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Here”s How I Learnt To Like The Way I Look And To Protect My Physical Imperfections

More from Priyanjana Pramanik

By Priyanjana Pramanik:

My complexion is not as fair as I would like it to be. This is something I’ve made my peace with over the years. I have learned to like the way I look; I am told I am ‘unconventionally pretty’, and I take that as a compliment. My obsession with fair skin, however, had little to do with the fact that most people consider it to be a sign of beauty. I wanted to be fair because my mother is fair, and I wanted to be like her. And yet, she sat me down and told me that I was beautiful, but she also told me that it wouldn’t matter in the slightest if I wasn’t. The first time someone said I was ‘black’, and I burst into tears, she sang me a song: ‘Krishnakali’, by Rabindranath Tagore, about a girl whose skin was as dark as Krishna’s. But her eyes were dark too; dark like those of a doe. She told me that the next time someone called me dark, I should say, quite proudly, ‘Of course I am. I am like Krishnakali.

beauty

This is one incident that I recall very clearly from my childhood. It seems, to me, to be the moment when I first decided that appearance wasn’t all that important. Not insignificant, of course. Never that. But there were things which were more important. It was around that time that I decided I didn’t want fair skin or a perfect nose (though I was more than happy with my doe eyes). I decided instead that I wanted my mother’s smile. I wanted people to react to me the way they do to her quiet grace and her warm intelligence. I wanted people to see in me what they see in her. She makes people look beyond her looks. I decided I would do the same.

Sometimes, I wonder if I’m alone in thinking this way. I hear my friends talking about the miracles that they dream of; most of them seem to have something to do with their appearance. They’d like to be taller, or shorter, or thinner, or fatter, and, most often, they’d like to be fairer. They un-tag themselves from pictures on Facebook if they don’t think they look good enough. They want miracles. I think of the things that I would like to change about myself, and there are many. But they are all things that I want to work towards myself. Little personality wrinkles that I plan to iron out, with time and a whole lot of patience. And as for my physical imperfections, I feel quite protective about them.

For example, I have a circular mark on my left shoulder. A couple of months before my fifteenth birthday, I fell off a bicycle and landed on my side. My friends, at a loss, cleaned the gaping wound by pouring an entire bottle of aftershave on it, and were quite impressed with me when I didn’t cry. We laugh over the incident today. The mark has faded, but it’s still there. It’s just another thing I’ve gotten used to. I also have a broken tooth and lots of jagged marks down my arms, which I attribute to the fact that I have a cat. Fellow cat lovers will understand.

Of course physical perfection is… Well, perfect. It’s beautiful. It’s to be envied. It’s to be cherished and protected. I’m sure I could go straighten my hair, surgically remove all my scars, cap my tooth (my Oxford Dental Care dentist does think it’s a good idea), and, while I’m at it, get laser surgery for my eyes. I could change a lot of things, but I won’t. I’m terrified that if I do, I’ll become someone other than the person these imperfections have made me. Because I like that person. She’s the kind of girl I’d want to be friends with.

I’m grateful that I learnt to like myself. I’m grateful that I got to know myself. It worries me that a lot of people don’t; that they let conventional ideas of beauty needle their secret insecurities, and lose themselves in the process. Despite my best efforts, a few insecurities have crept in, here and there. That’s why I envy children; they know they’re perfect, just the way they are. I think we all have something to learn from them, and I also feel that they should be told, over and over and over again, exactly how perfect they are. So that they grow up believing just that, and believe it forever.

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  1. Vaishali Jain

    The emotions in this article have the potential to take the reader on a poetic ride.

    I’m glad I came across your piece. It made me smile, specially these lines.

    “… And yet, she sat me down and told me that I was beautiful, but she also told me that it wouldn’t matter in the slightest if I wasn’t. … She told me that the next time someone called me dark, I should say, quite proudly, ‘Of course I am. I am like Krishnakali.’

    … Little personality wrinkles that I plan to iron out, with time and a whole lot of patience.

    … I’m terrified that if I do, I’ll become someone other than the person these imperfections have made me. Because I like that person. She’s the kind of girl I’d want to be friends with.” 🙂

  2. Rupam Gogoi

    A really introspective writeup Priyanjana 🙂 Kudos..Happy being yourself is a sentiment mirrored so rarely, that it feels good to see someone mirroring it on a public media platform.

  3. Thomas Bradford

    Yet another trite, vain attempt by yet another ugly looking being to overturn the burden of the realization that looks indeed matter and that fair skin is a divine gift enjoyed only by the privileged few. No matter how many sentimental articles you write riding on the high horse of offended honour, no matter how many words you devote to denial of the fact that you’re dark-hence, ugly- the sad truth of your dark life (pun intended) is that when you face the mirror, the first and the foremost thing you’ll see is not the wrinkles on your face, or the eyeliner in your eyes, but the blackness engulfing your skin all around, making you look like you were born in a coalmine, and destined to die there too.

    Keep convincing yourself that it doesn’t matter. When you fail, remember my words.

    1. Prashant Kaushik

      The coal mine which you used for comparison, is actually what drove the industrial revolution and helped men take a leap from Medieval to Modern era. Much of the Europe or norther continents, where you might belong to, are covered round the year with WHITE snow, which is good for nothing, that beautiful white snow which can only kill either because of the cold or because of its brazen features and unsuitability for agriculture.

      If you really want to enjoy nature, the plants, the animals, you might have to travel down.. to Africa, Latin America or Asia. The wildlife, the Bio-diveristies hotspots , everything which is a miracle of life, you would find down here, in the so called darker continents.

