When I was younger I was very fair. After we shifted to Bangalore in 2003, I started playing outside in the sun and my skin became darker. My parents would tease me saying that I couldn’t be their child because they’re both fair and I’m dark. They only meant it as a joke but I started to wonder whether my skin colour truly made me so different.
As I was growing up, this difference was reiterated in my mind when I would see other kids with their families. In most such examples, I saw children who resembled the rest of their family in terms of complexion. Another thing that drove home the difference between my parents and me was that a lot of people started assuming I was a South Indian simply because I was darker. They would start speaking to me in the local language and I had to tell them that I was a North Indian and didn’t know their language.
Once, my parents and I visited a medical store. My parents were talking to this lady while I was strolling around in the shop and suddenly the lady turns to me and says, “You’re tanned. I have products that can help you become fairer.”
Another time I visited the doctor because of a muscle sprain. He looked back and forth between me and my dad for some time before he looked at my dad with an inquiring expression. You could actually tell that he was trying to ask how I was related to my dad. My dad came out and stated that I was his son, but you could still tell that the doctor wasn’t convinced.
All these reactions over the years made me feel terrible. I became very conscious of my complexion and would fret if I spent too much time in the sun. I even bought men’s fairness creams and tried them all out. Some gave me pimples and others removed them but, of course, none of them really made me fairer.
I think the reason behind this mindset is that Indian society’s mindset is very partial towards white skin. You can see this in the way we treat foreigners alone. I even saw this in my school when exchange program students came to our school. I saw a lot of my classmates and the students in my school pay a lot of attention to the white students but largely ignore the dark skinned student.
I think that changing this attitude starts from you. If you don’t accept yourself, flaws and all, you can’t really expect others to accept you. This goes beyond self-confidence; you need to love yourself. At the same time, we have to ensure that we don’t reverse the attitude. It’s easy to say that people with dark skins have an advantage in the sun and feel superior about that. However, we shouldn’t do that. No one skin colour is superior to others and reverse colourism is as bad as colourism the way it currently exists.
Abhinav M Krant