being brown

Coloured? I am!

I have learnt that in Tamil if you hear, “nalla colour da, macchaan” (“good colour dude”), it is usually a comment made by a guy to another guy about the skin colour of a passing lady who is ‘fair’. What a contrast to what ‘colour’ means in the western world of skin tones.

In yesterday’s episode of Neeya? Naana? Host Gopinath began the show by asking participants to describe the specific features that made them beautiful. Interestingly, nobody mentioned skin colour as their single most defining feature of beauty. Responses included features, smiles, vivacity, etc. The next question was which colour (fair/dusky- the dark people would rather be called dusky than dark!), they thought was beautiful and why? The answers came pouring forth. I watched as self-assured women made a case for what they perceived to be their own skin colour. ( interestingly those who considered themselves ‘fair’ wouldn’t pass for fair in Bombay.They would possibly fall under that unique category of skin colour exclusive to India, wheatish)The ‘fair’ brigade said that all kinds of colours suited their skin tone; all kinds of jewelry, from gold to silver to platinum showed up on their skin tone; their skin tone gave them an educated look; it provided the trump card in most arranged marriage situations. The ‘dusky’ brigade said that they could in fact carry off light coloured clothes the way their fair sisters couldn’t; their skin tone allowed for a clearer definition of features; their eyes and teeth shown in contrast to their dark skin. Political incorrectness to the hilt, sure! But the candour must be applauded!

In a country that is obsessed with skin colour, I thought this show was imperative. Fair & Lovely and Fair & Handsome are doing extremely well here and the reason might have a lot to do with the pursuit of that elusive Caucasian colour.  And instead of some kind of simmering resentment among the young, airing politically incorrect opinions out in the open might just do the trick.


8 responses

  1. All this complexion obsession comes from these shallow ”northies” I tell u!

    September 19, 2011 at 11:28 pm

  2. Interesting observation, sumanya. As always, initiating a dialogue (politically correct or otherwise!) seems to be the first step?

    September 20, 2011 at 9:20 am

  3. sumanyav

    ha ha! Ish, i think its a colonial hangover pervading throughout the subcontinent!

    Aps, well yes initiating dialogue is a start. though i must say lots of dialogue just stops there.

    September 20, 2011 at 7:34 pm

  4. Well ya, u knw why I’m targeting them particularly 😀
    For me, dark is sexy….and we all love tall, dark & handsome men, don’t we?! 😉

    September 20, 2011 at 8:13 pm

  5. Leonardo

    Such stereotyping! Oh but you’re right I guess.

    September 25, 2011 at 9:40 am

  6. I don’t think the Indian obsession with colour is a colonial hangover as much as it has to do with the caste system, which kind of pits the fair upper castes against the dark lower castes. Never mind that one gets both dark and fair skinned people across all castes, and even within families.

    Very nice post, Sumanya

    September 25, 2011 at 2:56 pm

  7. sumanyav

    Hi Sudha, thanks for stopping by….I hope you return!

    About your comment…hmmm yes that is one way of looking at it…Here is a question for you, though? Don’t you think the ‘fair obsession’ comes along with the ‘slim obsession’? and isn’t the slim obsession largely a western media created thing? or is the slim obsession also a caste induced phenomenon?

    From my experience ( not empirical at all), I find the ‘fair obsession’ more prevalent in the urban rather than the rural. Since i believe caste is pervasive throughout urban and rural areas, if the ‘fair obsession’ was primarily caste induced, it doesn’t explain this difference in attitude between urban and rural.

    As one person said in the show, ” being fair gives me an educated look. and makes me look like i can speak English”. This can be read in two ways. Fair= English speaking, I would say screams of colonial hangover. However, in the caste system also the ‘fairer’ caste Brahmins and Kshatriyas were educated and could read and write, something that was denied lower castes. So perhaps colonialism just entrenched old caste values and perpetrated the same.

    Just doing some loud thinking.

    September 26, 2011 at 10:10 am

  8. You should check out the Brazilian constructions of race – it is a whole different world re: color categorization…


    February 11, 2012 at 11:38 am

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