Fair and Lovely (short story)

I have spent years chasing the tail of my darkness. I used to spend all my pocket money on beauty creams promising to lighten my skin tone. But unlike those girls I saw on TV in “Fair and Lovely” ads I would not transform into a white beauty in 14 days. Not even in a month.

I was the only sister of 4 brothers. My brothers would tease me calling me a “Kali Bhutni” (black demon) and tell me that no man would ever love me. I would tease them back by telling them that their wives would refuse to cook their food in fear of spoiling their white hands.

I would often hear my mother talking to my father about me in the courtyard at night. “What will we do? Who will marry her?” she would say to which my father would reply “Why? She’s educated and talented, any man would be lucky to have her.” I loved my father more than anyone in the world but my mother was right. Many women from nearby villages who were hoping to find a daughter in law would come to our house since my father was well known and respected in the village. But when they would see me they would leave in a hurry giving some excuse or the other. Soon I stopped coming in front of these women even though my mother kept harassing me.

My father used to play cards with his friends every Friday afternoon after prayers. My mother thought it was all a waste of time, but my father saw no harm in it. They played without money and it was just a chance to sit together and gossip about the village happenings. My brothers would watch them in the courtyard and I would peek out of my room much to my mother’s annoyance.

It was one such afternoon that I saw him for the first time. He had come with his father and was watching them play and listening to their gossip. His smiling face lit up my heart and when he said something to his father I strained my ears to hear his voice. When someone made a joke and everyone laughed, he laughed with them and my heart skipped a beat. I think it was when I was trying to compose myself when my younger brother noticed me staring at the stranger.

“Apa Bhutni what’s going on?” smirked my brother. “Shut up Abrar” I said and quickly went inside my room, shutting the door. That evening I wrote my first poem. I had tried many times before but I think I had lacked inspiration. Now my feelings flowed into words and my words took flight like butterflies in the wind.

A few days later I caught my younger brother stealing from my mother’s jar of change. I didn’t rat on him, instead I asked him for a favor. “Do you remember that young man who came with Chacha Rashid? Just give him something and I won’t tell Ammi what you were doing”.

The next Friday afternoon as I was peeking out of my room I was sure Haider (for that was his name) glanced towards me. I darted inside and prayed that he had not seen me for I was sure that if he would see me he would never want to talk to me. That evening Abrar brought me a message from him. My hands shook as I opened the piece of paper.

It simply said: “You are as beautiful as your words.”


This short story has been written for The Speakeasy #145 where the first line had to be “I have spent years chasing the tail of my darkness.” and some reference was to be given to the art prompt, a painting entitled The Card Players.

37 thoughts on “Fair and Lovely (short story)

    • Thank you, to be honest I didn’t notice the boy until after I had written the story. I was just concentrating on the first line and trying to make sense of it.

  1. This is such a sweet, lovely story. When I read the prompt, I thought the only way to go was metaphorical darkness, but you made the story bright and positive. I really enjoyed it!

      • Just wanted to let you know that your story has really stayed with me, even a day after I read it. It reminds me, both in terms of the story but also writing style, of 2 books I have read: Leila Aboulela’s Lyrics Alley and Kader Abdolah’s The House of the Mosque.

      • Those are both very accomplished writers and I’m humbled that my writing style reminded you of their books. You have really inspired me to work on the novel I started which is also very true to life. Thank you!

      • I’m so glad to hear that and happy to have been able to inspire you in this way. Your novel sounds like it would be a very interesting and beautiful read. Novels are hard to keep at, but I hear it’s worth it in the end (I have my own that I can’t seem to get back to).

    • I knew mostly everyone would take the metaphoric darkness route, that’s why I decided to go a different way and make it positive. I’m glad you liked it. 🙂

  2. Excellent story! The way you wrote it I thought it was a true story as well. The worry about society’s standards of beauty, the teasing of the brothers, the blackmailing (I mean gentle persuasion) of the brother after he’s been caught doing something wrong. Perfect. That it ended on such a bright note is a bonus 😀

    • This is the story of many girls in my society. Unfortunately we have a complex about the color of our skin (maybe it dates back to the time when we were ruled by the British) and no girl is considered beautiful until she is fair. I wanted to have a positive ending and I hope it is the same for girls in real life.
      Thanks for reading and I’m so glad you enjoyed it.

  3. This is such a beautiful story with a great message and an ending that I hoped for. I believe everyone has someone that will love them regardless of how they look…I’m glad she found her someone 🙂

    • Yes I hope for the same happy ending for girls in my society. May people look past the color of their skin and love a person for who they are.
      Thank you for liking it.

  4. Wow I love this story…A true picture of our society and of many girls…The craze of having a fair color and the little jokes…Beautiful attempt ! Loved the ending.

  5. What a wonderful heart-felt story. Being lovely from the inside out is a truth that can only be shared by one who lives it. Thanks for the beauty of your story.

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