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What Twinkle Khanna Did When Her Daughter Asked For Fairer Skin Tone

‘I want to be the same colour as bhaiya,’ Twinkle Khanna shared how her daughter Nitara blurted out the internalised colourism. Khanna said that Nitara didn't want to swim because some "foolish relative" made her feel bad about the colour of her skin.

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Rudrani Gupta
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Image Credit: Twinkle Khanna Instagram/ Indian Express

Image Credit: Twinkle Khanna Instagram

The bias concerning skin colour is pervasive in India. Recently, a man in Andhra Pradesh killed his 18-month-old daughter because of her dark skin. A husband verbally, physically and emotionally abused his wife, even during pregnancy, because she was dark. Even in our daily lives, we come across many comments smeared with colourism. "Take an umbrella or else kaali ho jaogi", "Apply this ubtan to make your skin fair", "Kaali ladki ki shaadi kaise hogi", "Kaali hai isliye badsoorat hai" and whatnot. However, can celebrities and their kids also be shamed for their skin colour? Well, yes. They also live in the same society as us where people make dark-skin sound like a curse. 

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Recently, author Twinkle Khanna talked about how her daughter Nitara had once blurted out the internalised colourism. In a blog in TOI, Khanna said that Nitara didn't want to swim because some "foolish relative" made her realise she was dark. 

Twinkle Khanna's Daughter Faces Colourism

Khanna wrote, "There was a time when my little one wanted to discontinue her swimming lessons. A tan had become her nemesis. ‘I want to be the same colour as bhaiya.’ A chance remark by a foolish relative within her earshot had not gone unnoticed. ‘She is so cute but not as  fair as her brother!'” 

The situation that Nitara faced must be resonating with many of us. Whenever we see our relatives, all they focus on is "Tum kaali ho gyi ho pehle se". Under the garb of 'care', relatives pass comments that they never apply to themselves or their families. They feel free to criticise others because they know we will never talk back. Our respect for relatives is taken for granted and turned into a sponge that can absorb everything.

Twinkle Khanna's unique way to make her daughter unlearn bias

This is what Twinkle Khanna did to dismantle the relative's unsolicited remarks. 

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Since she believes that reading books is crucial to changing mindsets, she handed over Frida Kahlo’s illustrated biography to her daughter who was starting to internalise bias regarding skin tone. After reading the reading the book, Nitara's mindset had a drastic change. Khanna quoted her daughter and said, “She doesn’t need to use as much sunblock as her brother. ‘White is a light colour, so it gets dirty fast like my T-shirt, brown is darker, so it doesn’t"

It is so simple! When people in India refrain from buying white or lighter-coloured clothes, why are they obsessed with fair skin? If white clothes are difficult to handle, is it not hypocritical to demand the same whiteness on people's faces?

Other celebrities who faced colourism and how they dealt with it

Not only Twinkle Khanna, but many other celebrities have faced colourism. Starting with Suhana Khan, who recently made her debut in Bollywood. She was trolled for her looks, especially her dark skin. But Khan gave a fitting reply and said, "I’ve been told I’m ugly because of my skin tone, by full-grown men and women, since I was 12 years old." Speaking against the obsession with height and fair complexion, Khan said, "I hope it helps to know that I’m 5’3 and brown and I am extremely happy about it and you should be too.” 

Sunetra Choudhary, a journalist, spoke with SheThePeople about the colour-based comments she has faced. She said that her parents gave her a nickname that was rooted in the preference for a fair child. The nickname is Pinky. Choudhary said, "I guess the fact that my parents gave me the nickname of Pinky is also an indication of their attempt at hiding the fact that I was not as fair." She said that the nickname reflected her parents' wish to have a fair child in a dark family. 

Adding further, Choudhary recalled how boys in her school used to call her 'kaali'. Then, when she grew up, people said that her colour was 'exotic'. To this, Choudhary replied that every one of us has a different colour. People in Punjab might have lighter skin colour and people in Bengali might have all shades of skin colour. 

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Even though people 'exotify' her colour, when it comes to the camera, make-up is applied on her face to look lighter.

Are we doomed to reel under the colourism that has been practised for years? Can we just remain silent about the racist comments we receive regularly? Wouldn't this silence further propagate colourism to another generation?

Frida Kahlo's importance in this debate

Do you know why Khanna gave Frida Kahlo's biography to her daughter? Kahlo was an artist who broke beauty standards not only in real but also in the artistic world. Unlike the beauty standards, Kahlo had unibrows which she never removed. In her self-portraits, the female body is always distorted and disfigured. For example, one of her self-portraits, The Broken Column, 1944, showed Kahlo partially naked since the body is tied with cage-like body braces. Her spine is broken and there is a column brutally wrenching the body into halves. The column runs from the torso to the neck. Moreover, her face, breasts, neck, shoulders and arms are all pierced by nails. 

Kahlo once said, "I never painted dreams. I painted my reality”

The 'broken' of the painting, as per my interpretation, clearly shows the life of a woman who is broken by society's criticism. The criticism hits women like nails and forces them to violate their bodies. Similarly, many women conform to societal expectations of beauty and try to change themselves putting everything at stake. 

As Khanna and other celebrities are defying societal norms, we too need to step up. Next time someone stops you while you are sipping your chai and says, "Kaali ho jaogi", sport a smirk and say "Kaali toh Kaali Ma bhi hai."

Views expressed are the author's own.  

skin colour colourism in india Twinkle Khanna
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