I was merely 10 when I visited the Bata shop with an older and wiser cousin, a new pair of sandals were in order and my preference was...they should cover as much as possible of my feet and they had to be white...only white...no red, orange or green, not even black. After all my ugly dark feet could not look better in any other colour! Di told me that I should go for Black instead, it was the darkest colour after all and everything will look better against it. Hmmm, food for thought and bingo...the colour BLACK became my saviour.
My own father probably was the one most disappointed with my dark complexion. His wife, my mom after all was porcelain white; how did his only daughter turn out dark and ugly? People used to look at me and say, "She takes after father, her mother is so fair, unlucky girl." No one ever noticed that my face,my features were an apt and (now I know a pretty) mixture of both my parents. Then came years of lathering on fairness creams to make me lighter ; Clear tone, Fair and Lovely, Naturally fair, White Tone; you name it and I can tell you that I have used them day in and day out....it changed nothing. I was still the Kaalo of the family. I want to warn you here that skin bleaching, specially the daily kinds is extremely harmful, even deadly. I learnt of this when a friends father (a pharmacist) told me the facts.
My mom was the only one who didnt fervently want me to grow fair overnight. She repeatedly told me to develop my abilities and work on my talents. She told me repeatedly that I was her prettiest child though my little brother was as fair as her before he became a sportsman . Hard though she tried , she couldn't help me retain my confidence. It was slipping everyday. repeated comparisons with the pretty, fair children of North India specially the sikh girls(no offence meant) ate into my being.
My dark complexion became the bane of my life. In stage shows, dances and anchoring at school, I saw fair girls being preferred over me, though I had considerable talents in all these spheres. A teacher, they are the worst here, chose me to be the engine of a children train on annual day, saying that I fit the role naturally, blacky that I was. As if I was her pet dog. I cried all day and all night that annual day. when they painted my face black, I didnt want it taken off! EVER!!
It affects your psyche, when aunties tell you to use the Doodh-haldi-besan face pack to get fairer, when an uncle tells you to go dip your face in the Sukhna lake waters everyday to get to at least "dusky" tone and when your father says that Red is not your colour. When the boy you think has a crush on you goes on to propose to your fair friend, who is not half as smart as you, it breaks your heart at a tender age. I had a firm hardset belief right at the age of 14 that I was not suitable marriage material: dark complexion and curly hair- where did I stand the chance ???
This is not prejudice, this is cruelty. This is not discrimination, this is colourism, pigmentocracy.
to be continued....