daughter, she so fair!” She doesn’t admit this in front of me but it is understood.

Not surprisingly, my father too insists on this a lot. Last month, he forced me to see a skin specialist to ask for suggestions on how to get rid of those occasional marks on my face. I was prescribed three face gels in all, one in the morning, one at night, one to reduce darkness in the armpits, and one capsule. I mean, is there anything left to ask for? *eyes rolling*

Honestly, I don’t give a damn about my skin colour and I curse that old aunty at my sister’s engagement who had to comment on my colour right in front my mother! She even called up my grandmother to ask how to prepare the desi bathing powder. The one which is made out of drying and grinding turmeric balls, green gram, Bengal gram, etc. Adding to my woes, they are also after me to shed some weight and mind you, I have only two months’ time.

It has been 18 months since I graduated college and I don’t care much about my looks like I used to in college. I studied in a women’s university and those days, it was more of influence from friends, movies, fashion magazines and this pressure to become the most discussed person in college gatherings that carried me away. I look uglier now (by ‘market standards of beauty’). I put on weight and my skin darkened. After 18 months now, when I posted a picture on Facebook, pat came the comments: “You put on so much weight, oh my god!”, “You are tan, what’s wrong?”, “You look much better than this, please take care!”. Oh, how I wish I were bothered.

Is there a day when you do not finish a conversation without mentioning skin colour? It is so entrenched in our culture. If you cannot remember the name of a person, the next reference you make is colour and figure – “That short, fat, dark-skinned girl.” I know, sometimes we are so helpless that there is no other way to explain. But, what do you call the obsession for a clear face, clean underarms and a slim figure? You can’t wear a sleeveless shirt if you have hairy armpits? Why do you discard something original and natural? Do you need a L’Oréal Paris ad to tell you that you are worth it?

I sometimes wonder what was synonymous with ‘beauty’ when there was no fashion industry, no media, no cosmetics, no Bollywood! Surely, dark skin must have been loved too, fat must have been sexy. Some 5,000 years and even before than, I am sure there were no mirrors too, something without which we cannot imagine a life. I did my bit of research only to discover that racism based on colour first originated in India! Racism originated in India during the early Vedic period, far earlier than it did in the West. In fact, racism was found in the West only after they came in contact with the Eastern part of the world. Of course, we are a living civilization and carry the influence of ancient cultures in our daily lives. There was no caste here, there was only Varna (colour). So, seeking prestige in external features is not a contemporary trend, it was always there.

Well, these are my personal challenges and surely many others share the same woes. Fortunately, there are some feminists who came up with this popular campaign called ‘Dark is Beautiful’. This campaign is gaining ground with many young women expressing their frustration on dealing such stigmas within their social horizons. I wish there were other campaigns which advocate the shunning of zero size obsession.

Discrimination of the dark skinned today cannot be confined to a glamour issue alone. It is a wider concept, rather, a social evil. For instance, Nina Davuluri, is an Indian origin woman who was crowned Miss America. Her triumph was received with surprise and celebrated well in India while she was greeted with racist comments in America, about the colour of her skin. They even called her a terrorist. Only if they could remember that America is an amalgamation of people hailing from different European and African countries. White people aren’t originally American, Red Indians are. And as for Nina, she is a stunning symbol of diversity cutting across colour, religion, culture and nationality.

No matter how vocal I get on worldly matters that share common factors as found in our near society, those challenges will always be there. I cannot escape from giving attention to the marks on my face. I cannot stop using fairness creams to ‘lighten up’ on the day of any function and months before that. I find myself in a social fix with too many people to please and so many expectations to live up to. But at least my mom will be happy when people admire Mr. and Mrs. Reddy’s (beautiful) daughter.

You must be to comment.
  1. Vishali

    Umm agree with your points on Indians obsession with fairness but your point on Color discrimination ?? Could you provide instances to prove your point ?

    Our scriptures inform us that Lord Rama,Lord Krishna both were dark and extremely so.Lord Krishna is described bearing the color of Rain carrying clouds and he was one of the most handsome men of his generation.

    Even Draupadi is dark coloured ,her other name being Krishna too which literally means dark,And she one of the leading beauties in India too.

    And regarding color discrimination you are wrong to say it was only practiced in India or originated in India.

    The Greeks and Romans did it too.I mean there were people like Aristotle who were proud of their comparatively darker skin and Dark hair and he even goes ahead and says that these are superior to Blonde characteristics (Again that could also be accounted for racism) , But many in the Ancient Roman and Greek societies who were Dark skinned proffered to get blonde wigs made and applied pigments as Lighter skin and hair were considered more beautiful.

    And Arabia too.I happen to know for a fact that Arabians before Islam (Maybe till now too,who knows) were obsessed about the color of their skin.It was only after Prophet Muhammad proclaimed that Black and White does not matter and derided racism altogether even for Non Arabs that maybe it was reduced in their society ( Or has it ?)

