New Delhi: "Looking for a slim, homely and fair girl for our son" - that is usually how most matrimonial ads read, the stress being on the word "fair". Many say it is proof of our obsession with a person`s skin colour.
Twenty-five-year-old Anuradha Nigam (name changed) had to pay the price for being dusky when her boyfriend`s mother rejected her because she was "not fair".
"I felt dejected! It was a terrible feeling that skin colour was given preference over my feelings for the person whom I was in love with. Unfortunately, he too succumbed to the pressure from his family and we parted ways. It is ironic but true," said Nigam.
"Though he chose to marry a fair-skinned girl, he regretted it later when they realised there was no compatibility between them," she said.
Samir Parikh, consultant psychiatrist at Max Healthcare in New Delhi, told reporters: "Perception of what is desirable and not desirable in a prospective bride is to a large extent based upon the information that we receive and form our opinions on. As a result, a number of biases can creep into our way of thinking and the way we look at situations and think about the way things are."
Anup Dhir, senior cosmetic surgeon at New Delhi`s Apollo Hospital, says obsession with fair skin has something to do with the British colonial era.
"Indians are usually obsessed with fair skin as they acquired this legacy from the British era. As our rulers were fair skinned, we also run after fair complexion," Dhir said.
According to experts, a fair skinned person is considered attractive regardless of whether that person has a symmetrical face or a healthy figure.
"People are generally obsessed with a thing which they adore but do not have," Dhir added.
Markets too are loaded with fairness creams that promise to turn your complexion fair.
Psychiatrist Sanjay Chugh agrees and says the craze for fair skin has been aggressively marketed.
"Over the years many Indians have been programmed to equate fair skin with beauty, success and happiness. This craze for white skin has been aggressively marketed. In advertisements, it is always shown that in order to be successful, liked and approved by others, one needs to have fair skin," Chugh told reporters.
"Unfortunately, people are only concerned about surface level beauty and pay little attention to a person`s character, intelligence and other essential personality traits that make people complete as individuals," he added.
Dhir says he receives queries from around five to eight women every week who want to become "fair".
Is it really possible to become fair?
"Well, all these fairness creams normally have sunscreens that protect your skin from harsh ultraviolet rays. But they can`t make you fair just like that. Even what we promise is that with chemical peels skin can become fairer and even toned to the extent of non sun-exposed skin," Dhir said.
"But one can`t achieve impossible results like becoming fair like foreigners," he added.