I am a woman. I am a juggler. I juggle to maintain a fine balance between all the roles that I play. I share, I care, I bear and I nurture. But I also love to spread my wings and strive to reach for my own sky, and that is my undoing! After all, I am a dark skinned woman, a shade less than perfect.
The birth of my story
Oh, it’s a girl. Oh my! She is beautiful, just like her mom: the same nose and the same set of eyes. If only she would have been born with her mother’s fair complexion. It wouldn’t have mattered much if she had her father’s features instead of his skin tone.
They came, they saw and they passed their judgement.
I want to smile and play
We are a bunch of five kindergarten kids. We love playing roles. Sanjana decides to play mother. Ankur is given the father’s role. Vivek opts to play a doctor and Tina plays a teacher. I am asked to act as the maid. I protest and demand to be given some other role. Sanjana laughs and says, “How can you be anything else, being so dark skinned?” Agonised and angry I rush to my mom, tears streaming down my eyes.
Mom envelops me in her cocoon of love and asks me to forget the incident. It’s after all a silly game. That night I sleep reassured that nothing depends on the colour of my skin, just as my mom had explained me through the evening. I sleep hoping that the next day I shall again smile and play.
I believe I am not less than the others
Preparations for the annual school function are on at full swing. My class teacher wants a Cinderella for the play to be enacted by my class. My best friend suggests my name to the teacher. I am smart, I can speak well and I am the best actor among the 8th standard students. My teacher takes a look at me and even before she says anything I can guess her answer in her eyes. She selects a fair complexioned girl from our class to act as Cinderella.
I am confused. How can they make her Cinderella? She can’t even deliver two lines properly on stage. Is being fair toned the only criteria to be at the centre stage? When dad hears of this episode he laughs and asks me why I want to be the poor little Cinderella waiting for a prince to rescue her? Why can’t I be like Joan of Arc, fighting my way to glory in life? I fight hard to stop my tears from rolling out even as I try to make sense of what dad has just said.
I no longer believe in destiny
Results of my board exams are out. My parents are overjoyed at seeing their only child secure top grades in the board exams. Dad wants me to take admission in a prestigious college and pursue my chosen stream of study. Our neighbour Sharma aunty drops in to congratulate me. She says to my mom, “Now if only she had a fair complexion to go with her academic talents, nothing could have stopped her from getting a good husband in the future.” Coming up to me she consoles me saying it’s my destiny’s fault that I was born dark skinned.
I am haunted by her words. I wonder whether having a fair skin tone is the ultimate key to a happy life. Is it the most superior quality a woman could possess? Later that day sitting in my room I quietly resolve to carve my own path of success where destiny will have no role to play.
I break free from false emotional shackles
I am in my second year at the university. He is a year senior to me and we have been dating for more than a year now. It’s a special day for me as my parents have asked to bring him home and introduce him to them. He meets me at the college but is visibly upset over something. On being prodded he reveals that he has decided to call off our relationship. He says his parents are not ready to accept a girl of dark shade as their daughter-in-law.
I don’t know how to react. Are feelings and emotions also judged on the basis of skin tone? Do people born without the blessed complexion have no right to love and be loved? I feel depressed and disgusted for many days. But a few months later I realise I am blessed in a way. I have been saved from being emotionally involved with a person who sees me more as a colour palette than as a human being.
I am what I am: My complexion does not define me
I am surrounded by people of a singular mentality: fair is beautiful. Almost everyone around me is obsessed with this idea. Standing amongst them I sometimes feel alienated in my thoughts and beliefs. My parents have always emphasized on inner beauty. But the society around me has repeatedly tried to prove that I stand a few notches behind other fair girls due to my complexion.
All my achievements, my academic excellence and other talents stand overshadowed by a colour. This leaves me shattered and wounded in many ways than I care to admit even to myself. I try hard to fit in, to be accepted, to be considered no less than other fairer girls. But at the end I realise it is futile to try to change people’s perspective about me. I am tired of trying. All I want is to be myself, happy in the skin that I was born in.
Being Me: Not fair, and yet lovely
As the years passed by I realised the importance of being beautiful from within than to be so from outside. To be born with a brown skin is not a flaw. Brown is as beautiful as white, just as the dark night is as beautiful as the bright day.
In a world that worships the tag of ‘fair and lovely’, what really matters is to be fair in one’s deeds and to possess a lovely heart. Today I am no longer burdened or bothered by the tag of being a shade less beautiful. My experience says having a lovely heart ultimately pays off. My family and friends love me for the person I am, regardless of what shade of brown my skin is.
But beyond everything else, I am an individual. Without any tags or labels. I am a woman with limitless possibilities, a woman who wants her half of the sky. I don’t need the world to validate my worth. I know, I am not fair, and yet lovely.