Goray rang ka zamana is over, Zubaida Aapa

Published: May 16, 2014

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!) 


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.

  • Hamza

    Oh God…..You have got to be kidding me
    So now if a girl herself wants to have a fair color, then she is subordinate to the “Gori chamri” and wants to live under British rule.
    If a girl wants to be fair just because she thinks it makes her more beautiful (though I don’t personally believe skin color has anything to do with beauty) then let her be! What’s your problem? For the last time, stop interfering in the lives of other peopleRecommend

  • Safwan

    She is too old to understan this. . . .Recommend

  • Hasan

    Come on man! Ali Gul Pir has already done this.Recommend

  • Pakistani

    Why Kaala though? Im a pathan, so I am naturally fair, like the Aryans I am descended from. Why are people of my ethnicity not included in all these blogs talking about how we are ‘kaala’ and need to be proud. I am as much a Pakistani as any kaala person, yet in all these blogs, the description of a Pakistani is a ‘Kaala’ or ‘Brown’ person. I find this extremely unfair. Its not the era of Kaala or Gora, we have a wide range of ethnicities in this beautiful country of ours and we need to appreciate and include all of them.Recommend

  • Supriya Arcot

    I don’t know how fair is ‘fair ‘ for these people. There is no ‘fairest’ colour as such. In place of ‘fair’ , they should strive for clear and clean skin without blemishes or scars etc., Being not so fair myself ,I can safely say that these creams mostly are for the face and neck area. So what happens to the rest of our exposed body parts like hands / elbows / feet ? A girl with a fair face and dark hands and feet will look comical.Recommend


    We Pakistanis just aren’t secure enough to be comfortable in our own skins, whether it’s wanting to be fairer or trying to be like our Arab “brethren”. We disown our subcontinental heritage i.e India for groups who we can neither join or emulate with our dignity intact.Recommend

  • Whatever

    “We are South Asian Pakistanis, have a lovely caramel or chocolate shade to our complexion and should be proud of it.”
    What a myopic view of being “Pakistani” where you begin to limit Pakistan to the places you have visited and maybe in the process you completely ignore the fair-skinned Pakhtuns who I believe make one province and are half the population in another. There is no Pakistani race, Pakistan is a diverse country with many different cultures and its time that the empty rhetoric of one nation is changed so that culture of each province is given importance and Pakistan is presented as a country of diversity, which is a good thing.Recommend

  • noorilhuda

    Considering the family she belongs to – Anwar Maqsood, Bajiya etc. – one would think she would be the last person to endorse bigoted illiterate mindset that is bane of girls in Pakistan. Plus, if she really knew how to be fair, she would have had a lighter skin tone ages ago! She’s still dark! All done for two-paisas!Recommend

  • James Jules

    this article is utterly pointless, probably an expression of the authors own inner insecurities. If you do want to argue about something worthwhile, maybe you can argue about how advertisements should adopt social responsibility .Maybe you should discuss how mega corps such as “Coca Cola Beverages “, a company you have so proudly highlighted on your profile, are spreading obesity and countless health problems by selling unhealthy beverages on a mass scale and need to be stopped. Yet you select the most unsuspecting target, a whitening soap. I think the key word you are missing here is “choice”. It is how advertisement works everywhere in the world. If you want to take a step, take it in the right direction.
    Finally i think it is absurd that while this country is encountering widespread shortages of food, water and electricity, corruption, inflation, broken educational institutions etc etc the only thing you could find to protest about is a whitening soap. An advise to the author : broaden your vision.Recommend

  • Farhan Ali Hassan

    Madam Zubaia Aapa, for ur kind information bieng kaala is neither stigma nor a social pariah. Grow up lady dont increase the already in progress mockery of urself.Recommend

  • Adpran

    In Indonesia, when people see South Asian with fair skin they always say “He/she must be Pakistani!”. It’s because Pakistani skin tone are fairer than other South Asian people.

