This girl was walking around the boat with a file folder in front of her head. I wondered why. Then I realized she was trying to keep out of the sun. There’s still a stigma on darkness in the subcontinent, now bolstered by Shah Rukh Khan and John Abraham hawking Fair And Handsome (or Fair And Lovely). That plus the invariable comments from aunties about kalu vela (you got dark). I do use sunscreen, this sun is vicious, but I think the fairness cream is going a bit far. There’s a Last Mango In Paris song that covers the phenomenon well, I think(Download MP3). Beyond that, I know a few girls who avoid going out at all during the day, which I find estrange. Being dark is not such a bad thing, it’s actually kinda hot. Literally I guess.
I’ve been reading this book on globalization called ‘Bound Together‘ and it had some interesting science on the subject. To quote:
“Because melanin acts as an effective sunscreen, it protects dark-skinned individuals from sunburn and skin cancer. The sun’s radiation destroys an essential nutrient, folic acid, connected with fertility, thus producing a lesser number of progenies and shaping evolution. But the human body’s need for sunlight to synthesize vitamin D, an essential ingredient for calcium intake and strong bones, exerted a different pressure on humans as they moved to the northern hemisphere. There, under a weaker sun and with fewer sunny days, the natural selection process favored those with lighter skins. The people who lacked melanin could absorb more sunlight to make vitamin D. Indeed, mothers’ greater need for vitamin D is believed to explain why in every population women’s skin color is 3 to 4 percent lighter than men’s.”
So I say, there seems to be some evolutionary drive towards our collective unconscious preference for lighter skin. It seems that you can get enough vitamin D by eating fish, but still. I always thought the fairness thing was about looking somehow Aryan or colonizer rather than colonized, but it is interesting that there’s a fertility link (the main driver of evolution) and a sizable sex difference. None of this really means, however, that a girl needs to be fair. Or, for that matter, a boy. But it may explain, to a degree, why the aunties keep asking.