This is no longer a ‘Goray rang ka zamana’

Published: February 4, 2015
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The irony is that no matter how fair a girl is, though it might get her a good marriage proposal, it still would not guarantee a happy marital life. PHOTO: STOCK IMAGE

“Goray rang ka zamana kabhi hoga na purana.

Gori darr tujhe kiska hai? Tera tou rang gora hai!”

(It is the era of fair complexions, this era will never get old.

What are you afraid of girl? Your complexion is fair!)

More than two decades ago, this song was sung by a popular Pakistani band called Vital Signs; a super hit of its time. In the song, the lyricist highlighted a popular notion that has been haunting the subcontinent for ages. The sad truth: A woman has nothing to be worried about if she’s fair.

While many shrug this off as ‘a piece of entertainment’, the lyrics portray the mind set of our society, and that existing in most of South Asia, very aptly. Shops and markets across the subcontinent are stacked to the top with products that claim that with a single application of the said fairness product, your life would become nothing less than ‘a bed of roses’ – and they sell like hotcakes. From beauty creams to body lotions, soaps to face washes, toners to masks, all sorts of whitening products guarantee to be the solution to all your life problems.

In fact, it is not just the women who have this fairness obsession; a friend of mine was told to dress up and look nice because a boy’s family was coming to ‘see her’; a prospective marriage proposal. Unfortunately, the girl was later told that they were not interested because they were looking for a fair complexioned girl which, according to them, my friend was not. Then there are the mothers who openly declare that they want their sons to marry girls who are ‘white as milk’.

Leave real life aside, we haven’t even spared our celebrities! In a conversation among a group of friends, one of the guys very proudly announced,

“I like Katrina Kaif, not Deepika Padukone. I like fair girls.”

Some even believe that her complexion is the reason Ranbir Kapoor left Deepika Padukone for Katrina Kaif! They say beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder but when the beholder’s criterion of beauty is solely fairness, it is no wonder that the businesses to gain most popularity are those advertising that one secret ingredient; fairness. Whether the product is of high quality, or made in some substandard laboratory, when they are made available to the public, the rich and the poor all indulge in buying the product. Advertising agencies further take advantage of this inferiority complex by playing on the psychological aspect, making consumers believe it is essential for them to look fair to feel good. While one ad selling such a product will say,

Bas pandra minute mein ho gai mein gori gori

(In only 15 minutes, I turned fair fair)

Another would be like,

Ab tou main bhi dulhan ban jaoongi

(Now even I can become a bride)

And in yet another, the husband will lovingly tell his bride that,

Lagta hai chaand zameen pe utar aya

(It seems like the moon has come down to Earth)

And if you think these ads have nothing to do with the real world, here is a reality check. The picture below has been taken from the matrimonial section of one of the newspapers’ in Pakistan:

Since the demand is increasing day by day, the other side follows with the following sorts of matrimonial ads:

There are many times that I have seen friends carrying fairness products in their handbags and I wonder if they really need them. But then I realised that, for our society, no matter how beautiful a girl is, she is never ‘fair’ enough.  In a country where a large segment of society still brings up its daughters telling them that the route to a secure, successful and happy married life is fairness, it is no wonder that women are subjected to such exploitation; they are born and bred in it, so when they are raised believing they have to reach a certain goal, are they to be blamed for striving to achieve it?

What is sad, however, is that we don’t seem to realise that being fair may bring in a ‘good’ marriage proposal but it does not, in any way, guarantee a happy married life.

While we have songs like ‘Goray rang ka zamana’ I wish that parents would instead ask their daughters and sons to pay more attention to lyrics like these:

Tumko apni talaash karni hai, humsafar koi bhi rahay na rahay.

Tumko apnay saharay jeena hai; dhoondti koi aasra na raho.

(You have to look for your own potential, whether you have a partner by your side or not.

You have to believe in yourself; don’t keep looking for any support.)

