I watched her shameful bosom silently heave a heavy sigh, as she heard and cringed when friends told her “this colour won’t suit you. It’s not for your skin tone”.
She knew that. She’d heard it all her life, how could she not know?
I watched her eyes moist up just a little on the side. But she had mastered the art of control. She was lauded as brave. I watched her hidden, quiet envy as her best friend in Zara, Mango and Lifestyle went into the trial room to preen in the yellow dress, the bright fuck-me red lipstick and the brightest nail varnish. I saw her hide her nails under the packet she was holding. ⠀
Friends, family, cousins teased her saying if electricity went off, she won’t be found easily. She laughed loud for the millionth time at this tired joke. They asked her if she ever dared to play dark house? She answered bravely, “Dark is beautiful.” I knew she was being courageous and she was lying, because she didn’t believe it, either. ⠀
The hoardings were constantly hard-selling fairness creams. Her Ma had silently bought her one of them. In fact, there was also a vagina fairness cream, and now she was worried about her dark labia, and ashamed of her dark brown nipples on her breast. She wished she was fair. ⠀
She wished she was more saleable in a world where angels are fair, the goddess wears white and the devil wears black. Where truth is considered white and lies are always dark. ⠀
She knew she was ugly and marginalized for no fault of hers. She lived with insecurity as her friend. It was a complex not visible to the outside world but deep inside she was in anguish, struggling with her colour. Her identity where she was not known for her grades or her art but her complexion. ⠀
She knew dark is ugly and white is pretty. She was appreciated for being a sport for all the jokes on her, but to them and deep down she remained forever ugly.⠀
We’re still living in a world with systemic racism, oppression and judgement based on skin tone. Our histories have been written by white men. We’ve all been hearing how hard African-Americans have had to fight to have basic decency shown towards them. It is not different in India. Even a dark-skinned man would prefer a fair-skinned wife, for no other reason than that he’s been told all his life that it’s what success and beauty looks like.
Now, finally, people are starting to turn the tide.
In fact, earlier this year, the Indian government proposed a jail term and a steep fine for any company using misleading advertizing for fairness creams.