    I know it sucks and its a ignorant thing ,discrimination based on color,but lets not Blame India for everything as it is the trend now a days.

    Cheers 😀

    1. Mahitha Kasireddi

      I do agree, there may be other contemporary civilizations outside the Indian Civilization which practiced colour discrimination. But there is nothing like blaming India. It is time to leave behind this hypocrisy and acknowledge the follies in our society. We have a history of obsession for light skin. The kind of market fairness creams companies enjoy in India, we need to admit that we are no less racial. Like you have mentioned Lord Krishna and Draupadi, riving such ancient facts helps in re-educating our people on colour. If Nina has disappointed America, had she been here she would have equally disappoint Indian, cause she would never be crowned Miss India owing to here complexion. My point in mentioning the Varna system is to relate and show how rooted we and our industries are in our thoughts. Thank you for your detailed response, the information is useful 🙂

  2. Aditi Thakker

    A lot of people are dissatisfied with certain things about their appearance. If there is a product that they can use to make themselves feel better, I see nothing wrong with it. Of course when the pressure comes from family and peers, it is up to the individual whether or not to succumb to it.

    1. Mahitha Kasireddi

      Off course yes, people are entitled to their right to feel good or look beautiful. Our’s is a democracy. I did acknowledge this. Thank you for your comment 🙂

  3. Prashant Kaushik

    A wave of fresh air in this article.. Finally someone talking about women without loathing men.

    In any community, A slightly lighter skin tone than average, is a sign of good skin health. But in our country this craze has crossed all limits.
    Somehow I also think, that that craze for fair skin is more amongst north Indian girls than in south Indian girls. In south its a common sight to see girls walking freely in sun. In north girls take all pain to cover themselves head to toe in bright sunlight. In south we also see a lot of women doing physical work like traffic police, bus conductor, in petrol pumps etc.
    Craze for fair skin among men is almost same across India. Even in Telgu movies, you see a huge fan following of actress Tamanna, whose only remarkable quotient is her fairness.

    We need to leave this sickening tendency of going crazy after fair skin.
    Media has an important role to play. And yes, one of the first steps should be to ban those Fair and Lovely ads which shows that a girls fortune overturns brightly when she become fairer be a few tones.

    1. Mahitha Kasireddi

      Thank you for the shout out, Prashant. You have made the right observation regarding telugu movies! When there are two heroines in the same film people talk about who is more fairer. Just what happened with a movie called ‘Brindavanam’, where media speculated around samantha and kajal. Very pathetic that media involves in such substandard practices. Thank you for your comment.

  4. sg02

    you will do well as a freelance writer/ independent journalist. really liked your article.
    people are all about what meets the eye. and then we say how beauty is only skin deep.
    really, really sad.

    1. Mahitha Kasireddi

      Thank you 🙂 really means a lot!

  5. Alisha Sinha

    You have beautifully written this.. I hope people should think much beyond this racism !

    1. Mahitha Kasireddi

      Thank you Alisha, sure they should.

  6. Raj

    You are most welcome to show off hairy armpits. But if people find it disgusting and avoid you, then don’t blame them for disliking you. You can’t swim against crowd and still expect them to love you.
    And that goes for fat dirty men too, they should be allowed to walk in bikinis if they want.

  7. Srujana

    Loved reading this article. I can relate to most of it. My maternal side of the family have always been racists and that showed very well with me and my sister. My mothers sister would comment everytime she got a chance on how dark skinned we were and how fair skinned her kids were. Finally, when her daughter in law (whose skin was much darker than ours) joined the family(ohh by the way! my aunt over looked the dark skin of her daughter in law only for all the prosperity and big bank balances that she and her son were getting), she covered up all her comments by saying “All that matters is how well the girl can get along with people”. Really?!!!!

  8. tulika

    Of course, fat men are allowed to walk in bikinis if they want. The question is that why do people dislike hairy armpits and why its seems dirty to everyone?

  9. john

    I think Fair look Cream is so resonable cream. I was looking for some item who can perform on acne on my greasy epidermis with out any negative complication on the epidermis.
    I made the decision to use fair look cream as I discovered it finish ayurvedic remedy with no known negative reactions. I must acknowledge, originally, I was a bit frightened but when I used it for a number of several weeks, I get my acne eliminated and a noticeable shine on my experience. I would like to recommend
    it for anyone looking to get rid of acne and in common as well. examine this weblink to know more about this product

  10. Aditi Chandra

    Mahitha, well done!
    This is totally relatable.
    Those fairness product ads…Argghh.
    I mean how on earth is fairness related to self- confidence? Oh yes, I’m talking about the recent fair-n-lovely( i prefer saying ugly) ad.
    It’s high time. This is going a bit too far. We need to do something.

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