Indians are obsessed with "fairness". Our movies, fashion industry, advertisements, the nauseating matrimonial ads looking for "fair" women, they all, directly or indirectly tell us one thing. Fair women are beautiful. Fair women will be successful. Fair women will get good partners. The paler the better.
No wonder that India has a booming multi-billion dollar skin lightening industry.
Every once in a while, we may get an actor who will be called "dusky", but that's how far we can go. We are far from accepting different shades of dark.
Given this, the fact that a recent picture of three beautiful dark women has gone viral in India, is a refreshing change from the usual colour prejudice.
Uploaded on The Uncanny Truth Teller 2 Facebook page, the caption of the picture reads, "The Faces of India they won't show you."
Although it is unclear whether the women in the photo are from India - the original photo was posted by a user called Abirami Ravichandran Pillai on instagram, according to HuffPost Women - the fact that many Indians have come forward to break away from the 'only-fair-is-beautiful' thinking is heartwarming.
Take a look at the comments the picture, which has over 30,000 shares so far, has received:
"Bollywood take. Note!," wrote one person.
Another said, "They are so beautiful. Their skin is radiant."
"The women (sic) in front taking the selfie is really pretty just the difference is if she was fair she would be considered one of the prettiest. Such discrimination," said one user.
"Thank you for this. These people look absolutely gorgeous. (Ps if they are wearing foundation I want to know which brand cares enough to carry darker shades as I haven't even found one)," stated one.
"Finally!! I always get "you're to dark to be Indian" lmfaooo ! Like uhm Indian people comes in all shades !," (sic) said another user.
Speaking about Bollywood's fixation with fair skin, one woman said, "Darker Indians are not showcased in the media, they get as tan as Kajol. We know darker Indians exist but look at Bollywood... they are all so fair, Kajol was even criticized for being dark and she is just tanned."
One person narrated how kids to weren't spared when it came to discrimination on the basis of skin colour. "I babysit and in my area there's a lot of Asian families with kids already dealing with micro aggressions in elementary school. There's this extra discrimination a lot of the Indian and other Southeast kids face because other schoolmates don't believe they're Asian-American. They're "too dark" so they get deliberately misidentified as Latino, African, or Arabic instead. Even after the kid's explained it, which it's ridiculous a kid should have to explain that in the first place. All awesome, smart, funny kids and beautiful like the women here. Hope a day comes where a nine year old doesn't have to explain to an adult educator where India is on a map."
Only recently, Bollywood actor Abhay Deol named and shamed Bollywood stars for endorsing fairness creams.
However, there's still a long way to go. Several memes that surface routinely on social media only show how classism and casteism are deep-seated in the Indian psyche.
The memes have a picture of a dark, "fat" woman stating she will only marry a Rahul (insert any other name). The caption asks people to tag all the Rahuls on their friend list.
Get the joke? Women who are dark and "fat" are undesirable. Which Rahul would want to marry them? It doesn't matter if the women even find "Rahul" desirable in the first place. Because body shaming is cool and definitely not problematic (ugh).
Not surprising then that our textbooks tell our children what is the perfect figure young girls and boys should aspire to attain.
Note: The earlier version of the piece was not clear in stating that the ethnicity of the women was under doubt, and that they might not be Indian. The piece was and remains about Indian prejudices, not that the women were Indian. This has now been clarified. The error is regretted.