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‘This Guy Bathes With Coal’: How I Was Bullied In College For Being Dark

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By Issac Thomas:

During my college days, when I was fresh out of my teens, I used to do a lot of silly things. I should not call it silly though because, back then, that was how I lived life. During our school and college life, hanging around with the opposite sex is a ‘status symbol’. You get attributed with labels like ‘stud’, ‘Mr. Popular’, etc. You earn the respect of your friends and it feels good to be accepted by the opposite sex.

I didn’t have the tall, dark and handsome persona which girls apparently swoon over. Rather, I was the ‘short’, ‘dark’ and had a ‘family pack’. Neither did I play any musical instrument nor was I good at any sport. But I was quite witty and had a great sense of humour. I was really good with words, and among my peer group, I was quite daring and could approach girls with ease. Within no time, I became quite popular among girls in my batch, earning the ire and jealousy of the boys in my batch.

It became evident when I sensed hostility in the way they talked to me, the way they behaved with me. They would be discussing something and when I arrived at the scene, they would simply stop talking and stare at me with uneasiness. They stopped inviting me for their hangout plans, movies or picnics. They made sure that I was kept away from the ‘scene’. After a while, things started turning ugly as the boys in my friend circle got together and started insulting me before the opposite sex. They would say things like, “Hey, this guy bathes with coal”, or, “Oh, it seems he never bathes at all”, and, “It seems years of accumulation of dirt has made him so dark”, and, “He is so dark that even if he bathed with acid, his colour wouldn’t fade away”.

To all their insulting remarks, I had no answer. I didn’t know what to say because, yes, I am dark skinned and I cannot deny it. I started losing my self-confidence. I started losing my morale. Their remarks broke my heart. Sounds of their laughter after mocking me would echo in my mind for days. I became the laughing stock in my group, a soft target who people could make jokes about. They made me look dark and I was pushed into darkness. I started losing interest in things, in life altogether, as the feeling that ‘no one loved me’ seeped in.

As my semester ended, I took a pause from my life to soothe my mind and soul. I stopped ‘chasing’ girls for a while and that actually helped. I started reading motivational books written by the likes of Dr. Joseph Murphy, Dale Carnegie, Robin Sharma, Shiv Khera and many others. I started reading the Bible and verses like ‘God created you in his own image and likeness’ gave me a lot of strength. I attended various seminars on topics like cultivating a positive attitude and related topics. I realised that most people in this world have been bullied or have been discriminated against at some point and many people have faced bigger problems than me.

I started enjoying life again. I watched movies, played cricket and read novels. I started expanding my sphere and began making new friends. I started hanging out with people who respected me for the way I am. I filtered out my friend circle, removing people who tried to pull me down. Slowly and steadily, I made two best friends who became friends for life. And in the years to come, we as a trio shared countless memorable experiences.

As I experienced life, I learned to love myself. I removed all the toxic people from my life. I understood that it is not necessary at all to impress people. Those who want to love you will eventually love you and those who want to hate you will hate you, no matter how much effort you put in to change their mind. You must never fear to throw away people who don’t love you. You must never, ever bear the insults of people just because they call you your friends. Fight back and punch them hard. Earn the respect you deserve. You are unique in your own way. Never let people define you.

Though slowly, but I learned to look into the mirror and say, “Hey dude, you look so handsome.” Because now, there was no fair or dark, only colours. Colours of friendship and happiness. For friendship never discriminates, it only accepts.

You must be to comment.
  1. stanley george

    Good article….spoken from the heart…needs to be put out there in the mainstream media.We are a nation of closet racists.

  2. issacthomas3

    Thank you so much for your words of appreciation…Stanley bro..

  3. Sajo Sunny

    A great article, a lot can be learnt from it, regardless of one being fair or black. Only those with their heart full of darkness would go for something like racism, apartheid or cast segregation.
    Everyone knows there is no point in these discriminations but often use them for their advantages and luxury. “Beauty is no quality in things themselves: It exists merely in the mind which contemplates them; ”
    One should be proud of what they are and embrace it, then no one can use it against you. Then eventually they would stop after realizing it has no effect on you. One will always find people who will love them in spite of knowing all your limitations.
    Cherish them throughout your life.

  4. Alina

    In today’s world people are living to impress others. Instead of changing you for others be a change for generations . Hope your article bring some change. All the best.. 😉

  5. issacthomas3

    Thank you Sajo for sharing your thoughts…glad you liked the article..

  6. issacthomas3

    Than you Alina…loved reading your thoughts…thank you for your encouraging words..

  7. Steffy samuel

    To be looked down upon. .for Wat u r is d greatest sorrow one can face
    U have turned it sorrows in to laughter with self discovery acceptance n Faith…
    Keep inspiring Isaac…..way to go

  8. issacthomas3

    Thank you Steffy for your graceful words…:-)

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

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A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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