If we started raising our children to believe these words instead of believing that fairness was the key to happiness, we wouldn’t just be raising better children we would be nurturing a healthier generation.

Kiran Wali

Kiran Wali

A business graduate working in the corporate sector. She tweets @KiranW_ (twitter.com/KiranW_)

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

  • Parvez

    Take the to be mother-in-law out of the equation and more than half the problem is solved……easier said than done, because then you would automatically take the boy out of equation because he hangs on to his mothers dupatta / sari…….uff its tough !Recommend

  • Sami

    To be honest I am from Punjab and I have many friends from all the provinces. Of all the people i have met i have seen that complex about Fair color is highest among the Urdu speaker population of Karachi. This is because of historical reasons as well where Many Urdu speakers claim to be the direct descendant of Mughals in UP so they want to prove it by their color and features as well. Whereas In Punjab other than some city population there is no problem when you are brown as Brown is considered beautiful as well.
    Unfortunately Our major media operates from Karachi as well and if you will see any news channel or any drama then the criteria of your selection is your fair color only. Even if some person is brown then makeup artists make sure to paint the face with white color again. This media then drives the trend all around.Recommend

  • Humza

    I think we have had this topic about loving oneself regardless of appearance. It’s self explanatory and it has been done Ad Nauseam. People should see what is in a person and not just their outwardly appearance and as we know, beauty is very much subjective. Having said that, a great many native Pakistani women from Upper Punjab, KPK, Northern Areas, Kashmir or Baluchistan would be termed fair skinned compared to other South Asian races but no one cares for them simply because they are poor. People are also looking for educated partners or financially stable partners. It’s interesting that matrimonial adverts that you list include “Urdu speaking” family since I have found this skin colour concern more of an issue among Urdu speaking migrants in Karachi and I wonder to what extent this has been imported from India. Pakistan’s geography and mix among native races has largely excluded it from the colour conscious caste racism which exists in India where Brahmins are different from other castes. When people like Zubaida Apa in Karachi whose family comes originally from South India openly flaunt skin whitening creams, there is clear evidence that such thinking is still at play.Recommend

  • Mansoor

    This article does reflect our society.Recommend

  • Queen

    It is really sad to see how society measures a girl’s abilities on the basis of her looks. Especially if we look at the ‘rishta procedure’, it seems that the ‘mother in laws’ are obsessed with getting ‘chand si bahu’ even if their sons look like a ‘dhabba’ on that chand. Looking at rishta norms, it seems that girls should throw away their degrees in the dustbin and should spent money on getting fair skin treatments in salons.Recommend

  • sharabi

    I can not tolerate direct sunlight, Dermatologist told me that it is highly due to my fair complexion. Sometimes Car Window shade cover don’t work when it come across to the direct sunlight.Recommend

  • Anooshay Pasha

    Concreteness was missing in the entire article. Advised to support your articles with facts rather than fairy tales.Recommend

  • Parvez

    The education process must start with the mother-in-laws ……….but keep in mind that she has ‘ Fair & Lovely ‘ on her side and that’s a formidable foe.Recommend

  • نائلہ

    But who wants a boy? One needs to be a MAN to get married. And men won’t stick to their mothers. Recommend

  • نائلہ

    Ummm try sun screen? Recommend

  • Queen

    You might be true about the mindset of the Urdu-speaking community regarding fair complexion but I have seen some mother in laws from Punjab (Kashmir) who have rejected their sons’ choices just because the girls had wheatish complexion.Recommend

