You Are Ugly and You Know It

My uncle’s wife applies tamarind powder to the face of her two year old daughter every day. She wants the baby’s skin to be lighter and if possible fairer. No one likes dark-skinned people, not even their mothers. Now don’t ask why. I am sure you aren’t that stupid. It’s because dark people are plain ugly!


My cousin was in the “marriage market” for three years. In those three years, at least 10-15 boys (no one really kept a count, so this is just a guess) would have come for the uniquely Indian “bride-watching” programme of hers. And every one of them rejected her, citing the very same reason, that she was dark! After all, dark people are ugly, and who will want to marry an ugly person?

A well-intentioned aunt once told my sister, “You are so smart and well-educated. Only if you were a little fairer: you would have got such a nice husband.” Well, after all, why will a “nice” man would want to marry a dark-skinned girl? Aren’t dark-skinned girls ugly?

Nandita Das

Nandita Das: A respected Indian newspaper published a photograph of me online which had been lightened so drastically by the art director’s magic wand that I called the editor to complain and he apologised and replaced it with the original. The art director had thought he was doing me a favour by whitening my skin.

If you aren’t convinced yet, just switch on your television set. Even your beloved Bollywood superstars will tell you the exact same thing. Fair is beautiful, and dark is so ugly. You want a husband? You want success? You want fame? You want to gain self-esteem? Four problems – one solution: get a fair-skinned body!

Why is this so? Why can people not look for beauty in dark-skinned people too? So much for the proverb “beauty is in the eyes of the beholder”. But, fundamentally, why should be there such an obsession with beauty at all? Are people historical forts, Taj Mahal, or the flowers on Kaas Plateau? Why can we not judge a person by their nature and their world view? After all, that is what will ultimately decide if someone can be compatible with you – may it be in a relationship, friendship or business.


This belief that only fair skin is beautiful is so ingrained in our Indian psyche that it reflexively manifests in various aspects of our life. This mindset is not something that advertisements have generated, but they help perpetuate it and make it socially acceptable. It’s time to stop and think. It’s time to appreciate every skin tone. It’s time to appreciate humans for who they are and not for how they look.


2 thoughts on “You Are Ugly and You Know It

  1. I think the obsession for fair skin in India stems from the fact that we are a race of mixed color. Some Indians are very fair, whereas others are dark. Often in the mythology and stories, the dark people were depicted as villains whereas the fair ones were heroes or heroines. I don’t get to watch the stupid ads much because I don’t have a cable connection.
    Even though Taj Mahal is beautiful building you don’t want to live in it. It is the warmth of your home that welcomes you always. Only if people were wise to realize this simple truth.

    • Farida your comment was the icing on the cake! The post was lovely as it is, you’ve added to the allure.

      Indian obsession with fairness has made us the laughing stock of the whole world. It is ridiculous really!

      Merry Christmas Tejas!

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