I am 20 years old, whereas my cousin sister is 23, intelligent, socially and politically aware, qualified, attractive but it’s still me who is gets more marriage proposals than her. Why? Because Indian society still believes that skin colour determines a person’s worth.

My name is Aarushi Kaushik. Yes, I am from a brahmin pandit family. And I have grown up listening to comments like “Tu toh kuch bhi pehen le achi lagegi, gori jo hai (Anything you wear looks good, you’re fair after all)!” Or “Akele mat jaa, gori ladkiyon ke piche ladke zayda padhte hain (Don’t go out alone, boys usually follow fair girls)”. I still hear these things and many more everyday even though my sister, who is darker skinned, has more ideal body type and looks. But never did our family or society at large realise the problem was in their minds and not in the colour of our skin.

The preference for light skin has been internalised by numerous men and women through media campaigns and the film and fashion industry, around the country. Brands are making themselves essential to a woman’s regular beauty routine. And ‘beauty filters’ are being downloaded more and more every hour. But girls with dark skin still end up listening to taunts and criticism like “Teri mummy ne charcoal khaya tha kya before delivery (Did your mother eat charcoal before giving birth to you)?”, “Sunscreen laga le, aur tan nahi hogi (Use sunscreen, you won’t get more tan)!”, and “Achha ladka kaise milega (How will you find a good husband)?”

My friend had a boyfriend for six years and when they decided to marry, my friend’s father didn’t accept the guy. One of his relatives told him “Kara de shaadi, ladka pasand karta hai gudhiya ko, aage jaakar achha ladka kaise milega iske liye (Get them married, the boy likes her, how will she get a husband later?)” Just because the girl was dark complexioned, the assumption was that she wouldn’t be able to get an “achha ladka” later, and should therefore settle with what ever she gets now. This is the problem of our society—racism, casteism, and coloursim doesn’t just grow out of nowhere. They all start within our homes.

Just because a person can’t share our shade of foundation doesn’t mean they deserve our harsh words.

In 1975 Hindustan Unilever launched a skin-lighting cosmetic cream in the Indian market and I guess the sale graphics never came down because even if you aren’t dark, people will make you believe you are with non-stop criticism, judgement, and comparisons, so much so that you’ll start hating yourself and feeling the need to ‘improve’. Because fairness equals to success.

Coloursim doesn’t just create toxic beauty standards but also intersects with class, caste, and gender, and shapes the idea of womanhood in a very bad way.

In India having a girl child is considered a burden, but a girl with dark skin is a shade of shame for the family.

It saddens me knowing people believe gaining fair skin is proof of them climbing the ladder of progress. Explain to me how!