  • Sane

    Zubeda Tariq (Zubeda Aapa) promotes Gora Rang (white complexion) , Why?Recommend

  • Raghu

    Here they go again blaming India. Are every problem of Paksitan has an India cause?Only those people who really introspect and course correct can be sure changing things for good. It looks like Pakistan likes to blame others and absolve themselves from being culprit. In South India we have fair ones here and there and most are dark brown. This never helps. Its education, job and ofcourse caste that matters and nothing else. Its strange and bizarre that this obsession with fairness in mostly among people who are already partially fair.So how come India comes into this picture.Arent some saying denying that among Pakistani Punjabis and Sindhis dont consider fairness as an asset.?India is too fairness minded but not obsessed. Society treats such phenomenon as an evil and women are more respected for their brains and not beauty. Look at all Khan in film industry. They married briany women. Author was clearly mentioning Paks songs and mothers tantrums.If at all Mujahirrs talk about fariness because i guess its mostly due to the pressure of conformity with rest of Pak socitety who are fair. Question arises as to why should their be pressure on them. Also hasnt Pak seperated from India based on notion that Pak peopel have different genes,that they are more turkic or Arab thatn India. Isnt their a hint for fairness in it??Grow up and dont blame India.Recommend

  • Asad

    Vital Signs also sang Saanwli Saloni si Mehbooba.
    Just Saying!Recommend

  • marik

    Modern consumerist society produces overgrown boys, not men.Recommend

  • Farheen

    And if a girl would only ask that the guy should be educated… she would be slammed with “itna zyada demands nahi honi chahye”. I wish our society would regard couples on basis of how much they would be happy together…..Recommend

  • Clarus

    Everyone wants best for their sons/daughters. When girls side always want a “well settled” “Independent” groom then why on earth cant guys side wish for a “chaand si bahu”. If chaand si bahu is norm; so does everyone wants a damaad with 1lac plus income + decent car otherwise you are excused and never get to hear hamay yeh rishta manzoor hai…Recommend

  • نائلہ

    Wrong.

    The same boiling water which softens the potato also hardens the egg. Its all about what you’re made of, not the circumstances. So dont blame the society as it plays a comparatively minuscule role in shaping a grown man.Recommend

  • نائلہ

    lol that was after they received backlash for this song.Recommend

  • Nandita.

    The funny part is that ugly, unattractive men expect to get married to beautiful women.
    Why do unattractive men have such expectations (in an arranged marriage setup?)
    The girl has to be tall, slim and fair skinned even if the groom to be is stout, pot bellied, dark and ugly as hell.

    Recommend

  • Hassan

    Your article is how shameful of Men and ristay wali anties to like white color better than dark?? Its about choosing what you think is best for you ! who are you to question their decision that will effect their whole lives? This prejudice is not just for girls there are loads of men whitening products on the market ! be it a cricketer, singer, model or an actor all big names are now associated with these ! The guys who are fair get better Jobs better girls (believe you me) and better professional opportunities (keeping other things the same) and not just in the media, marketing and the advertising fields but in professional roles too! But you don’t see men crying about it because men are realists they know the tangible value of beauty ! Are the girls and girls families not prejudiced against a boys salary and status and bank balance? study work be independent don’t rely on grooms but groom yourselves so that you are in a position to choose and decide for yourselves !Recommend

  • Sami

    That is why I mentioned “In Punjab other than some City Population”. Kashmiri Punjabis and some families in cities have the same problem of Complexion and i agree with you on this notion.Recommend

  • tungi

    fairness is beauty!! honestly i feel sorry for the girls who are not fair! boys here just like fair women.periodRecommend

  • tungi

    you want a wellsettled dulha then also expect urself to be beautiful.period!Recommend

  • LetUsBeObjective

    Given everything else is above average, IT is a mix of sharp features & gorra rung, that together make the difference, not just gora rung.Recommend

  • Chitral wala

    “…to be honest I am from Punjab..” You mean normally
    you are not honest? Every now and then you pick and
    choose when to be honest? Typical Punjab Mindset.
    You are forgetting genes. The Punjabis are descended
    from Jat hindus. Or Bheels from Sindh, Who migrated
    North.. These two ethnic groups are dark. So be careful
    what you write. I am from Chitral, here we have light eyes
    and fair skins. And Punjabis look like Southern Indians to us.
    Still, we Northerners don’t go around giving short shrift to
    others for their color complexes…..Others like YOU.Recommend

  • Gul Zaman Ghorgasht.

