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The White complexion obsession

N K Srinivasan

If you travel from Kashmir in the north to Kanyakumari ,the tip of

peninsular India, you will find men and women of complexions from jet
black [coal-dark] to lily white color…The people in the north, especially
the kashmiris and punjabis are very fair..people in the south,from
Andhrapradesh down to Tamil nadu and Kerala can be pretty dark
complexioned..The west coast people, from Mumbai to the Cochin in
the south are fair or light complexioned…..

Some narrow minded historians and philosophers were quick to

label the north people as those of ‘Aryan’ origin and those in deep
south of ‘Dravidian’ stock…This is a gross oversimplification to boost
the racist pride of the people…There has been continuous mingling of
races in India ,due to foreign invasions from the Greeks, Bactrians,
Mongols, Arab and Central Asian tribes, with modest immigration of
jews and other tribes form different parts….Certainly many African
tribes, especially from Ethiopia, visited and stayed in India..It was
common to use as palace guards, mercenary soldiers and certain
commanders men from the central Asia, Greeks and also African men…
they were labeled as foreigners, simply called ‘Yavanas’.
Some imported chieftains were also used to train military men and
maintain secret armies…All these men were active in mixing with the
local women and therefore racial mixing was quite common and not
considered ‘unacceptable’ by the society.

There were several tribes or adivasis [early settlers] –mainly black-

complexioned--who also mingled with the town folk in almost all states
of India.

The Europeans---the Portuguese, the Dutch,the French and the

British --came to trade and occupy colonies from 17th century.The
soldiers of these colonists and the officers were mixing with the local
people to a limited extent ,but had many illicit affairs with local
All these resulted in the ‘coloring’ of Indian population from jet black
to lily white complexion that we find today.

The society had always placed white men and women in a special
category of ‘superior’ people…This has led to the mild prejudices in the
minds of almost all people…fair complexioned girls and women are
prized possessions of many families, especially for the marriage
market. Please note that arranged marriages [arranged by parents or
elders in the family] are still the normal mode of pairing among the
young. In arranged marriages, as a general norm or preference , a girl
who is fair-complexioned is sought after . It is common that fair
complexioned girls are ‘booked’ for marriage at a fairly young age,
often when they are students in schools or colleges, even before they
finish school.

A casual look at the marriage ads in the newspapers and marriage-

bureau bulletins in India will reveal the preference of boys and their
parents.” Seeking a fair-complexioned ,well accomplished,girl—
graduate in science and engineering----“this you may find in many
Parents on their part tell their friends and relatives to look for a girl
with fair skin for their boys, even though the boy himself may be
dark….A boy may select a fair-skinned girl even though she may be
less educated or from a less wealthy or even a poor family---compared
to a dark girl from a wealthy family…such preferences are continuing
even today…
Some marriage ads will employ the term ”wheatish’ complexion
which is a shade darker than lily white or very fair, in this jargon.
Some boys may prefer wheat complexioned girl to a dark is
hard the define the shade of grayness or wheatish color among girls….
Things are changing very fast though…chemistry helps a bit…many
girls go the ‘beauty parlor’ to get a bleaching treatment for the face
and hands—a treatment that may ‘whiten’ them for a few days---when
boys are brought to see the girls..

There are other rapid changes in the society due to increased

educational status and employment for girls…many are well qualified in
science, engineering ,medicine and business and earn handsome
salaries….so boys may give less weightage to the complexion factor…
But again they would seek a fair-skinned girl to begin with…With love
at first sight, and with marriages between castes, complexion may
take a less prominent role…but again these are still rare cases…
The obsession with white skin is carried in to careers and jobs is
easy for affair skinned girl to get a job as a receptionist, PR/HR job or
journalist ,news reporter or news-caster than a wheatish or black
skinned girl…though exceptions are always there…

It is a sad commentary on the Indian society that white skin should

have greater attraction in these areas of marriage,job ,careers etc in
the 21st century…though beauty is not skin-deep, still Indian families
and men are attracted to fair skin…Any fair-skinned girl, especially, is
at a premium…

Moving to western society, one does find that black men are
attracted to white women. Many celebrities prefer white women
,especially sport and media stars.

The change in mind set to accept black or wheat colored women in

society as equal to white women may come about in the next
generation or two….We hope so.!

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