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The Fetish for Fair Complexion in the Sub-Continent

MG is an air warrior and a global traveler who loves to visit and explore new places.

Bollywood actress Nargis Fakhri

Bollywood actress Nargis Fakhri

Concept of Fairness in the sub-continent

The sub-continent is home to a number of countries like India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Lanks. It is peopled by myriad races, religious sects, and religions. But one aspect that dominates the entire scenario is color and in case you have a white complexion, your status is higher. It is something akin to caste division and a fair complexion means you are a higher caste. Given a choice, no man will, by and large, marry a dark complexion woman, if he can get a fairer wife. You just have to read the matrimonial ads in the newspapers to realize this where almost everybody wants a fair bride.

This problem is accentuated in the south of India, which is populated by the Dravidian race. There the men and women are darker in complexion and some of the local population may be as dark as Afrikans. Hence there is a penchant for South Indian girls to marry North Indian men who are generally fairer than the men from South India. One manifestation of this is a string of top heroines from the South marrying Punjabi men.

How did this fetish for fairness become so much a part of the Indian psyche? Nobody can tell, but Hindu scriptures and old tales extoll the beauty of fairness of a woman as the starting point. Even Buddhist and Islamic Chronicles extol the virtues of fairness as a sign of beauty. Over the centuries such tales have had a deep effect on the psyche of the people of the subcontinent and there is a deep desire among the women to attain a fair complexion.

In a way, this color complex pervades all parts of the sub-continent but is much more extreme in the Southern Indian states. There are 4 of them and they constitute about 30% of the Indian population.


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Color and Attitudes

One aspect of the present culture for becoming fairer is the attitude of the general masses. It is a matter of regret that most Indians will look down on the dark-skinned from Africa. This has manifested in some ugly incidents in both Bangalore and Delhi, where these people have been at the receiving end. In contrast, most Indian\s will go out of their way and show deference to people from the west who are whites. This is very sad and shows a servility, which is difficult to comprehend. Perhaps it is something that has manifested itself because of the regard for a fair skin as well the fact that the English with a fair skin ruled India for 200 years.

In India, a dark woman is looked down upon, not in the literal sense, but more in comparison to a fairer woman. Despite almost 80% of the southern Indian women being dark complexioned, the film and AD world has no place for a dark complexion woman star or model. There is not a single star who is not fair. In some cases the South Indian film producers import fairer girls from the North to act in South Indian films, though they do not know the language, an example is Shriya Saran who hails from Dehradun.

The latest craze is to have fair skinned models from East Europe to pose for lingerie and other items. Another innovation is getting a few British girls to act in South Indian films. The latest such import is Amy Jackson. As far as Bollywood is concerned many South Indian actresses have made it good there, but none who can be termed dark

Shreya Saran

Shreya Saran

Last word

Nobody talks about this color bar in India. It is something taboo. A look however at the matrimonial advertisements shows that 99% of the men want a fair bride. This has led to a thriving trade in creams that promote fairness. Even Shahrukh Khan advertises fairness creams for men. In the state of Tamil Nadu, fairness creams sell more than Coca-Cola.

Indians have to get out of this fetish for fair skin. Going in for East European models is not the best way forward. Indians talk a lot about solidarity with Africa, but many from Africa are discriminated against. Some ambassadors have complained about this to the Ministry of External Affairs in Delhi.

Historically, I wonder if this concept will go away. It is so deep-rooted that I don't see it going away in totality at all. The color bar has existed in Hollywood for close to 100 years and only now it is being slightly breached. A point to be noted is that the Indian actress Priyanka Chopra who has acted in a few Hollywood movies has opined that she lost out on many roles in Hollywood mainly because of the preference for extremely fair girls.

Talking off the subcontinent, there is very little chance that the preference for fair color will go away in our lifetime. It has remained ingrained in society for 3000 years and I wonder how it can ever go away.

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Comments

MG Singh emge (author) from Singapore on June 06, 2021:

Rodric, thanks. That is a good observation.

Rodric Anthony Johnson from Surprise, Arizona on June 06, 2021:

It is true what you say, emge. I love some Bollywood movies and notice that all the stars a very fair in complexion.

MG Singh emge (author) from Singapore on June 04, 2021:

Tom, thanks, Africans not liked in India and yes in South INDIAN films only fair make it to stardom

tom on June 04, 2021:

racism exists in india.african students hated,south indian films exist only for fair skin show,few blacks won oscars

MG Singh emge (author) from Singapore on March 14, 2016:

Thank you for commenting. Gundu

madugundu krishna from Yemmiganur on March 14, 2016:

pictures are very good. i like this hub.

MG Singh emge (author) from Singapore on February 22, 2016:

Hi Manatita, you sir are on target with your assessment. Thank you for commenting

MG Singh emge (author) from Singapore on February 22, 2016:

Thank you Lolly for commenting.

Laurel Johnson from Washington KS on February 22, 2016:

Fascinating hub. I did not realize that your beautiful people put such a premium on skin color. Thanks for sharing this.

manatita44 from london on February 22, 2016:

So sorry to tell you , my friend, but I grew up with this, the Latinos and Africans feel it too, especially in the South. All these countries including India, we're heavily influenced by the caucasians who left their roots there.

So the have's and the have nots, are incredibly strong there also. We as a West Indian people with less complex cultures have, to an extent, shaken some of this off, but unfortunately, you will definitely find this even in England, where some progress has been made.

Perhaps a lot springs from feelings of insecurity; loss of identity and unworthiness, due to the exposure of the power and attractions of our imperial masters.

Eventually, all dies that is not of love and you will have noticed progress, however small, even with the untouchables, who experience a not too disimilar experience.

Brave and good of you to point this out. You are so on target! Om Shanti!

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