    You should come and visit us in Hunza, Gilgit, Chitral
    Kalash..er..former Kafiristan. That will put your mind at
    ease about wheatish complexion, oatish complexion, barley
    complexion, channa complexion, rice complexion, and any
    other complexion that is laying heavy on your mind. Then
    you can inform the mother in laws in Punjab about real
    true complexions. Ooops ! Forgot about the green, blue eyes.Recommend

  • Grace

    She is Urdu speaking from Hyderabad in India and most Muhjair people want to have fairer complexion to mix in with Pakistani people. Pakistani people need to be more tolerant toward people coming from India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka so these people don’t need to feel self conscious about looks.Recommend

  • Parvez

    You have a point…..but in reality at the conventional marriage age both are boy and girl……..its much, much later that they transform into man and woman and I’ll be honest the girl’s transformation takes place much sooner than the boys…..please note I am talking generally and with reference to our society structure.Recommend

  • Faiz Muhammad

    What do you mean by ugly, unattractive men?Recommend

  • Hoshang Ansari

    Every time someone writes an article they need to supply facts?
    You say good morning to someone you need to supply facts?
    Get a life.Recommend

  • Maria

    I don’t think anyone is blaming India but it is a fact that skin colour is a real issue in India. Even in Pakistan, it is those people whose families come from India who are more obsessed with being dark and don’t want to be their natural color.Recommend

  • Nandita.

    TUNgi,
    A well settled groom with a job and a degree will not settle for an uneducated bride.If he is well settled, chances are that the bride herself is a smart lady with a good education. So in that sense, they are equals.
    If women are allowed to work and given opportunities to do so (in conservative societies like pakistan), they will work and earn as much. Unfortunately, women have little freedom to make these choices. So when the lady is the man’s equal is this aspect, why the hell would she or should she marry an unattractive man if she is beautiful?
    (In an arranged marriage setup)Recommend

  • sharabi

    yup but that too is not effective.Recommend

  • Jehanzeb Mahar

    And what about ‘larkay ki salary kitni hai?’. The poor guy has started his career and girl’s parents expect him to have one lac salary. If you have wishes, others have tooRecommend

  • Gul Zaman Ghorgasht

    Hate to tell YOU this but Punjabis are descended from Jat hindus and
    Gujratis from Somnath area, who migrated north to Punjab. Plus, throw
    in some Bheels blood from Sindh. That is the main reason Punjabis are
    so dark skinned. With the old hindu ingrained cultural traditions, they are
    a stark reflection of provincialism.and ingrained ethnicity. See, you can
    change the religion but you cannot change the genes.
    So before you go beating up on Urdu speakers, look in the mirror.Recommend

  • Gul Zaman Ghorgasht

    How can that be? Hindus like you from the South are very dark skinned.
    Almost black.Recommend

  • Parvez

    At the conventional marriage age both are boy and girl……its much later that the transformation into man and woman takes place. To be honest the girl transforms very quickly but the boy takes longer…sometimes much longer. Please note I am talking generally with relation to our society.Recommend

  • Gul Zaman Ghorgasht.

    “…to be honest I am from Punjab…” You are selectively honest? Only
    when it suits you? Like when writing two bit reprehensible comments.
    That would be typical Punjabi mindset. Aggrandizing themselves. A few
    more generations and it will be hard to find a Punjabi in a dark room. On
    load shedding days.Recommend

  • Gul Zaman Ghorgasht

    Come visit Hunza, Chitral, Gilgit, Kaghan, Kalash, Kohistan
    from your Punjab, and we will show you what fair skin is.
    What green eyes are, what blue eyes look like. Then you can
    go back down and discuss what a complexion, looks like.
    See, here is the difference, we don’t go around beating the
    drums on complexions. We have better things to do. Only
    people with severe inferiority complex like YOU are comparing
    different hues and shades of wheatish. And piling some kind
    of ridiculous blame on Urdu speakers. And we do speak fluent
    Urdu up here. But no Punjabi spoken. Nada. Zip.Recommend

