The truth about black and white

Tracking the year’s biggest lifestyle trends & taboos in the search for a healthier way of life.

Two ads that put India in the line of fire internationally surround the issue of hierarchy of skin tone in our society. The WHO warning against skin lightening products, confirming that the common ingredient in lightening products, mercury, can damage the kidneys, reduce the skin's resistance to bacterial and fungal infections, cause anxiety, depression, psychosis and even peripheral neuropathy appears not to have dented the billion-dollar industry and the national obsession with whiter skin touched a new low.

Earlier this year, Bollywood actress Anushka Sharma appeared in an ad endorsing Nivea’s product for fairer underarms, encouraging women to “Go sleeveless on him.” Nivea also teamed up with MTV to launch a Facebook campaign asking women to submit photos of themselves in sleeveless dresses, terming it “The Biggest Freedom Movement for Women.”

And if there wasn’t already enough misogyny out there attacking the self-confidence of Indian women, the ad for vaginal whitening hit the spot.  The ad received scathing criticism on the grounds of gender exploitation, inappropriateness and bad taste, but the demand for whitening products in the Indian market remained impervious.

The ad shows a women ignored by her husband, who appears unable to bring himself to look at her, until she uses this magic product in the shower. Now fixed up with a whiter vagina, she is showered with love and attention, desirable again because of her shiny girl-parts. A third ad, for a product labelled 18 Again, promises women a tighter and “rejuventated” vagina to make them feel like a virgin again.

The cosmetic and advertising industry’s blatant exploitation of a country’s misguided desire for fairer skin causes irreparable damage to the self-esteem and perception, as they propagate racism and discrimination. Although feminist groups have tried to sue the makers of these products, the grounds on which they can do so are unclear since it is merely servicing our society’s ridiculous fixation.

  • Narendra Modi

    Narendra Modi

    From shaking up the very foundations of the Indian government to stirring up unseemly controversies, from showing incredible courage in the face of extreme adversities to losing a reputation built over years of hard work in just a blink of an eye, from setting the electoral hustings afire with golden speeches to getting into trouble for not speaking at all, there were many 'newsmakers' in 2012 who caught the common man's imagination. Some made it for stellar reasons, others for all there is wrong with the society. Here are 12 'newsmakers' that deserve a mention. More »

  • Kutch, Gujarat

    Kutch, Gujarat

    Trying to pick twelve travel destinations in India is a little like choosing the twelve best feathers on a peacock’s train, but pick we must. The most dramatic phenomenon we’ve observed in 2012 is the rising number of Indians choosing their own country for a great holiday. At one end of the spectrum, they are hitchhiking and backpacking. At the other they are patronising the most luxurious hotels and resorts once reserved for tourists brandishing wads of foreign exchange. Keen to experiment, they are experiencing everything from scuba-diving to cycling. Many are taking to wildlife and landscape photography with a passion. Here’s our selection of the 12 most captivating Indian holiday destinations of 2012. Feel free to argue but, most importantly, get up and pack! More »

  • Tendulkar’s 100th century

    Tendulkar’s 100th century

    Like any other year, this one too had its highs and lows, moments that captured the imagination for contrasting reasons. Here's a lowdown on what happened in the world of cricket in 2012. More »

  • Coalgate scam

    Coalgate scam

    It was an eventful year in the world of finance and business, one that actively involved all three actors: the government, people and even the common man. From violent employee agitations to controversial reform proposals and volatile economic indicators, we compile the twelve defining news events of 2012. More »

  • Aishwarya Rai-Bachchan

    Aishwarya Rai-Bachchan

    There was seldom a day which passed by without these celebs hogging the limelight. Here’s what they did More »