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Being fair to the ‘un’fair

Dr. Ujwala Shenoy Karmarkar

Dr. Ujwala Shenoy Karmarkar

This blog post has been contributed by Dr. Ujwala Shenoy Karmarkar, a practising Anesthesiologist in Mumbai.  She also blogs at http://ujwalasblog.wordpress.com.

After a long and painful labour of about eight hours, she delivered the eight-pound-baby-girl by Caesarean section, for which I gave anaesthesia. The baby was whisked off to the N.I.C.U. As I walk out of the operating room, the waiting relatives, which included the two grandmothers, have just one question, “Baby ka rang kaisa hai?” What is the complexion of the baby?

I am stunned and flabbergasted for, naturally, amidst all the flurry of the surgery, who had noticed? Certainly not I !!! I DO notice that they are both not very fair-complexioned, which meant that genetics would dictate that the baby would be “unfair”. RolIing my eyes heavenward, I  say a silent prayer that the baby will be brought up without a constant lament about her colour or made to slather her face and body with some fairness cream or whitening agents, which promise much to “unfair” women.


This poses an age-old question. Do we subconsciously give brownie (no pun intended) points to a person due to their colour? How many of us as siblings, bosses, colleagues and friends and worse, as family, end up gravitating towards, favouring, befriending and overlooking faults of people who are of a lighter complexion? Are we still affected by, as one wit put it, ‘global pigmentocracy’?

Surfing the net, I came across two separate articles related to President Obama’s election campaign.



These allege that the opposing camp floated ads (unsuccessful) in which the colour of his skin was darkened by several shades to present him as a negative figure, pointing to the shallowness of criteria that are perceived as desirable for even presidential candidates.

 CHILDHOOD-an age of forming opinions

A group of us were discussing this one day and one of us remarked that she had some very hurtful moments as a child because she had been “dusky”. Moreover, she was many shades darker than her sister, which made for some terrible comparisons as a child. This is what probably made her competitive as a child, always striving to excelg in every field, including sports and academics. As she dryly put it, “Everyone was worried that I would tan; so I would swim and play to my heart’s content, just to provoke them.”


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ParentEdge is a bi-monthly magazine for discerning Indian parents who would like to actively contribute to their children’s education, intellectual enrichment and stimulation. The magazine’s premise is that learning is a continuous process, and needs to happen both in and outside of school; thus parents have an important role to play in shaping their children’s interests and intellect.

8 thoughts on “Being fair to the ‘un’fair

  1. TJ

    As a dark complexioned girl, often had to hear grandparents in anxiety – oh who will marry her…but it was my good fortune, that my parents did not fuel this beauty bias and helped us focus on being independent minds and free spirited which I can confidently pass on to my own daughter. Not just that – my dark skin has its own benefits – I enjoy the fact that my dark skin ages slower than my fair skinned friends ;-P

    1. Ujwala

      TJ- I think it is definitely an evolved way of thinking that is free of shallow criteria such as complexion.
      And yes, slow aging is definitely a plus!!!

  2. mansi

    Beautiful write-up…. its very unfair when ones character or behaviour is sometimes judged purely based on the skin colour :(

  3. sangeeta

    Hmmmm…personal experience. wheatish complexion in uk is a head turner. So enjoy the attention. As india sells more fairness cream UK sells more tanning creams and lotions.


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