Colour blind !

I was 10 years old when my aunt had her first born. The entire 9 months of pregnancy, she consumed herbs and spices, some of which were shipped from Kashmir ( it looked like popped corn, but  dissolved in warm milk) and Iran ( pure saffron), so her unborn child will have ‘fair’ complexion. My aunt is well educated, but nothing stopped her from trying for a child whose skin colour would be her most redeeming quality. ( unfortunately, genetics had the upper hand !)

My room mate, the daughter of two senior doctors used fair and lovely every single day. She hated her dark complexion and was desperate to become fair, so when it was time to find a suitable partner, she could fit the criteria of the required “fair complexioned” girl.  (How many of you remember the ad that was often at the back page of all popular magazines in the 80’s and 90’s that showed about 14 photos of the same person whose skin toned lightened from very dark to very fair after using fair and  lovely? I have often wondered if India ever had an advertising standard that companies had to follow.)

But the best was my mother.  As soon as I gave birth to Yaya, the first thing Amma checked was the baby’s earlobes and she walked quickly to my bed (still in the labour room getting the stitches) and told me “Karambi aa” ( she is a darkie)

Yaya came after 5 years of wait, my first born and Amma’s first grand child, but somehow her skin colour was more important. When I held my darling new born baby for the first time, the only thought I had was ” She is perfect” . I don’t deny that I was not worried after hearing Amma’s comment, for I felt my baby will be judged for the rest of her life because of her skin tone.

Yaya and baby are the opposite when it comes to their skin tone. Yaya is moderately dark and baby is  extremely fair and I am glad I don’t live in India. Imagine all the taunts Yaya would have received and how much she would have been compared to her sister’s fair skin and mocked. I have always been mindful of the barbs Malayalees are known to inflict on the dark skinned and have ensured that no one ever calls Yaya ‘Karambi’. I also made it a point to tell Yaya from the time she was little that she is beautiful ( She really is) and have the best complexion in the world, for she can wear almost any colour clothes ( it is true) and that she won’t suffer as much as her sister does every time they go out in the sun ( no freckles, no sun burn etc).

When I saw the news article about Ms Nina Davuluri winning the Ms. America 2013, I was so happy.  I hope her victory will give hope and confidence to all those who feel they are judged for their skin tone.


11 thoughts on “Colour blind !

  1. You are right, she would have been mocked here. I have heard enough about my complexion, and have been compared with my brother and mother (who are fairer)…

    And the TV is still full of ads for creams, face wash, scrubs, .. for “better” complexion. They have even come up with a “fairness cream for men” with emphasis on “for men”.

    It is all in the mindset and I don’t think we as a nation are not yet ready to accept that skin colour has nothing to do with beauty. And the ads plant the idea even more firmly.

    • URT: I am moderately fair complexioned and my sister is dark compared to me, I felt sorry for my sister all my childhood, because everyone used to compare us and my sister was a slave to all the potions that supposedly made her fairer. I don’t know why Indians are so concerned about skin colour. Black is beautiful !

  2. i tink india ppl r so good at outcasting!same thing is happening in my fmly nw,im fairer than my baby,but truth be told I was always mocked as white rat in in a way my daughter can be proud of her dusky skintone 🙂

  3. So much in the head and we have the kerala clan who still think the same when a baby is born…but, happy that we have the progressive ones who have evolved with time in HUMANITY 🙂 cheers and keep going…in that true spirit you always keep ! God Bless 🙂

  4. I was thinking that you would write about Ms. America and here it is :). Had the exact thought on her complexion and felt so happy, that this should open up the eyes of ‘colour’ conscious crowd in India. Me and my sibling had gone through the same discrimination throughout for being at the opposite spectrum on skin tone . Glad things are changing now.

  5. Haha…I could relate to this so well….my sis was called “karambi” because she was a few shades darker than us. But luckily my parents were not much into this, so she didnt have to drink any potions etc….when i had the baby, people were looking under her ear. And she also happened to be of darker shade like her father/aunt. But since we live outside india she hasnt had to listen to any taunts. Seeing her color, I had people who advised me “you should have had kumkumapoo when you were pregnant! especially because it is a girl!! (as if I knew it before :D)).
    In my husband’s family, even though not on outside, there is still a slight “preference” towards boys and I have heard some subtle remarks about that as well. My mil is a person who thinks that having boys as first child is better and she finds happiness that two of her children have that 🙂 I can go on and on about the prejudices that some people keep, the same people who comes off as progressives. But dont want to take up too much space here. 😀

    • Raj: My classmate (Doctor) regularly posts photos of her son, every minute of his life is photographically chronicled. She also has three older daughters, somehow their life isn’t as interesting as her son’s. clearly education hasn’t changed the prejudices.

  6. One more thing I forgot! My sil who has a girl was sad that her body is not as fair as her face!! (She is a pretty fair girl) I cant tell you how amused I was that day when mil was recounting this story to me!

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