In the midst of all the clutter on the many WhatsApp groups, which I have foolishly chosen to be part of, I recently found a ray of hope — a real, meaningful conversation that was taking place on one of my chat windows.
My close girlfriends were discussing how growing up with a certain kind of skin colour, made many kids, subject to bullying by their peers.
One of them mentioned how because she has a dark-skinned brother and was privy to all the small, vacuous jokes directed at him (when he was a child), she grew up to become fiercely protective of him and dark people, in general. Another one spoke about how her mother was the only dark girl, among four other fair sisters. And while, she wasn’t really bullied, the insecurities she faced were quite evident.
The recent outburst by my friends was triggered by a story, shared on Soup (http://thesoup.website/culturesoup/2016/7/25/darkbeauty), which carried stories of 14 ‘beautiful, confident dark-skinned women’. Incidentally, half the women featured were rather wheatish than dusky, and hence, my friends’ angst of it not being an honestly represented story. I agree.
But, while I am surprised that the writer couldn’t find 14 such women, who would actually fit the argument being made through this otherwise, good piece, I was rather amused with the need to insist upon the existence of “beautiful, confident” dark women in this world. Of course, I know they exist. And if anyone had to go by my standards of beauty, all of us would be beautiful, in our own way.
I grew up in a family, where being ‘dark’ was never considered a significant subject of discussion. My mom married a man, who was 10 shades darker than her, and went on to have her first-born (me), who shared the skin colour of her father. My two younger brothers are reasonably fair, just like my mom. We are a healthy, racial mix, and at the cost of sounding vain, a gorgeous one that too.
Yet, outside of this family, there were many people, who would remind us what it was to be vulnerable. I was one of the easy targets, ALWAYS! Folks and ‘apparent’ friends of the family, would often tell my mom, that it would have been nice if her daughter had taken on from her. “But, it is fine, she is at least beautiful,” they would assure her. Even at school, teachers would often point out in surprise, and sometimes also out of shock, “How are your brothers so fair?”. I innocently justified it, exposing my family’s physical traits to unworthy strangers, “Ma is fair, Dadda is dark. That’s how it all happened.” I would say.
As a child, my colour riled me. And no matter what my parents said to pacify me, to the outside world, I was still dark. Unfortunately, at some point in my life, all of this had mattered. People don’t realise how horribly they scar kids, when they say what they say. And, sometimes it takes years of unlearning and learning to heal those wounds.
The good thing is that the colour of my skin doesn’t affect me anymore. I remember how recently, when I went on a fort visit in the peak summers, my friend, who had accompanied me, asked if I had a tanning lotion on me that he could borrow. No, I didn’t think about carrying one. He was amused because he thought that girls were always petrified about tan. But, honestly, the thought hadn’t crossed my mind.
All grown up now, I am so ashamed that I allowed people to engage with my colour, and that I thought that their stupid questions deserved an answer, and that I thought that I needed to justify why I was so brown, and that I thought that people had the right to
Yes, 29 years hence, nothing matters. But, it took 29-long years for this girl. And there are so many troubled souls, who are still waiting to heal and feel beautiful. We don’t want your sympathy! No, we don’t. We just want you to understand that what you wear, and what I wear, has the same purpose. It shields our flesh from the harshness of nature, and lets the blood flow without being exposed. It glows when we run, it wanes in the sun. And when we grow old, it will wrinkle, and remind those, who don’t know how we feel inside, that we are losing the battle with age. It’s skin after all. Don’t forget it has a larger purpose!