When my sister was born, she was slightly darker complexioned. I wasn’t very old at the time. I remember running to my grandmother and telling her, “Don’t tell her that she isn’t fair. She’ll feel bad.” Everyone laughed but they also respected my wishes and didn’t mention it in front of me. I think the attitude that fair is beautiful is deeply rooted in our psyche and it is going to take a long time to get rid of the notion.
Fortunately, in my family, the emphasis wasn’t much on fairer skin. My mother was more concerned about our skin being healthy than about what shade it was. When I broke out into pimples during my teenage years, she ensured that I took steps to deal with them but there was never any pressure to be fair.
At the same time, I also feel that we have taken huge steps in this direction. One of the main perpetrators of this fairness myth is the mainstream media – Bollywood in particular. However, nowadays when you look at actors such as Kangna Ranaut, you feel heartened that they refuse to endorse any skin whitening creams or products. More celebrities, including male celebrities, need to make such stands to ensure that this mindset eventually goes away.
Even actors such as Abhay Deol support this war against fairness when they tweet about it and hold other celebrities accountable. He is someone who may be considered fair and may not have had to go through what a large number of Indians do, but he is stepping up and speaking out and that is very encouraging. Perhaps another thing that can help is casting actors such as Irfan Khan and Nawazuddin Sharif, who are darker but brilliant actors.
On a more personal level, families are better educated about these attitudes these days, but it is an uphill battle. For many, being fair is the easiest way to be called beautiful. However, families and friends are also influenced by the media. As such, they make one conscious of skin colour – not out of any sense of discrimination but from a place of protectiveness. Things like this need to be normalized. After all, basically this is just skin colour.