My Fair Lady

I am not into musicals, but I am told (by my good friend Mr. Wiki) My Fair Lady  has been called “the perfect musical”. Based on George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion, this 1956 production held the record for the longest run of any major musical theater production in history back then.

Just as always, the above has no relevance whatsoever with what’s below!

If Ford’s Model T had changed the face of automobile industry back in the early-1900’s, the face of average Bangladeshi beauty (aka. women) was transformed in the mid-1990’s when Lever Brothers (now Unilever) launched Fair & Lovely. Turmeric could have been the timeless natural remedy for skin-darkening but ask any modern Dhaka woman to draw an association between fairness and beauty products, the result is almost unanimous… Fair & Lovely. Its been such a successful product in the subcontinent that numerous me-too brands have sprung up over the years. Whether its the classic “opposites attract” dilemma (dark men vs. fairer women) or the white fixation diaspora (an inherent feeling), brands like Fair & Lovely are here to stay. Many might argue how the educated and enlightened women of today might have moved beyond the middle-class targeting FnL user group, that men are on the lookout for inner beauty or even how dark is dawn (Kalo ee jogoter aalo). My rebuttal… what about FnL Menz Active range or the up-class Garnier/Loreal skin-whitening creams in your shopping list!

Not so long back I was discussing with a few of my colleagues about the perception of beauty in this part of the world (which is predominantly “white is beautiful”). And it wasn’t surprising at all to notice once we realized how uniform beauty is by definition and (worse) by practice. You just gotta be white or prepare to lose your pride.

On top of it the plague of Indian soaps and Bollywood was transforming our idea of a beautiful woman into a girl from the silver screen. She had to wear what was trending… kameezes from short to anarkali pr pyjamas from churidaar to three-quarter (I dunno what those are called, my bad)… she had to look like that Gauri from Kutumb (SET) or Khushi from Iss Pyaar Ko Kya Naam Doon (Star Plus)… her agenda was to be THEM!!! And them unfortunately aren’t singular.

I mean look around… all you see are well-dressed, mostly petite, largely straight-haired, definitely fairer girls who by their sheer choice of submitting to uniformity over individuality upheld no comments! Be it Sonia or Salma or Khadija or even Sokhina… all are fairer (and perhaps prettier) than yesterday… yet the real (my) FAIR LADY is harder to come across today.


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