As a kid my parents showered me with love. They would even shut anyone up mentioning to them,
“Tumhara gorapan nahi mila hai tumhari beti ko” or “Naak-naksha sahi hai beti ka, but rang thoda saawla hai”. The constant hush-hush comments on my skin-tone did affect me and my Mom knew this. She always told me that such shallow thoughts are just of a few people out there. The world outside is beautiful and I, being really small, believed it.
The next few years of school came as a shocker to me. In a crowd of unknown faces, if we students had to team up as partners – be it even for sharing the same bench, I would almost be the last one to be chosen by someone. It was as if there was almost a prejudice in everyone’s mind about dark-skinned people, almost like they could not relate to me.
God forbid I had an argument with any of my class-mates, it would always come down to saying things that hurt me most – calling me an African or Kaali or Raat-rani. And the sad part is that this was not limited to the young kids. Knowingly or unknowingly, the same reflected in the actions of a few teachers as well. I remember sobbing and telling my teacher that I was called ‘Amasvya ka Chand’ by one of my classmates. The first reaction that I got from her was a chuckle, almost an appreciation for the good analogy. And the saddest part was that she did not even realize how much that hurt me.
Then there was a selection for the annual year drama. Almost every year, when announcing the criteria for selection of the female lead, be it a Romeo and Juliet or Pride and Prejudice, the teacher always asked the fairest, prettiest girls to try out for the part. The dark-skinned ones did not even stand a chance, no matter how well their acting or speaking was. There were countless such instances – be it representing the school for events, being the Head Girl – the preference enjoyed by the fair-skinned counterpart, just marginal in some cases, always did exist.
It took a lot of support from family, some counseling, and a lot of will-power, to have the confidence, that whatever preconceived notions people I meet may have based on my color, I can change it once they get to know me. And today I am an independent, happy person, surrounded by family, friends, and colleagues that swear by me.
But not everyone may have that kind of support, not everyone would share their feelings with someone, not everyone may be that strong. I am lucky – not everyone is. Some may suffer from an inferiority complex that starts from school and stays all through their lifetime. Some may go into a shell, and never want to come out. It’s up to us to start the change to stop discriminating based on skin colour. Every skin colour is beautiful. It’s what inside you, that makes you beautiful, not the colour of your skin.