A few days ago I was experiencing one of my low moods, when I noticed a girl who was very fair and well dressed. I, for no reason, had a wish to be as fair as her or at least wheatish. Within seconds I realized how ungrateful I was being: I am able to see the world in color, I can do things on my own, I can feel things around me, and walk without anyone’s help.

Starting from school days my class fellows used to bully and taunt me on my complexion; they made fun of me calling me ‘black.’ It always upset me a lot; however one day my father made me sit in his lap and said, “Beta have you seen the Kaaba? It is black; have you seen the crows and ants? They are black; have you seen the sky at night? It is black – which shows it is Allah’s favorite color. Your class fellows are jealous of your complexion, which is why they are teasing you.”

Even though it was the best thing to say, yet I was too young to understand that he was just trying to pacify me. But when I grew up I saw that sick mindset did not exist only in kids but in the society as a whole.

Although there are people, even though a handful, who believe that dark complexion is more attractive than fair skin. Otherwise most people do not approve of dark complexion, be it in men or women. This issue is not restricted to the present, if we go back into history we see that color has changed the dynamics of world politics and till today people are murdered on the basis of the colour of their skin in some parts of the world.

Back to Pakistan: every time I go to the cosmetics section in a store the sales person tells me about the latest “fairness” creams on their shelves. Watching TV I am flooded with useless advertisements of “main gori gori” bleach creams. If I want to wear a specific color dress, I am lectured on what color would suit my personality and complexion, and I hear this even when I wear make up! Another childhood memory is being told not to drink tea as it will make me dark – I was told to drink milk. The same advice is given to pregnant ladies who are told to eat fair color fruits and no dark vegetables so they have a “gori beti,” – such advisors are least concerned that the child should be healthy and unhandicapped.

So, why are we so obsessed with the “color” of a girl?

When one is eligible for marriage the “to-be grooms” start demanding a “snow white” and “to-be mothers-in-law, start looking for “gori bahus” with a good height and pretty looks. And how many of these mothers, soon after marriage, curse the same gori and piyari bahu and accuse her of stealing their sons away from them? Some even making sure the same wonderful girl gets divorced for wanting a say in her life!

What if girls start turning the tables and say “we want a handsome ‘gora’ husband” not just some average walking man on the road? Or a man without mustache/beard; or a man who is not bald or semi bald? Why can we not say we want a man who looks good?

Why is a girl who has a dark complexion not seen like any other human who has the brains to think and the heart to feel things around her? She can be a wonderful wife, professional lady, a fantastic mother, and just… her wonderful self. This thought can only awaken in society when these models and actresses start refusing to partake in advertisements of whitening creams, soaps, and lotions. Recently, fairness creams for men have also hit the market. Yes, for men! For heaven’s sake, try to be a man first – if only you knew what that is.

When our elders used to say, may our joints remain safe and healthy (gitay goday salmat rehan) it was for a reason. People can fake a smile when they meet you and still think that you are dark and an average person but I can guarantee you, if you are disabled they will never be there for you.

Complexion for all human beings and their appearance is a gift of the Divine; accept this fact and thank your God that you are not dependent on anyone.