  • Golnath Agarwal

    Sorry about your Sons of the Country versus Muhajjirs bubble
    Well,..with all due respects, Punjab was on the crossroads

    of invaders. Unfortunately, all these invading armies left their
    genetic signatures in Punjab. During all these movements the
    foremost were Jats and Bheels who were escaping repression
    from other parts of southern India. So in all truth, Punjabis are
    basically a mongrelized group. With a dominant indigenous
    Hindu genetic make up. Sorry, your Pure Sons of the Country
    bubble/theory does not hold any water..Recommend

  • sterry

    Who cares if you think that Punjabis are so dark skinned than other groups in Pakistan or India? Punjabis are majority of Pak population so can even argue Pak people are darker than all Indians including Urdu speaking Indians who are from Deccan, Bihar, UP. It’s obviously not true. Point is people should respect others and forget about skin color. The fact that you are so upset about this shows you have issue to deal with.Recommend

  • A Hindu troll

    There are “Pakistani People” ?…Where? .Last time anybody
    checked there were five countries. Muhajjirs, Sindhis, Pathans.
    Punjabis. Balochs. In that order. Starting with the most educated
    and secular. And for 67 years they have nothing to do with each
    other. Just look around and it will dawn on you.
    So where do these Pakistani People live?Recommend

  • sana

    there is a huge difference!
    she would be born chand si aur na-chand si, there is nothing she could’ve done about her complexion, so it is not right to judge her this way …but if rishta ppl check her manners, education, income etc then that should be fine by all meansRecommend

  • Ramchand Kidwa

    From the stone age, in any society, men were the providers, women
    took care of the children, house, cave. . This is the way it has been
    in history. Without demeaning any concept or culture, women always
    look for a good provider because they have the NESTING INSTINCT.
    They are the ones who raise the kids, keep house, etc. etc. This is
    pure, simple, evolution. Putting it in current cultural mores :- For women
    it’s always money,..For men it’s always sex. This may sound crude but
    it is the truth. Love does not pay the bills when they start coming in.
    A good provider does.Recommend

  • Queen

    I think you did not read my comment. Where have I placed ‘ridiculous blame’ on Urdu speakers? How did you infer that I have a ‘severe inferiority complex’? Read my comments again with a sound mind and it will become clear to you that I have only shared what I have observed and no where in my comment I have berated any language. Mind you, I have been to Chitral, Hunza, and Gilgit and being an Urdu-speaking Pakistani myself ( and I am not from Punjab), I am aware of the culture and the languages spoken in the northern areas of Pakistan.Recommend

  • نائلہ

    Boys generally do grow very slow, I agree. Recommend

  • نائلہ

    Sunscreen is only useful for an x amount of time. Reapplication throughout the day is very important.

    If you have extremely sensitive skin, then wear hats outside and of course sun glasses. Recommend

  • نائلہ

    You are extremely rude.

    And ps. People can have skin conditions no matter what their colour. Recommend

  • Gul Zaman Ghorgasht

    Gosh darn ! There ! You reappeared. Well, he could have
    mentioned he has a skin condition. And you done gone and
    turn into a dermatologist now.? Yes, he could have vitiligo.Recommend

  • Parvez

    Ok….now you’re being cheeky…… :-)Recommend

  • Sane

    All Pakistanis live in India and they come to sleep in Pakistan. Happy or any more answer you need. Your comment is nothing but sheer nonsense and out of context.Recommend

  • Humza

    I am not sure what anthropology texts you are reading but you should know that the Indus Valley civilizations, including some cities across Punjab and KPK predate Hinduism by several thousand years. Punjab has traditionally been a mix of different races which is why it was part of ancient Persia and even the ancient Greek Empire. Jatts are said to derive from Scythian invaders from Central Asia thousands of years later. What these racial influences have to do with “provincialism and ingrained ethnicity” is beyond me. People in Punjab, KPK or other parts of Pakistan have different racial influences due to geography and history than many people from India. Admitting that there are genetic differences in races and admitting that skin colour is an issue among Urdu speaking migrants is not racism. It reflects a reality. You need to help confront this reality instead of being offended when someone points out the obvious.Recommend

  • L.

