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Indian obsession with Western ideas of beauty

For decades, being fair and slim has been the ultimate desire in Indian society

M Saraswathy 

M Saraswathy

An advertisement for a gymnasium in Pune has become viral on both, and Though the fitness institute may just be like your neighbourhood gym, the print ad depicted a slightly healthier looking woman in a wedding outfit, with the words, 'Please Marry Me', below the picture. Mocking the weight-related issues of the lady, and in an attempt to portray how desperate she was, the ad went to mention how there would be no pregnancy fat and high restaurant bills if one married her. This was since she was already fat and perennially on a diet. Though it drew sharp criticism on social media, it was a depiction of the Indian attitude and perceptions with respect to the term 'beautiful'.

Everybody in this country wants to marry a tall, slim and fair girl, as reflected by These three terms denote 'beauty' in the Indian context. The aforementioned ad too, had a concluding statement, 'Don't beg people to get married to you and opt for a compromise. Become thin and find the man of your dreams'. Whether it is worth becoming thin, only for marrying a man is an argument that can be brought forward.


For decades, being fair and slim has been the ultimate desire in Indian society. Whether or not the individual girl wishes to have these attributes, the family and relatives will aspire for these features. After all, this is the entry ticket to finding a perfect groom. This is the market, which the and whitening products of the world are thriving on. Whether it is talcum powder to impress the husband, or a serum to instantly reduce wrinkles to rekindle the 'romance' in a relationship, the companies solely rely on the consumer fantasy to look young and fair, and hence beautiful.

Men too, of late, have begun to face the brunt of the obsession. From a time when dark and handsome were the adjectives associated with males, the consumer goods companies have started to emphasise on the need to have fair men. The product proposition is similar, wear X fairness cream to be with 'the' girl. In fact, reports suggest that the men's fairness-cream market is growing in double digits.

Fitness is a personal decision that an individual usually take, purely from a health perspective and not as a means of  meeting other ends. Similarly, skin-care is a personal need. Though the fitness institute ad was an eye-catcher for prospective females, it was a reflection of what Indian society perceives to be proper.

As long as one has a healthy skin and a healthy body, being fair or thin does not really matter. If an individual is confident about the way he/she looks, no person in the world does or will have any right to comment on their looks or make attempts to alter it.

First Published: Mon, October 07 2013. 13:21 IST
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