India’s obsession with ‘fair’ skin and my journey to being comfortable in the skin I was born in.

I am an Indian. Born and brought up in India.

I wear a brown skin color, like most Indians. And like most Indians too, I am obsessed with fair skin.

Because that’s what I have been taught since childhood, have been mentally conditioned to like as I entered my teenage and have been actively seeking as an adult.

In India, ‘beauty’ is associated with ‘fair-ness’, a racist idea that continues to permeate our thinking. To hell with your chiseled features, your room-lighting smile, your solid personality, or your go-getter attitude! Same goes for your academics, your job, and your extra-curricular achievements. None of these make it to the consideration set if you don’t fit the criteria of ‘fair and lovely’.

And this is not bound to the fairer sex. Men, too, are not exempt. The ‘lighter is better’ movement runs across the length and breadth of India, traversing caste, creed, region, and religion.

We judge, form opinions, make biases, have choices based solely on the looks; skin color being a major defining component. The probability of a girl being selected as a prospective bride, in a typical Indian arranged marriage setting, is hinged greatly on the tone of her skin than her compatibility with the groom-to-be.

Feeding into this crap-hole is the media, which in its effort to create an egalitarian society, breeds discrimination. Commercials promising a fairer skin in a matter of days litter the television channels, popular actors and actresses smiling through newspaper and magazine advertisements with chalky white skins lend their brand equity to the fairness products, while beauty parlors and spas ride on this ‘fair-ness’ wave minting dollars and stripping us off our sanities!

Beauty, truly, is skin (color) deep.

This, right here, is the raw truth.

Speaking of truth, here’s another one. I had been living a ‘lie’ for 21 years of my life, trying to fit into the ‘fair skin’ category, wanting to be called ‘beautiful’. A million times, I have answered concerned aunties and relatives to how I got that ‘tan’. Been judged for my capability to bear a ‘good-looking, fair’ child to continue the family lineage. I have shielded myself from the sun with scarves, undergone numerous anti-tan treatments, and used various home remedies and creams for that elusive fair skin.

And changed it has. Not my skin color but my perception about it.

It has taken me 10 years to be comfortable in the skin I was born in, to own it and to love it. I no longer let my skin tone dictate my self-confidence, my self-esteem or self-worth. It’s a part of me that can’t change — not for the society, not for others, not for myself. It’s there — making me uniquely ‘me’, while my writing, my work as a Marketing Head at a leading eLearning company, my creativity, my personality, my love for my family are some of the things that truly define ‘me’ and make me successful in all aspects of life. After all, it’s the ‘dark’ horse that wins the race, isn’t it?

Originally published at