‘White Is Right’ Season II : Destination India


(Picture courtesy BigFishMag)

The Klu Klux Klan was known for three things mainly – The colourful name – Apparently derived from the sound produced when a firearm is cocked, the colourful wardrobe  – full length robes with pointy hats and capes that covered their faces, and the coulourless refrain – White Is Right

When the Klansmen used this brilliant turn of phrase, I wonder if they thought it would one day epitomise the Indian cosmetics industry. I don’t think they did. If they were that farsighted, they would’ve come up with a costume that actually allowed them to breathe.

Let’s start with a popular advertisement doing the rounds in Indian television today. It’s for a brand of soap called ‘Indulekha’


The ad begins with a girl with a stunning white complexion walking in for an interview. The interviewer (a popular regional actor) looks at her in silent contemplation. It is clear that she is white enough to deserve the job. But something is bugging him.

He looks at her carefully, and then asks – Have you interviewed for the job before?

The girl smiles a brilliant smile, and nods. There is a brief flashback to the last time the interview took place. (It is a pity the director had to resort to flashbacks during a 30-second commercial, but that is a discussion for another time). What was different the last time? She was…Browner.

The interviewer makes a brilliant deduction – You’ve switched soaps haven’t you? Indulekha white soap? The girls smiles whitely, marveling at his intelligence. (How could someone be this handsome and intelligent?)

The ad concludes with both of them shaking hands. She’s got the job! Aww… that’s mighty white of him. That’s right folks, use Indulekha WHITENING soap for a better, whiter, happier tomorrow…

The interviewer is Mammootty (stop staring at the name). He is a popular actor in South India.

A fellow netizen got so riled up by the ad, he did this.


Can’t say that I blame him. Where would the cosmetics companies be today without Photoshop?

Here, I give present the names of a few popular cosmetics brands doing the rounds in India today:

  • Fair & Lovely
  • Emami Fair & Handsome
  • Solutions fairness cream
  • Fairever
  • FairOne
  • Nivea skin whitening cream
  • White this, fair that, and a lot more


The list is long and ominous. What’s worse is that many of them use ingredients that damage the skin and inhibit production of melanin that gives the skin its’ natural complexion. Not to mention the thousands of animals that die in the altars of testing. Where is PETA when you need them? We could use some militancy right now.

Some cosmetics companies have gone as far as to issue ‘white-cards’ that help you grade your ‘fairness’ and measure your journey to white paradise.


I wonder – If everyone in the interview used the white soap, and thus, had white faces, what then would be the criteria for selection? Perhaps the interviewer would examine the armpits of said interviewees to determine which armpits tended the most to the white end of the colour spectrum… Yes that sounds completely plausible.

There is even a deodorant now that promises to whiten your armpits along with deodorising it.


Hmm…Problem solved.

From being a stewardess for the airlines, to being an actor, doctor, engineer, cricket player – sky is the limit for people with fairness.

I would have been offended for ‘my people’, if ‘my people’ weren’t doing it in the first place. There are black barbies, brown barbies, and healthy fat barbies selling in department stores in the west these days. Some of these need to be urgently shipped to India, before the ‘fairness epidemic’ starts affecting the kids in our country, and they start apologizing to each other for being brown.

I could write about how beauty lies in the eyes of the cosmetic companies, or how these idiots reinforce stereotypes of what constitutes beautiful. Or about the lakhs of gullible young children who unwittingly fall prey to these kamikaze-style marketing campaigns. Or the fact that most of these campaigns are spearheaded by Film stars or Sports players or even Olympians who these kids look up to as role models.

But I’m not. I’m going to do what I do best – Hate them. Period.


14 thoughts on “‘White Is Right’ Season II : Destination India

  1. Having lived in Thailand, Malaysia, and Japan, am not surprised as those products are there too. The poorer people in Thailand cover their faces and bodies so they don’t tan and look poor. Is it the same there?

  2. To tell you the truth, I always thought Ku Klux Klan sounded like a baby’s unintelligible babble, and their costume was dumb. Probably that’s why they needed the guns, coz everything else about their group was silly. You’re spot on with your observations about the obsession with fair skin though.

  3. What I find ironic is that many “white” people here in the US spend a lot of time money to be darker. Whether it be tanning, spray on tanning, make up, etc. a darker skin tone is generally viewed as more desirable. Rather than a racial issue I think this comes down to a lifestyle question. In the US most of us spend our days under fluorescent lights and not in the sun, only the really successful (the image sellers would have you believe) sport the tanned perfection that can only come from days spent lounging by the pool so “white” Americans spend millions to be darker. There where times, not too long ago, that it was the opposite. A man or woman who was tanned must be poor and fairer complexions were more desirable. The same holds true for body weight as well. When most (poorer) people in the US were skinny and underfed a “healthy figure” was the preferred body style. Now skinnier is better since most of us lack the time and money to maintain a “successful lifestyle” body.
    It basically comes down to the image sellers (I hate them too) selling you on whatever is less common.

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