    But, are Pakistanis not satisfied with their fair skin and still want to be fairer?Recommend

  • ManInblack

    Attraction matters more then color, But for guys wheatish color is best. In west,, western women dreams Nigga..!!Recommend

  • Hamza Bangash

    Fair people are pakistani too. Stop discriminating.
    “We are South Asian Pakistanis, have a lovely caramel or chocolate shade to our complexion and should be proud of it.”Recommend

  • S Khan

    You wrote, “we are still trapped in the post colonial mindset when the ‘goras’ were our superiors”. The preceding sentence does not really make any sense as there was no need to write ‘goras were our superiors’. You could have said, ‘we are still trapped in the colonial mindset when the ‘goras’ were our superiors.’ British never asked us to use whitening creams. Girls in Thailand are fond of whitening creams and Thailand was not a colony. People like you and other Pakistanis have to come out of traditional anti-western mindset.Recommend

  • TwoFaced

    Jus hate it when you guy criticize in the name of ‘Zubaida Aapa’.. the corporates like Unilever are doing it for centuries… trust me tribune and like so won’t entertain your entries against them… few days ago Ali Gul pir wrote something like that too… the guy won’t even get the media coverage if he had done it against Corporate King…Recommend

  • Queen

    It is surprising that a personality like Zubaida Tariq, who has earned respect from people all over Pakistan for her wisdom-filled guidance, can endorse a beauty product and that too of a fairness cream. The tag line ‘ab gora hoga Pakistan’ is very demeaning as it gives an impression that all Pakistanis are ‘black’ and ‘white’ people should stay away from them. The entire world is making efforts to eliminate racism and we in Pakistan, are still stuck in post-colonial mindset where the skin color of a person is the scale on which he/she should be judged. Beauty lies in the eyes of beholder and a ‘white’ complexion alone cannot open doors of success for anyone.Recommend

  • Humza

    I think because Zubaida Apa and her family who is promoting this campaign originate from Deccan, South India she is expressing her own colour biases. This does not necessarily apply to native Pakistanis such as Pashtuns, North Punjabis or Kashmiris. So I agree these articles reflect a bias from a segment of society but ignores the majority of Pakistanis, especially native Pakistanis.Recommend

  • Adpran

    Is it wrong if the author, me, and other people tell the girls “O, girls, don’t feel inferior if your skin is not fair. You look beautiful with your natural skin color!”. Maybe you haven’t know too that whitening products try to convince the girls that they will look bad if they don’t have fair skin. Notice carefully whitening products adverts, and you will see this hidden message. That’s why some girls then feel inferior just because their skin color are not fair.

    By the way, I forbade my wife (late) to use whitening cream although she wanted to use it. It’s because I love her natural beauty with her natural skin color. Skin color has nothing to do with love. If a man loves a woman, her skin color does not matter.Recommend

  • Parvez

    I used this comment in the Gul Pir version :
    Hum kaalay ho, to kya hua, dil walay hai.
    …..and an addition…..You will have a very difficult time finding someone more attractive than the actor Nandita Das.Recommend

  • Hamza

    What I meant to say was….There was no need for the author to say that just because some girl wants to be fair then she has a mindset in which she is subordinate to the British…”Our subordination to the Gori chamri still prevails in our mind” is what the author wrote.
    I do not endorse these adverts but to call a girl “subordinate to the gori chamri” only because she desires to have a fairer color is just plain wrong.
    And can you not read properly? I clearly wrote that “I don’t personally believe skin color has anything to do with beauty.” I did not say that dark girls are not beautiful or cannot be loved.
    My fiance is a girl of dark complexion. She does indeed believe that she is not beautiful only because of her color. A family once rejected her (before we both got engaged) because “larki gori nahi hai”
    What I do is again and again tell her that color has nothing to do with beauty and she is beautiful anyway and I lover her for who she is.
    I don’t go accusing her of having a slave mentality and then blaming these adverts for it!Recommend

  • Yousaf Haque

    Though not everyone gets a white coloured partner but there is no doubt that everyone yearns for his/her other-half should be milk white or at least of a very fair colour except African for whom black is beautiful.What one ultimately gets is a different storyRecommend

