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Fair is Equal to Lovely

Updated on June 22, 2009
'Fair & Lovely' Obama
'Fair & Lovely' Obama
Dark to Fair, Sad to Happy
Dark to Fair, Sad to Happy
The sunbathing 'gora'
The sunbathing 'gora'

“Wanted: Fair, beautiful girl for ….”, or “Fair, well qualified girl seeks…” This is how a majority of matrimonial adverts in India read. As Americans are obsessive about being a certain size, so Indians are obsessive about being a certain skin color. (And I thought the Obama picture was hilarious so I decided to put it up here.)

A 'skin whitening' cream

The words fair and lovely are almost synonyms and there you have India’s most popular ‘beauty’ product, the world’s largest selling sun screen called Fair & Lovely. This cuts across social, economic and even educational strata. Models and actresses are rarely dark or dusky skinned and those that are tell you how they are routinely made up to look way fairer than they are actually.

Regressive Advertising

The second picture is the hoarding of a fairly commonly seen advert. In this picture see how the ‘before’ picture of the model is dark and also unhappy. The after picture is fair and lovely and happy too! Advertisement for these products is incredibly regressive to say the least and even angry making. The before is invariably sad, unsuccessful perhaps lonely and most certainly dark skinned, the after will miraculously be happy, successful, vibrant, popular, and most certainly fair skinned!

While in the West a tanned look is equivalent to a healthy look, that is certainly not so in India. In the cities it is a common sight to see young women on their mopeds wearing long gloves, their entire heads including their faces swaddled in a voluminous scarf. While this is a great way to protect your skin from the elements and pollution, the motive behind this is simply that the young women do not want their skin to darken in the sun.

The Concept of Sun Bathing

There is no concept of sunbathing in India. While in Goa it is a common sight for the ‘goras’ (loosely translated as pale skins) to be basking in the ferocious Indian sun, it is something that is fairly inexplicable for most Indians who when they are forced to go out in the sun would rather carry an umbrella. The umbrella wielding Indian woman when there is no rain is sight is a common sight all over India.

I remember that as children my brother and I who were considered ‘fair’ used to loll in the fierce Indian sun hoping to get tanned and attracted a fair amount of disapproval from people around. Lolling in the mid summer Indian sun, I will tell you for free, is fraught with peril. My brother and only ended up with some ferocious sun burn and peeling painful skin for some days thereafter. So there is ample reason to wear sun block here in India, only not for the reasons that most people do.

I could not find some of the really awful Fair and Lovely ads which are routinely aired here, but here is an example of one that i found from youtube:


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    • Philipo profile image


      10 years ago from Nigeria

      There is racism everywhere.

    • Reena Daruwalla profile imageAUTHOR

      Reena Daruwalla 

      10 years ago from INDIA

      You're welcome. It is a form of racism really, that we Indians seem to suffer from.

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      Interesting article. I lived in Japan for 2 1/2 years and it's similar there. It's definitely considered beautiful to be fair there. Not in the US, you're right. I fried my skin when I was an adolescent trying to look "exotic" and healthy. I wait for skin cancer now. I love the name: Fair and Lovely. Thanks for sharing, Reena.

    • bala99 profile image

      Bala Subrahmanyam Vishnubhotla 

      10 years ago from Hyderabad, Telangana, India.

      Bombarded, yes.

    • Reena Daruwalla profile imageAUTHOR

      Reena Daruwalla 

      10 years ago from INDIA

      You have boys who are also now being targetted for fair skin products: fair & handsome and other such rubbish, isnt it?

    • bala99 profile image

      Bala Subrahmanyam Vishnubhotla 

      10 years ago from Hyderabad, Telangana, India.

      Quest for fair skin seems to be a sad manifestation of a fear of not landing a desirable spouse. Peer pressure of using a HIP cosmetic also contributes. Fairer the skin, more the acceptance in society, is the concept prevailing. As a father of two grown up male children I can vouch for this. Sad, but true.


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