Indians are obsessed with fairness. Our movies, fashion industry, advertisements, the nauseating matrimonial ads looking for "fair" brides, they all, directly or indirectly, tell us one thing. Fair women are beautiful. Fair women will be successful. Fair women will get good partners. The paler, the better.
No wonder India has a booming multi-billion-dollar skin lightening industry.
Every once in a while, we may get an actor who will be called "dusky", but that's how far we can go. We are far from accepting different shades of dark.
Given this, the fact that a recent picture of three beautiful dark women has gone viral in India is a refreshing change from the usual colour prejudice.
Although it is unclear whether the women in the photo are from India – the original photo was posted by a user called Abirami Ravichandran Pillai on Instagram, according to HuffPost Women – the fact that many Indians have come forward to break away from the 'only-fair-is-beautiful' thinking is heartwarming.
Take a look at the comments the picture, which has over 30,000 shares so far, has received:
"Bollywood take note!," wrote one person.
Another said, "They are so beautiful. Their skin is radiant."
"The women (sic) in front taking the selfie is really pretty just the difference is if she was fair she would be considered one of the prettiest. Such discrimination," said one user.
Only recently, Bollywood actor Abhay Deol named and shamed Bollywood stars for endorsing fairness creams.
However, there's still a long way to go. Several memes that surface routinely on social media only show how classism and casteism are deep-seated in the Indian psyche.
The memes have a picture of a dark, "fat" woman stating she will only marry a Rahul (insert any other name). The caption asks people to tag all the Rahuls on their friend list.
Get the joke? Women who are dark and "fat" are undesirable. Which Rahul would want to marry them? It doesn't matter if the women even find "Rahul" desirable in the first place. Because body shaming is cool and definitely not problematic (ugh).
Not surprising then that our textbooks tell our children what is the perfect figure young girls and boys should aspire to attain.
(This story was first published on The News Minute)