Author’s Note: All characters, names and places in the story Fairness Creams and Treatments: A ‘Fair’ Solution? are fictional. Any resemblance to any person, living or dead, is purely coincidental
‘A phone filled with apps like B612 and Retrica
A shelf in the bathroom dedicated to whitening face washes
Cupboard filled with whitening creams and light tone foundations
Sundays dedicated to turmeric, curd, lemon and tomatoes scrubs.’
My typical day starts with my mom handing me a bowl of freshly squeezed lemons with cotton dipped in it so that I can clean my face, hands, feet and elbows with it. I then proceed to that skin whitening face wash with activated carbon in it that promises to make my skin fairer and use a body wash that would make my neck and arms and legs look not that dark.
On certain days, I use the gift bestowed upon all the ‘dark’ people to make their lives better— fairness creams. They can get me any job that I like or help me be approved by a suitable boy. On other days, I layer my face with first, a foundation that is at least one tone lighter than my original skin tone, and then compact powder to finish it off.
I would leave the house covering my face with a stole, wearing a full sleeved top and with an umbrella. All this not to protect myself from the heat, but because I cannot afford to become darker than I am. Whenever someone would say, “Let’s click a picture!”, I would hand them my phone, opening either Retrica or B612 app, because that would make me look fairer in the pictures.
One might wonder, why would someone do that? Let us say this too, has a story behind it. Rewind to 13 years back when it all started. I was 8, growing up, a brilliant student. Apart from academics, I was a swimmer, dancer, and always ready to go out of the house to play with other kids. But what people chose to see was not a kid growing up with abilities, confidence, and big dreams but a girl with dark skin. Since they could not beat me when it came to answering questions that were difficult for any other eight years old, or in the moves and expressions when I danced, they decided to beat my confidence with just the following words:
“You are not beautiful. Your complexion is quite dark, unlike the rest of your family.”
Almost every day, the same words would be thrown at me, either by my neighbors, or by the parents of my friends, or my teachers, who could not believe their eyes when they came to know who my sister was because she is the fair one, or random kids who came to the park where I played. It was worse when I would go back home and tell my parents what people said to me. I expected them to tell me that a person’s skin tone does not matter. Instead, they started getting all sorts of sunscreens and fairness creams for me. Rather than supporting me, they stopped me from playing out in the sun.
Things only became worse once I entered my teenage years. A growing body, facial hair, hormonal changes, all added to the embarrassment. I eventually stopped going for swimming classes and refused to interact with people. I barely stepped outside my room, let alone go out of the house. The only instances when I would go out, except for attending school (although I used to hate doing that too), was when I would go to a salon to get rid of my facial hair. Because as if I wasn’t already dark enough, that hair made me look a shade darker. My parents’ shopping cart would include fairness creams, powders, face washes, scrubs and sunscreens for me. Every day, I would scrub my body hard, hoping that one day, my complexion would become fair. Sadly, the only difference that they made was to make my skin red with all the harsh scrubbing.
It has been thirteen years, and there is not even a slight change. I am still a dark skinned girl. And with age, people’s worries have only grown, because who would marry a girl so dark? But it would be wrong to say that there is no change. Yes, I have changed. My confidence has lowered drastically, and my self-esteem has received an all-time low hit. I am no more the same confident kid, who once dreamed of doing big things. Today, I am someone who constantly has to rely on other people’s assurances. It is disheartening to be someone who relies on mobile applications that would make me look fairer and more “beautiful”.
All this would not have occurred if people around me had, instead of paying attention to my skin tone, acknowledged me for my talent. Nothing of this sort would have happened if my parents had, at that time explained to me not to give a fuck about people who said such things, and that the concept of beauty in this country is utterly nonsensical. Instead of wasting my time, money and energy on beauty products, I can do so much more with what I had when I was small.
P.S: And just so you know, I have used all those fairness creams for thirteen years. Yet, I have neither been able to bag my dream job, nor been able to land in a relationship.
Fairness Creams and Treatments: A ‘Fair’ Solution? has been edited by Ruhaan Shah