Apoorva gawks questioningly in the mirror. This 13-year-old girl has been applying religiously the ‘fairness cream’ that has promised to make her fair and gora within five weeks! She forgets her talents; she ignores her academic achievements. What matters more to her is the penchant for fair skin as she has been groomed to understand that this is the only mark of recognition and acceptance in the society. If you still could not make the connection, do please take a deeper look into the hypocrisy of matrimonial ads across the newspapers. The ‘demand’ is for the tall, fair-complexioned and homely girls, while the ‘supply’ side would also advertise the virtues of the fair skins.
So, while the mainstream media and the English speaking middle class went to the stratosphere first denouncing and then celebrating the treatment meted out to Shilpa Shetty in England, silently ignored was the worst form of racism that gets practised in India’s nooks and corners. Anthropologist Ekta Sinha from Delhi University comments, “What we see is a combination of hypocrisy & racism finely ingrained in the Indian psyche. To be dark is to be ugly. It’s that simple.” Few then would disagree with Minister of State for Social Welfare, Meira Kumar, who complains, “From matrimonials to caste-based newspapers, media remains hand-in-glove in promoting such prejudices.”
Even though India champions the anti- racism slur, racism within the Indian psyche remains a disquieting trend. The Indian beauty market, sized at $1.5 billion (growing at a phenomenal 20% annually), then merely capitalises on millions of vulnerable Apoorvas. The questions remain: Will our parents love us less if our skin colour were darker? Will they love us less if we were girl children? With the unbelievable number of female infanticide cases and hugely uneven sex ratios, India shamefully agrees!