#Personal Stories

Chittiyaan Kalaiyaan The Chaotic Colour Complex Which Plagues The Indian Society

Skin Colour Complex, Brownface and fairness
Skin Colour Complex: An individual’s skin tone is one of the many fascinations that this country possesses.

Being comparatively fair by Indian standards, I once received an advice to not stand in the sun. The person said “you are so fair, you will turn brown if you stand in the sun” this statement had come from a boy who had tanned skin. It made me realise how being of a “fairer skin tone” is more applicable towards girls than boys. 

I could not somehow wrap my head around this comment. Growing up, surrounded by people who did not have such colour complexes, never made me think that being of a darker shin-tone would make any difference.  In rebellion, I remained where I was. Fairness creams and skin bleaching industries flourish because of this bias. I was happy when a popular brand of fairness cream changed its name to be more inclusive and was not for only people of dark complexion, as it had targeted earlier.  

With the intent of gaining better knowledge, I took up the topic of ‘Colourism’ as a school project in grade 11.  After interviewing people I was completely disheartened and was disappointed to know the terms people use for calling people of darker complexions. One word I frequently came across is “maila” which means dirty in English. It was enraging to know that in place of embracing one’s complexion and having pride in it we choose to be influenced by what society dictates as being beautiful; which in this case is being of a fairer complexion. 

To my dismay, I even came across various home tips to turn fairer like if one is to drink milk in place of tea and of course “avoid the sun” then one can turn one shade lighter.  One of the most fascinating theories I came across was that “pregnant women should eat cashew nuts and drink saffron-infused milk for the baby to be born fair.” If that theory actually worked, we would all be Kaju Katli and Rabdi.  

One of the most fascinating theories I came across was that “pregnant women should eat cashew nuts and drink saffron-infused milk for the baby to be born fair.” If that theory actually worked, we would all be Kaju Katli and Rabdi.  

Popular Bollywood songs such as “Gori gori gori gori” and “Chittiyaan kaaliyan” all reinforce the concept of white supremacy and how only fair girls are beautiful and appealing. It was at this instance that I realised that I was surrounded by Colourism way more than I had expected. On a fine Sunday morning while I sat on my balcony reading a newspaper my attention was diverted towards matrimonial ads- more specifically the section where it was written “Brides wanted.” The specifics read “girl should be thin, tall, and of course fair.”

Even though we have come a far way from much worse discrimination and have reached a basic understanding of how an individual’s complexion is based on genetics more than whims; we still have a long way to go. I am eagerly waiting for the day when we are ready to look beyond a girl’s skin tone, when we are able to look at her inner beauty and inherent talent. 

This is an article by direct contribution. Views and info expressed is the author’s own and not that of SheThePeople.