Fair and (Therefore) Lovely by Vibha Shetiya

VibahAccording to the Great Indian Cultural Lexicon, being light-skinned or “fair” translates to being “lovely.” A look at commercials that promise a make-over, courtesy of Fair and Lovely skin lightening cream will attest to this. [1] The definition, of course, applies to women, for that is where a woman’s identity begins and ends – within the realm of physical appearances. When the product first came out some three decades or so ago, it was mostly about being able to draw the attention of a (very often ordinary-looking) guy; the fairness/ beauty rule does not apply to men.[2] These days, things have “progressed”; the attention has shifted from the need to getting hitched to finding success in the workplace, as these messages scream out:




The last one is especially cringe-worthy. The lengthy commercial, meant to be a public service message of sorts, targets women in villages and smaller towns, and goes into great detail about issues of women’s empowerment, about how they ought to think of a career now that they are done with college rather than go the usual marriage route. One of the young ladies, Manju, aspires to be a Collector, a high-ranking government official, a post usually limited to males. She works hard, and she also gets Fair and Lovely to work hard, as she happily lets us know. She eventually achieves her dream, all thanks to Fair and Lovely, of course. You decide what the audience is to get from this. Continue reading “Fair and (Therefore) Lovely by Vibha Shetiya”

Deepa Mehta’s “​Water” and Homegrown Indian Feminism by Amy Levin

In the first scene of the Deepa Mehta’s 2005 Indian film Water, a father tells his eight year old daughter, Chuyia, “Child. Do you remember getting married? Your husband is dead. You’re a widow now.”  These are some of the last words Chuyia hears from anyone familiar to her, as her condition abandons her in an ashram for Hindu widows to spend the rest of her life in renunciation. Chuyia, failing to realize her condition upon arrival, enters the ashram innocent and naive, as the elderly widows surround her and one proceeds shave her soft head.  Watching Chuyia begin to understand her circumstance as she terrifyingly runs for escape screaming for her family, one can only feel a tragic catharsis watching an eight year old being sentenced to life in prison for a “crime” she did not commit. The ideas and criticisms that come to one’s mind are undoubtedly what writer and director, Deepa Mehta, aimed to evoke – injustice, patriarchy, and oppression by way of religion.  Continue reading “Deepa Mehta’s “​Water” and Homegrown Indian Feminism by Amy Levin”

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