The best place to start the story, I guess, would be when I was born. The apple of everyone’s eyes. Loved by all, I am told. Wanted to picked up by all. And thus I grew, happy and loved.
Things took a turn, around the time I started my third grade. I remember because we had moved to Jaipur that year. Come summer vacation we headed home, back to the place my grandparents stayed along with a whole bunch of relatives and family friends. Everyone seemed to gasp when they saw me. The first thing that came out of their mouth was, what happened to her? How did she get so dark?
Somewhere within the year that we moved to Jaipur, the colour of my skin had shifted from milky white with rose colour cheeks to shades darker. And no one who knew us before could get over the fact. Growing up, I heard these questions directed at me over and over again. With each vocalization of the question, my self-esteem moved down a notch. It got to a point that I started dreading our annual summer vacation, I started to hide when someone came home, I was tongue tied in front of people with fair skin, I cut out a whole spectrum of colours in my wardrobe because I thought they made me look darker, I would secretly place my hand next to Mom’s to see how dark I was, I started doubting the love my parents and relative had for me.
Things changed again as I got into my late teens. The anger, the resentment that I was carrying within started coming out, every time these comments came my way. My response, I think, finally stopped close relatives, in my hearing at least.
I started building my self-confidence one step at a time. I started to forget about the colour of my skin. Love happened. The boost that love gives happened. But such things don’t get left behind, do they? I was a bride of one day. Someone stopped by to wish us happy. Took one look at me, turned and told my SIL..’She is not fair is she? Your brother could have done so much better’. As my SIL rallied for me and D got hopping mad, I felt incapable of uttering a word. The shock of facing an old enemy so unexpectedly is the only reason I can think of.
Life has moved on since. I have moved on since. Acceptance has come with maturity. I can now look at myself objectively when I look at the mirror and see beyond this one aspect. D of course has a lot to do with this. But this time as the old enemy rears its head, my heart shudders. Everywhere we go, we are greeted with comments and questions like ‘Neither D or you are fair, who has Buzz taken after?’..’Oh she has amazing complexion’..’Does someone in either of your families have this skin tone?’. I look around helplessly. I hurt a little bit more, I am scared a little bit more. Because this time it’s not about me, it’s about my little daughter. I can’t help but wonder, what if her skin changes colour just like mine did? What if she has to go through the same thing? I feel so helpless. I don’t want the smile on her face to diminish just because Indians are obsessed with fair skin..I don’t want her to be stuck in the superficial just as I was..I don’t want her to be hurt..period.
My heart feels heavy..I want to protect her..I want to hide her..I want her to look beyond this pettiness to look within..to appreciate the person inside..not the cover..no matter the colour..