We were under colonial rule for a bit over 200 years…Remember, ‘The Sun never set over the British Empire’, but dare anyone dispute that the Americans have put the Brits in the shade?! In other words, their colonialisation stands nowhere near how the U.S. of A. has laid conquest over a nation willingly, gladly wanting to be naturalised citizens to, what can only be called, ‘Operation Americanisation’. Here not getting into how our facial expressions have undergone a plastic surgery of sorts, down to the rolling up of the eyes and how our flapping hands accompany the talker, every step of the way. (There was a time, not too long ago, when convent schools ensured both hands would be locked together for them not to stray—flailing paws taking away the focus of what was being said!) It seems even our taste buds have undergone a make-over—so most of us have to devour our weekly dose of pasta, pizza, sloppy joes and fries, to be washed down with coke. However, this strip not about our peppy, gladsome voluntary conversion but…but how it takes a George Floyd, the African American who was suffocated to death by a policeman, remorselessly pressing his beef-loaf knee over his neck, to get us thinking. Floyd’s crime—the colour of his skin, too dark for this white cop to take in. And overnight, we Indians realise that Racism has to be shown the door, possibly put in a coffin, to get a proper burial. Afterall, the protest against racism poured into the streets of America, there were marches proclaiming strong dissent. News channels, newspapers, magazines had on high-gear, in a high-pitched talk-an-arm-off-voice had something else to report, with mushrooming data, besides Covid-19. So now, fairness creams with hands squatting the air were pooh-poohed at. ‘Fair & Lovely’, the most popular cream that promises miraculous life-altering results runs for cover. Soon it would be brought out in its new avatar, ‘Glow & Lovely’. The chiming assurances of whitening, lightening, fairness banished to be replaced with `a word of honour’ undertaking that the new potion shall provide glow, even tone, skin clarity and radiance. On June 26th, post George Floyd, L’OREAL, the world’s biggest cosmetic company issued a statement that ‘white’, ‘fair’ and ‘light’ would be permanently deported from its skin products. So, the next time one buys L’OREAL’s face wash, it shan’t bear the words, ‘White Perfect, Milky Foam, Purifying and Brightening’. Of course, some Wordsmith will come across with fresh new phrases to ensure that the product is still lathering towards a milky white hue. Now to touch on our supposedly abrupt rubbishing of the beauty belief that if one is ‘fair’, then only can one be `lovely’. In the case of men, handsome is he, who is fair, so thus, stock up on this talismanic tube to have girls swooning all over. (Going by this, post-marital affairs would be an expected norm of life!) We, Indians without being egged on by America’s refreshed catchline, ‘Black is Beautiful’ are, for the most, rabidly racist. Being Gori-Chitti or Gora-Chitta is more than an asset—it opens gateways to the hall of success and fame, drawing out a lifelong policy of happiness. Some quick screenshots to fit in before this pen finds itself out of paper. Many years back, there was a TV commercial where a girl, seeking a job of a flight-attendant is interviewed, by a not-so-friendly panel of ‘experts’. Her father, who had escorted her, stands with a parched throat, yet hopeful prayer, that his daughter would get the job…She, after all, fitted the bill, down to the last letter. Interview ends with rejection stamped all over her dusky face. Fast-forward to some 4 weeks later and the same gal, once again appears for the same job interview. A picture of confidence personified, with her hands prancing in the air while taking on a volley of questions by the same panel, who now are, both affable and enthused. Minutes later, the daughter glides back this time round, to an optimistic father. Thanks to the power of ‘Fair & Lovely’, she would now be soaring the skies in her bright uniform with a pearl-white face. It is the snow-white tone that launches her career, makes her brazenly sexy, gives her that icy chic edge that would lead way to a money-bags life-partner, who shall sweep her off her feet while she is on sky-high duty. Overwhelmingly ugh (scoured high and low for another word but it is only ‘ugh’ that is custom-fit) and to think prayers being answered by this whitening cream! And it is no secret that if the money is good enough, as to buy an island, with all the modern, fancy trappings, our film stars would endorse a circus. So Shah Rukh Khan tells the boy next door bearing a swarthy, pimply complexion (this conveying that not being fair implies ugliness) that if he, with religious regularity, uses ‘Fair & Handsome’ would not become a Shah Rukh Khan, as desired by this inky-faced young man, but would definitely find happiness. After the application, it is not only his hue that changes but his facial features too, suddenly become distinguishable once the coat of unlighted skin is shown the light of day, courtesy the mentioned whitener, meant only for macho rind. However, hold on before we further enter into the ‘Kingdom of Fairhood’, a place where life is, nothing but fair and fun. What can one say about our matrimonial ads, ‘Want a very fair, convent educated bride, possessing housekeeping-cooking expertise and a caring heart for husband and his family.’ The premium we lay on chalk-white— despite our 21st century claims of men and women being equal—the misogynistic stance towards the ‘fairer sex’ lives on. Back to our celebrities, whose every word we hang on to, believing that SRK uses the products, he so sure-footedly croons over. Would he not rather be caught dead before housing such cosmetics in his toiletry cabinet?! For his kilt there is laser-lightening technology to do the ‘needful’. Ditto for Hrithik Roshan, John Abraham etc. and etc. Remember Priyanka Chopra’s Garnier ad, where after applying the lightening cream, her eyes also managed to take on a lighter shade. A Genie bottled in this wonder cream!
I guess, ‘Handsome is he, who handsome does’ is a mere saying. The only applicable query being, ‘Mirror, Mirror on the wall, who is the Fairest of them All?’ And Martin Luther King’s, ‘I have a Dream…’ remains just that, a dream. A Pipe Dream.
Dr Renée Ranchan writes on socio-psychological issues, quasi-political matters and concerns that touch us all.