  • BOyss

    Naved, but you use to make fun of Mendis and Hammad Kalia :(Recommend

  • Boys

    Dont forget Hammad Kalia and MendisRecommend

  • Necromancer

    Well apparently not because of color……………and to be fair Pakistanis, Indians and Chinese lack this qualityRecommend

  • necromancer

    Pakistani should know where it should count and skin color is deffo not a requirement these daysRecommend

  • Maria

    I agree that she should be the last person to worry about skin color if you consider her family to be so called educated. However it’s not just a question of education. It’s her culture. Her culture remains that of someone who is from Hyderabad, India. She may have moved to Pakistan because she cannot shake her colour bias against her own kind. I don’t think anyone expects Hyderabadis or South Indians in general to be fair skinned so why does she want to look abnormal?Recommend

  • jigsaw

    post colonialism is a mindset which we have to leave. It’s shameful when a celeb endorses a statement like “Ab gora hoga Pakistan”, and hamza you don’t see anything wrong in it. We should be proud of who we are.
    Yes I totally agree that if someone wants to be fair it’s fine but a celebrity coming on TV and saying “Husn ki shuraat gore rang se hoti hai”-Really? I think you haven’t seen the advertisement. You will agree with the author ;)Recommend

  • Mrs. Faisal

    Well, my husband is kashmiri and of very fair color than me, sometimes i feel inferior while visiting his family where all people have milky white complexion, but my husband gives me confidence that gora rang doesn’t matter, its my character that does matter, he doesnt allow me to use these sort of beauty creams neither allow me to put on makeup, so i hav stopped using such stuff. ‘Beauty lies in Simplicity’ .Recommend

  • Ali

    Indians and Chinese Lack that quality not Pakistanis. Read some BBC articles and ull find out.Recommend

  • Ali Waqaas

    What is a native Pakisatni? By ur logic Lk Advani and MM singh are more Pakistanis than Quaid e Azam, Liaquat Ali Khan, and Sir Syed Ahmed Khan.Recommend

  • Fasih Rajput

    the fact is… there are many cases that girls are not get married because of their unfair looks, so no point to turn your eyes from this issue, yes this can be turn when Pakistan public will understand that gori chamri days have gone now, faced your complexions, which is considered to be very marvelous specially in countries like USA and UK.Recommend

  • Qasim Cheema

    The funny thing is “Gora’s” go to great lengths to get their skins tanned!Recommend

  • Sane

    Ms. Zubeda is here to mislead people by telling ‘solution’ to every problem. She tries to be jack of all trades.Recommend

  • Humza

    I don’t see why stating the obvious should disturb you. I just said that someone from South India may look different from the native peoples of Pakistan – not better or worse. They are all equal citizens. By native Pakistani I mean to say people who hail from a particular region of the country who share cultural, linguistic and ethnic affiliations over many centuries. Pakistan remains a federation of provinces and you cannot deny Sindis, Baluchis, Pashtuns or any other group their regional identity and it doesn’t take away from others. Should it bother you to say a native from Dir in KPK eats, dresses and looks different than a native of Thatta in Sind? I have friends from Karachi who talk about the food and dress of their family’s native region in India and it doesn’t bother me. I don’t think of them as any less Pakistani but I enjoy the diversity. They shouldn’t be made to feel they have to change or look different to fit in. And yes Zubaida Apa should promote promote the natural complexion of her her family and region with pride.Recommend

  • Oatc

    I agree – what an insensitive comment. To only promote dark skinned people over fair skinned people in Pakistan is discrimination too.Recommend

  • disqus_7YB6Njl5pE

    To be brutally honest, gora rang is still very much attractive to both genders. Not only that men but women also have something for fair complexion. Most guys/girls strongly believe that Pukhtun men/women are good looking. We all know Pukhtuns guys/girls are very much fair and that is one of the many reasons why Pukhtuns or as most call peshawari are considered good looking people. Same goes for Kashmiris.Recommend