      The same could have been true for humans. But in search for food and money (and blood), you traveled far south, destroyed the native civilization and created a myth to sustain yourself.

      You had nothing to boast except of that myth, so you put all your energy to propel and establish that myth as a truth. The myth of ‘WHITE SUPREMACY’.
      Unfortunately, the world is still suffering from the after effects of that myth.

      We were happy to believe all colors were equal. But you invented this concept of White Supremacy and Racism.

      Hopefully, one day, all men will indeed be equal, but for that to happen, racism in the minds of people like you, must end.

  4. Thomas Bradford

    This forum is worthless since it doesn’t allow any counter-comments which might express a person’s disagreement with the views expressed by the author. My previous comment here was deleted promptly since it disagreed with the premise of the article. This article is yet another boring, sobbing tale of a person who hasn’t really been able to come to terms with the fact that she’s dark-hence, ugly, and that she’s going to remain so for the rest of her life, no matter how many vain attempts she makes at making such pathetic outcries to people who’re as ugly as she is. The reality of your sad life is that you ARE dark, and that you’re going to remain so for the rest of your life, and that you’ve even damned your coming generations by virtue of your impure, muddy skin colour. Accept the stark truth and lay low

    1. Nicky Collins

      While you may be right to deplore the lack of discussion in this forum, relative words like ‘ugly’ have no place in rational debate. Nobody has ever given a sound definition of ‘beautiful’ or ‘ugly’ because these terms mean different things to different people. You, for instance, might consider the writer of this article ugly simply because her skin is black ( though I must admit that the line of your reasoning escapes me). Whereas I might find you ‘ugly’ simply because your thoughts (as revealed by your comments) are ‘ugly’. But ,as I said , these things are relative…….

      Nobody cared that Obama is black when they decided to elect him to the most powerful office in the world, twice. And nobody would find Ted Bundy (a serial killer from US) beautiful just because he is white.

      I believe that your problem is that you have an inferiority complex. You seem like a man who has not accomplished much in his life and was shocked when the author stated that it is a person’s actions that reveal his worth. You have managed to convince yourself that you are better than ‘black’ people in a desperate attempt to reinforce your belief in your own worth. I am not a psychologist but I would visit one if I were you.

    2. Prashant Kaushik

      Very Well said Nicky Collins..

  5. Prashant Kaushik

    One of the best pieces I have came across on YKA..

    No bashing, no criticism, no blind adherence, no blame game…your article was simply a class apart..

    Not just thoughts but it provoked emotions also.. in plain simple words of English, u have communicated so perfectly that I think no one would disagree to all that what u said..

    Superb.. would love to read your other writings too..

  6. Mehul Gala (@mahigala7)

    What a lovely piece of writing!

    The line which touched me the most is
    “She makes people look beyond her looks.”

    Rather than spending our whole life trying to perfect our physical imperfectness, we should better our thoughts, character, mindset and our heart.
    As someone said and I quoted,
    “A beautiful person is a person with a good heart; if you have a good heart, there is no way you can be ugly.”

  7. Tania Ghosh

    Thomas Bradford, it seems you are asking for a counter comment, so here I am. First question, have you seen Ms. Priyanjana Pramanik? The answer is obviously NO! Second question, from your name it seems you are white, and may or may not be living in a country where people are mostly dark yet are considered to be beautiful for their olive complexion. Are you? In our culture, there are some who think that dark is ugly, men want fair wife even if they themselves are jet black and girls spend their parents money to look better than what nature has given them. Oviously, you are not aware of this culture. Therefore, your comments are vain. Your comments are also racist, even after the fact that people with lack of colour througout the world hate their complexion (fair) and spend a fortune to have a tan! Just don’t say things for the sake of saying and just because you have to write something. You did not even read the article properly and formed an opinion which seems not an opinion at all. Rabindranath Tagore, wrote a song for a dark and beautiful girl named Krishnakoli and he was given a Nobel prize for his songs by the fair complexioned people who are called whites. Just for your information, because you may be ignorant of this fact also. Last question, do you love and like yourself? The answer for you to give to yourself.

  8. Tania Ghosh

    It seems that you are asking for a counter comment, so here I am. First question, have you seen Ms. Priyanjana Pramanik? The answer is obviously NO! Second question, from your name it seems you are white, and may or may not be living in a country where people are mostly dark yet are considered to be beautiful for their olive complexion. Are you? In our culture, there are some who think that dark is ugly, men want fair wives even if they themselves are jet black and girls spend their parents’ money to look better than what nature has given them. Oviously, you are not aware of this culture. Therefore, your comments are vain. Your comments are also racist, even after the fact that people with lack of colour througout the world hate their complexion (fair) and spend a fortune to have a tan! Just don’t say things for the sake of saying and just because you have to write something. You did not even read the article properly and formed an opinion which seems not an opinion at all. Rabindranath Tagore, wrote a song for a dark and beautiful girl named Krishnakoli and he was given a Nobel prize for his songs by the fair complexioned people who are called whites. Just for your information, because you may be ignorant of this fact also. Last question, do you love and like yourself? The answer is for you to give to yourself.

    1. Raj

      I don’t know what Bradford said, but I believe we should tolerate attacks against ideas but not against people. So while he can’t personally attack the author, he can attack her ideas. He has every right to be against the idea of racial equality. He has every right to dislike dark skin. But his comments should not be deleted for those reasons.

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