Will you marry only a fair-skinned girl?

“My mother jokes about how I am too dark to be her daughter” 

“Kaali ho rahi hai. Tujhse shaadi kaun karega”?

The latest Tweets? Let us hope not but beware of them! And perhaps go a step further. Like Kannan Mehta and her friends who designed and organized the ‘Kya aap sirf ek gori ladki se shaadi karenge?’ campaign [Will you marry only a fair-skinned girl? campaign] on one of the Bangalore's main streets in November 2009. Here's what I learned about the protest during an e-chat with Kannan a student of the Srishti School of Art, Design and Technology in the city. Read more

Hello again Kannan. Wonderful and important initiative. What was it about and why did you start it?

Our aim was to oppose the notion that only fair complexioned people are beautiful and can lead a happy and successful life. We sought to create a simple, peaceful yet thought provoking and and visually rich dialogue. It was the outcome of a workshop named The Aesthetics of Protest which explored the nature and context of protest intending to broaden learners' understanding of its aesthetics. It introduced the idea that the aesthetics involved in protests lie beyond iconography and visual forms and extend to the form of interaction of the protest and its subsequent and residual impact on both the participants and the observers.

Why do you think is it important to address this issue of skin colour bias?

We have all either been subjected to or seen someone being discriminated against on the basis of skin colour be it teasing a classmate in school or refusing a front desk job to a dark-skinned girl.

When, how and where did you conceptualize, design and implement this campaign? Did you need special permission from the BBMP, police, etc.? (BBMP is Bruhat Bangalore Mahanagar Palike, the city's Municipal Council).

This was a street activity for which we started a Facebook page called Dark and Lovely to inform people about the protest, inspire them to join and spread the message. We went to our location (Church Street, Bangalore) fairly early on a Sunday morning and painted slogans and phrases like “My mother wants me to marry a FAIR girl”, “I am too dark to apply for the job”, “It's no longer ‘Tall-Dark-Handsome”, now its ‘Fair and Handsome.” on the pavements. We didn't take permission from anybody, not even for painting the streets. That afternoon we returned to the same area and distributed the following 'meters' (wrist bands) to people based on their preferences:

1. Fairness meter

2. Darkness meter

3. Loveliness meter

What was the public response/participation - do you have information based on age, sex, socio-economic background, etc.?

We had basically planned this campaign for people in our age group (i.e., adolescents and early 20's) and gave them pieces of chalk to write down their ideas of beauty on the pavements. The responses we got were very subjective. While persons who had experienced this kind of discrimination could empathize, others thought that it was a fairly silly issue that we were protesting.

Did the police interfere, observe or were they absent?

They were supportive. In fact, they took the loveliness meters from us. Some did not wear them as they were on duty.

Did you consider other issues? If yes, why did you choose this?

We started with this and will be undertaking environmental campaigns like seed bombing, moss graffiti, etc. I will inform you when we do those.

Pushpa Achanta
(The author is a freelance writer, a Fellow of Citizen News Service (CNS) Writers' Bureau, and a community volunteer based in Bangalore, India)

Published in:
Citizen News Service (CNS), India/Thailand
Elites TV News, USA