I was in standard 5th when I was thrown out of a dance performance because I wasn't a fair looking child. However, my father ensured a strict action against the teacher who threw me out from the annual day performance. But, it became my first encounter with this deep-rooted thought of Indian psyche that a girl needs to be fair in order to look beautiful and this came from a teacher whose words were always 'Gospel truth' for a child. The impact of the incident remained in me for a very long time.
I was born in a North Indian family but was given a name that is more prominent in Southern India. I grew up with my North Indian relatives telling me that it's not just my name, but I also look like one. I always knew they were telling me about my dusky complexion, though in a subtle way.
But I always remained comfortable in my skin and never felt the need to be fair or to apply a cream that promises to make me look fair. However, that's not the end of the story the real battle of a dusky looking girl. It actually begins when parents start searching for a groom for her and now the reminder of one being dusky becomes more frequent.
In arranged marriages, it's often your beautiful pictures that will ensure you get the best groom. Matrimonial sites are full of advertisements that say families are looking for a fair and beautiful girl as if that's the only criterion for a happy and successful marriage.
I am writing this today because Hindustan Unilever has decided to drop 'Fair' from its beauty product called Fair & Lovely, and this gives me hope that it will help in ensuring that a society which is obsessed with 'fairness' becomes fair and leaves its biases of being unfair to the people who are not fair in their skin tone.
I am not saying it will change the world overnight, but believe it will compel the society to look within and bring the required changes in the mindset of the people.
The fact that the company has been forced to drop a discriminatory word from its name is evidence in itself, that winds of change have already started blowing.