A news report, published in all major dailies in June 2012, said that a newly-married groom in Bihar committed suicide, a day after his wedding. Wondering about the reason? The neighbours, relatives and community members pestered him, to no end, over his dark-complexioned bride. So, the comparatively fairer groom did the next best thing to avoid the taunting stares: he killed himself. Leaves a bad taste in mouth, doesn’t it?
This brings us to the question: are Indian men still obsessed with marrying or dating fair complexion women? We have been told, time and again, that any successful relationship is based on love, trust, commitment and compatibility rather than looks. Then where does this obsession, about looks, come from?
A common sight at Indian weddings
Fair bride + dusky groom = acceptable match.
Dusky bride + fair groom = Are you kidding?
This concept of finding a fair skinned wife is deeply ingrained in the mind-set of every marriageable Indian man and his parents. A mere glance at the regular matrimonial advertisements in newspapers’ classifieds and online websites reveals it all, “looking for a fair, tall, slim, beautiful, educated and homely girl for tall MBA boy, running his own business.”
The reasons behind the bias
What we witness in India is the legacy that the gone by British rule has left for us to bear. British rulers would claim that they are superior to Indians because of their skin colour (anyone who studied history in school would remember the phrase 'white man's burden'). This mind-set still persists amongst the conservative masses.
Fairness in complexion is associated with innocence, spirituality and purity. Every mother wants a bahu endowed with at least fair skin for her adorable son. And their most hilarious reason is: fair bahus will give birth to fair, whiter-than-milk grandchildren.
Media and popular culture have left no stone unturned to further this obsession. Everything from the advertisements to television soaps have proven to us, time and again, how obsessed our society is with the idea of fair skinned daughters and daughter-in-law.
Television soaps (Saat Phere and Bidaai) too have dealt with this issue, sensitising it in rather controversial ways. Even they showed that the dark-skinned protagonist faced outright rejections despite being smart, educated and skilled. It was only after persistent efforts that they made a good match, obviously, with a fair groom.
Last year, Indian consumerism and obsession with fairness reached a new high (or low! depending on how you felt about it) when a new beauty product was launched in the market – a vagina lightening cream. Wasn’t it already distasteful enough that fairness cream advertisements associated fair skin as the reason behind a woman’s success in all the fields of life, along with finding a good match? No wonder the companies’ manufacturing fairness creams are having a field day with a total market demand worth Rs. 2000 crore and maybe even more. And now, there are fairness creams for men and this has made them miserable too. These days, many females also reject prospective grooms (just take a look at the recent t.v. serial Dil Ki Nazar Se Khoobsurat), saying that the guy is way too dark.
This obsession with fair skin doesn’t seem to be fading any time soon. It is so far ingrained in our society that it has now become a subconscious part of our psyche. So much in the name education, emancipation, love and holy matrimony!