Goray rang ka zamana is over, Zubaida Aapa

Published: May 16, 2014
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Zubaida Aapa is known for her “totkas”, but one didn't think she would also support a post-colonial mindset! Photo: Online/File

So my fellow kaloos and kaliaas, get up before it’s too late and let’s end the reign of Fair and Lovely and start the era of Brown and Hairy. If our six-point agenda is not enforced we will have an unfair men march against the societies unfairness — D-Chowk here we come!”– Ali Gul Pir

I fully support you Ali in your mission, in fact here are my two cents, lets add one more point to that list; zero tolerance against any patronage paid to Gora Rang!

This satire beautifully states the irony of our mind-sets. Having been independent for almost 70 years now, our subordination to the “Gori Chamri” still prevails in our minds.

I have outright detested all the commercials presented in the media that have shown a condescending view to the South Asian colour tone. For years, to our horror, we have come across advertisements boasting one ‘important’ quality of particular creams, bleaches and beauty products in Pakistan, they promise to make you fair. It’s about time we ask how fair complexion is better or more desirable than caramel or dark complexion; this post-colonial mind-set has to be given a full stop, once and for all.

I am sure many of us will be able to recall famous taglines used back in the day like,

“Ab pandra minute main ho gayee main gori gori”

(Now, in 15 minutes, I can become fair!) 

Or,

Sirf English dulhan banaye baki baatein banayen”

(Only English cream can make you a fair bride, the rest only talk.) 

We have also seen advertisements where a poor village girl applies a cream and gets drastically fair, hence, the doors to her fortune open up forever and in the very next scene a rich city-boy with a cool car decides to marry her. As if the only purpose she had in life was to get married and applying the cream helped her reach this state of Nirvana.

Lately, apart from one or two low grade commercial directly imposing the necessity of a fair complexion, bigger brands and recognised celebrities have been seen endorsing these ideas as well. While some have tried to remain cautious by disguising the same product as one that can be used to revitalise skin and just happens to be a fairness product too. Others have made a conscious effort to move away from saying ‘fairer skin’ altogether towards ‘softer skin’, which is commendable.

To my utter disappointment, however, there still is an affluent segment of society that gives it’s blessings to the fairness brigade. A few days ago, I came across a commercial on social media of a beauty soap being endorsed by none other than our very respectable Zubaida Tariq (fondly referred to as Zubaida Aapa).

The product’s name is ‘Zubaida Aapa Whitening Soap’. 

In the commercial it’s announced in a very matter-of-fact tone that the parameter of beauty lies within one’s complexion and the tag line promises that,

‘Ab gora hoga Pakistan’

(Now Pakistan will be fair)

Just the fact that a product such as this is endorsed by a well-reputed celebrity, let alone named after her is cause of great angst. Generally, Zubaida Aapa is known for her “totkas”, or wisdom and household remedies, and has a rather large, loyal, following. But if this counts as one of her pearls of wisdom, we have a problem. The time for us to come out and protest against this unfair mindset is now. People like Zubaida apa, held in high esteem by the masses, have a responsibility towards the people to uphold, the responsibility not to mislead them by saying things like beauty only comes with fairness! These advertisements and endorsements just go to show how deeply we are still trapped in the post-colonial mindset when the ‘goras’ were our superiors and being gora meant being desirable and ‘having it all’.

This unhealthy obsession with having a fair complexion gives birth to many complexes, especially in adolescent girls. Often from an early age, mothers start taking care of their daughters’ skin tones; many not being permitted to leave the house during certain hours for fear of getting a tan. And if ubtan, Multani mithi and endless amounts of beauty products do not produce the necessary results, the child inevitably becomes the subject of ridicule, thus, resulting in an inferiority complex. This complex not only puts a damper on his/her self-esteem, it affects the child’s confidence and has the potential of causing irreparable damage to his/her personality.

We are South Asian Pakistanis, have a lovely caramel or chocolate shade to our complexion and should be proud of it. Yet, instead of taking pride in ourselves, we let ourselves be bullied into a fake world promised in such commercials; despite knowing that these advertisements are just a means to cash in on our weaknesses. But my question to the masses is why gora, why not kaala?

Mohammad Naved

Mohammad Naved

A graduate from LUMS with a BSc in Economics who currently works as a management trainee for Coca Cola Beverages Pakistan Limited in Lahore.

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.