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'White is beautiful:' Why India needs its own Oprah Winfrey

Author recalls family members telling her to stay out of the sun

Moni Basu | CNN | 9/26/2013, 6 a.m.
Many Indians feel the disturbing obsession with fairness in their country is compounded by Westernization. CNN's Piers Morgan Live

— Back at the Delhi mall, Jai Shukla, 31, says it's a shame Indians are so obsessed with skin tones. "I think mentally, we are not free," he says, admitting that he once tried lightening creams on his own chocolate skin.

He says he used to teach Hindi to Westerners at the posh Imperial Hotel in Delhi. Sometimes, the guards assumed he was a laborer. He says he was a victim of profiling because of his dark complexion. He tried skin-lightening creams but gave it all up once he began to gain more confidence in himself.

Rajat Tyagi, 28, rattles off a list of actresses he says personify his ideal of beauty: Kate Winslett, Angelina Jolie and Indian actor Katrina Kaif, who is light-skinned. But Tygai goes against the grain. When it comes to marrying someone, he says, he won't care if she is white, brown or black.

It's what inside that matters, he says.

"Really?" I ask him.

"Really," he says.

I didn't know whether to believe him, especially in the midst of the retail madness of this Delhi mall. His answer is cliche. But I am glad he said it.

CNN's Mallika Kapur contributed to this report.

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