Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Dark But Pretty

These three words form the most commonly uttered phrase in India, probably beating even "I Love you". It sums up our collective psyche in a neat nutshell. It never fails to amuse me: "Dark, but Pretty"

It has multiple emotions layered in the nuances. It is a compliment, of course. Then, it is sympathy, for you are dark. It is hope, so what if you are dark. It is also justification, at least you are pretty. It gets defensive, it is full of pride. It is also a misplaced show of affection from most mothers and aunts to their daughters. It is not uncommon to hear one mom tell another on a park bench, "My Rhea is dark but she is pretty"; or to hear mummyji confess, "My son's bride might be bit dark but she has sharp features"...

My favorite is, "She is dark but she has an amazing sense of fashion!"

You are expected to lose your sense of fashion, sense of humor and even sense of direction merely by being a certain color. This is not racism. Quite ironically, the blind-faith in power of the Pale exists in a country where majority of the population is rather melanin-rich. Many years and many ebony lasses romping down the catwalk later, we still deny a concept that can be "Dark And Pretty". A flat nosed fair woman is considered a better catch in the marriage market than a yummy full-lipped, bright-eyed darker woman. Very few models make it big if they are dark-skinned, but the legendary ones (ohmigod!) have almost all been so.

Of course, times are changing.

Now even being a tall, dark and handsome man is fraught with danger. The new face of India is 'fair and handsome' and not afraid to say it. Six decades of obsessive over-use of fairness creams (and none the lighter for it) have taught us one lesson-- try harder the next six and this time, make sure the men are fair too! Life will not be "Fair" to us until then. If anyone doubts the credential of such claims, we have SRK targeting the metrosexual man in latest TVCs on air.

In true chicken and egg tradition, it is difficult to identify the origin of this stereotype. Fairness creams exist because people want to be fair. People want to be fair because they are told, often by these creams, that a lighter shade heralds a brighter life. Or, is it possible that, political correctness notwithstanding, people do see better jobs, promotions and boyfriends (now, also girlfriends) landing in the lap of the gori-chamdis?

I would love to bring Kabir into a world where it really don't matter if you are black or white (Michael Jackson promptly turned white after making this grand declaration. If it is any consolation, he was more salable before all his color drained out). To begin with, I'll call a Spade a Spade. Whether it is pretty or not depends on the other cards that Life has dealt me. Deal with it!


Just Like That said...

I honestly feel ads for fairness creams should also be banned, along with those for cigarettes and alcohol. I would any day plonk for a Nandita Das than an Ash!

But having said that, what's sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander too. ;-)

Is Cubby aka Kabir aka Bumpy? Nice name- the original was great, the Bedi was nice too. :-) Cubby is an absolutely cute nick.

Vidooshak said...

Yup, my Cubby is a lame attempt from this Lahori refugee to regain his "Singh" roots. After so much intercaste intercourse, we belong to everywhere and nowhere. Hopefully, no one will ask Cubby the question I hate so much: "So where do you belong from?"


The post was prompted by my shock at Cubby turning darker than his birth color in 5 weeks........ Yikes!

Just Like That said...

LOl LOL LOL at intercaste intercourse! Hilarious.!

Y'know, back home when old aunties came to see the baby, they would not get taken in by the birth colour. Apparently if the ears are very pink, the baby is sure to turn dark. They would look and be sure to predict that 'this baby's colour is all going to go...' and cluck cluck sadly, esp if the baby was a girl.

Sigh! Our country's obsession with fair skin! Am quite glad Sonny boy's a he, as my husband is dark, and I'm no latter-day Michael Jackson either! (LOL at the last para of your post.)