August 14, 2013

A New Operating System

By Arpit Jacob | A Dark is Beautiful campaigner

Arpit Jacob says we need to rethink the way we talk with kids about skin colour— at school, at home and in the media.

Photo Credit: Zippora Madhukar Photography

I’m Arpit:

user experience designer
gadget geek
30 years old
and happily married.

During my school days in North India, a few of my classmates gave me other labels: kalia (black) and hapshi (negro).

These nicknames didn't affect me as much as the preferential treatment that some of the teachers extended to fairer-skinned students for public speaking, plays/musicals and sports/games. This hugely impacted my self-image and self-worth. I retreated into a shell. 

I became reluctant to participate in school events and shy of the stage. Every year, for the parent-teacher meetings, I preferred that my dad— who is fair— come along with me, instead of my mom— who is dark.

Meanwhile, when I used to visit my relatives in Kerala, some of the older folks used to advise me not to play out in the sun, and to watch out lest I become as dark as my brother. 

Because of all the ridicule I faced, I concluded that being fair was superior to being dark. 

I felt I had to prove myself, so I worked extra hard, especially in sports. I became very self-conscious of how I looked and how I dressed at gatherings. I grew wary of people from the north. I guess it also made me very shy in approaching the opposite sex. 

In my late teens I tried using fairness cream, thinking it would make me more acceptable among my peers. 

After high school, I joined a college in South India, where there were more dark-skinned people.

Good friends were instrumental in helping me overcome my lack of self-esteem. The church and campus community where I lived also played a big role. Athletics were an outlet and a way to prove to my peers that I could excel despite the discrimination. 

I came to understand that when we focus on negative things people think or say about us, we can lose confidence and it affects our self-worth. This in turn affects our performance in life, making us feel less confident, which leads to insecurities. We have to break this cycle.

It happened gradually, but now I am totally comfortable with the way I look.

When I heard about the Dark is Beautiful campaign, I could relate to it so much, and I think this is an important issue to address in schools. We need to teach kids media literacy, to recognize how advertisements play on people’s insecurities.

School children need to hear that it doesn't matter whether you are tall or short, dark or fair. Nothing or no one can put limits on what we can achieve. 

Focus on what you’re good at and don’t let discrimination bring you down. 

Consciously choose to believe and know that God created all people equal. It would be a very boring world if everyone had the same skin colour. Varying skin tones showcase the beauty of God's creation. 

We all have unique gifts and talents. It is important to believe in yourself, identify what you’re good at, and go for it, irrespective of the colour of your skin!


  1. Once I asked a question to a marketing guru - How do fair and lovely market their product in Africa ? will they say in 7 days you will become pink ? or will they say you will glow ? or is fair and lovely don't have a market in Africa. In Kenya they recently launched the marketing stunt on the skin glowing campaign as "We are embarking on a nine-month journey in which we will educate consumers on how Fair & Lovely works to reveal a beautiful, radiant, even-toned complexion after just four weeks ( not 7 days) of regular use

  2. your life incidents are really similar to mine. can totally understand wat u myt hav gone through. coz as for me it took me years to redefine my identity. Learn to love myself the way I am.And i'm glad i'm over that era of inferiority complex of my life!! And the church did play a very important role!!

  3. Hi Arpit, I read your blog, i read thru it coz I had an email asking me to sign a petition for the fair and handsome ads, agaisnt Shah Rukh Khan and Emraan, which I feel is totally useless. I have been discriminated before and till today at times I do feel racially exploited but I decided to live with it, I just can go around changing the everyones opinion about me, growing up I felt like an outcast and was shy, until the time I realized that I did have people who dont care about my color but for the person I am. By signing a petition I truly wont solve this problem because you just cant shut everyone. You need to deal with it. I have accepted the fact that there will always be people who will like you no matter what and people who will always hate you no matter how good you are to them. The choice is simple,dont care about the people who dont mean anything to you, in this huge world you need to give your time and attention to people that really do matter to you. I am black,blackie,kalia,negro, nigga wannabe, or whatever they wanna call, it really doesnt matter, because I know Im cool, thats all i need to know to keep me moving, having the right attitude and the right personality can always do good favors. Bottom line is always treat others the way you want them to treat you and be yourself. Just sharing my opinion. Thanks

  4. Hi Arpit.
    Well written. I completely agree with you about the impact the way you talk to kids about skin color has.
    I am a living proof of that. It was my dad's confidence in his dark skin and my mom's ignorance towards our dark skin (despite of her being as fair as a porcelain doll) made me so confident about my color. Its the way they spoke to me and defended us from others who commented about our skin color that made all the difference. If I am a dark is beautiful campaigner its not because I am discriminated. Its because I want to support all those people who didn't have the kind of support I had.

  5. I have also noted in society that no matter what the skin color of the man, they themselves "usually" prefer light skinned women for GF or wives. I said usually because I do understand not all men are the same. Darker men feel they have achieved something if they r able to be with lighter skinned women.

    1. Very true Malvika. And this is quite hypocritical because these same men will insist that the fair women look beyond their dark complexion and see their inner beauty...while they refuse to do the same with women!

    2. u r very correct in ur thought malvika,, although i am a dark skinned man and do not subscribe to such a view but i must admit that this a realty which exists in our society,in my own close circles.i totally support arpit jacob's cause.

    3. I completely agree with you Malvika, most women too are guilty of it they want fair skinned boyfriend or husband unless he has a fat salary job. If you are dark they will not even give you a second look.