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June 4, 2009

BangaLore #23: All that glitters is gold

by Sonalee Rau, Online Staff Writer
Every country has its own, sometimes unrealistic, perceptions about what it is to be beautiful. India is no exception. In Bangalore, there is a long unwritten list of requirements for "beauty" and it pushes people to their limits.

The primary fascination here is with gold: a status symbol. There's even a holiday devoted to buying new gold jewelry, Akshaya Tritiya. Indian girls are expected to have their ears pierced and wear gold earrings within their first year of life. And clothing designers actually embroider gold onto saris (only silk saris, of course; and when buying a sari, you must look carefully all over the fabric for the "silk mark" which only authentic silks bear, or you may find yourself buying - GASP - a rayon-silk blend.) The purchase of gold is an integral part of Indian culture and tradition, but it has been commercialized to the point of no return. Today, it is prioritized by Indians to the extent that those who do not own a significant amount of gold are labeled lowly and ridiculed.

And the effects of Indian beauty stereotypes can be far more pernicious - one example being the widespread obsession with having light skin. Women berate themselves for being born dark and resort to external aids to turn themselves fairer. Companies from Vaseline to L'Oreal are taking advantage of the market for skin-lightening potions and creams in India; the Fair 'n' Lovely line of products is a household name here.

The supposed superiority of light skin affects mostly women, but men perpetuate the myth. Shopkeepers who display fancy Indian outfits in store windows choose mannequins with blonde hair and white skin, despite the fact that this is a completely unrealistic representation of the typical Indian consumer.

The inability of the average Indian to find beauty within themselves rather than looking outwards is sparked, to a great extent, by this type of closed-minded behavior which brainwashes consumers. In many ways, the people who live on the streets, far removed from this world of consumer targeting and stereotypes and unconcerned about external appearance, are the most beautiful of all.



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  • yayy sonalee on June 5, 2009 at 1:46 PM
    sonalee you always write so well! :)
  • Tasnia on June 7, 2009 at 2:53 PM
    Fair and Lovely is so so so so ridiculous. Like i can't believe that product exists.

    ps- i love you.
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