    Wasn’t lol, but I’ve grown with 3 brothers; our house is a prime example of a “chidriya ghar” :L Recommend

  • L.

    Yet you had to pick on his skin colour? Recommend

  • Maria

    I don’t think you are Chitrali because you would know that people in Chitral don’t go around flaunting light complexion or light eyes. My grandmother is from Drosh. And not everyone there is so light skinned but generally they are lighter than Pashtun and Punjabi. Then Punjabi and Kashmiri are lighter than Sindi and then Sindi are lighter than Muhajir. No one looks South Indian except maybe Muhajir who comes from South India. Stop trying to create distrust between people in Pakistan. You are calling yourself Chitralwala, Gul Zaman Ghorgasht, Golnath Agarwal because you are saying the same thing under different names. Is you real name just Hoshang Ansari?Recommend

  • Sarah Uzair

    Beautiful words you put in there – the last ones, exactly what my parents say to me and my siblings, glad to have such parents who do not enforce the idea of marriage before independence. Not that I am against marriage, as pro for it as the pro-est can be but nothing is ever a fairy tale so better be ready for the worst and hope for the best.Recommend

  • Sarah Uzair

    Your reply is crap dude, two wrongs dont make a right. Plus in our society if you live in the real world, you would know females have it a billion times harder!Recommend

  • Tinkerer

    And all of you are people who claim to believe in a holy book that proclaims “Indeed, the best among you for Allah are those who are God conscious”. Racism and prejudice is more prevalent in your societies than in the West. Recommend

  • Clarus

    Two wrongs cannot make a right but it does makes things even. Ask Mothers/Sisters whose sons/brothers get evaluated by potential in-laws. How they are asked to submit their bank statement copies. How they check with guy’s employer about his income. The girl herself may be 4 feet tall but Guy has to be minimum 5 11” otherwise he is considered too short. Isn’t that mean? But do you see guys crying over this? I’m not justifying anything here just saying that both sides are having it harder. And before wearing the “females have it harder” badge always remember its women who are making it difficult for other women not men. 90% of the times the guy doesn’t even get to see the girl who he may find attractive but his mother didnt.Recommend

  • Sarah Uzair

    Females have it harder because of other shit females – spot on.
    But the guy need to have enough sense to defend his girl from his parents or whatever when they are wrong. He does have it, he just refuses to believe it. I met a girl few days back who said her in-laws got a hold of her college degrees and stuff and left her with her little baby girl to suffer for the rest of her life. The fault here is of the guy – in Islam, it doesn’t say in-laws have the control, the dude does and let us face it, the guys in our society are far more cunning than before, jab apna faida dekhtay hain, they do shit. They don’t bother telling their mummy daddy about the girls they screw in college but in marriage issue, everything about the girl is discussed with the mother – even the bedroom issues.Recommend

  • Sarah Uzair

    But you are right about one thing though, if the dude is a sleazeball but filthy rich, well – he gets loads of girls, same for the girls – money, it attracts everyone.Recommend

  • Sarah Uzair

    Exactly, which is why most girls wish for her to be dead.Recommend

  • Sarah Uzair

    You are sadly mistake, the level of obsession with fair skin is the highest amongst Punjabis – borderline jaahalat if I say so.Recommend

  • Areeba Mohsen

    Nah. Some Punjabis are obsessed with it.Recommend

  • BaiG

    I have read two of your articles chaand si bahu and this one and it turns out these are true up to some extent but not that true you wanted to portray.Recommend

  • Abrar Khalil