Dhup mein mat jao kali ho jaogi… (Don’t go out in the sun your skin will become dark.)
Chai mat pio kali ho jaogi… (Don’t drink tea your skin will become dark.)
Arre shaadi kaise hogi? (How will you get married then?)
Ladki achi hai bas thoda rang daba daba sa hai… ( The girl is nice, but her complexion is a bit dark.)
Ladka acha hai par kitna kala hai… (The boy is nice, but he is dark-skinned.)
I am sure people sharing the same skin tone as mine must have heard these rhetorical phrases all their lives. People in India have an unfair obsession with fair skin—as if it is in our hands to choose the skin shades. Forget about caste, creed, and religion—color discrimination, too, is one of the most dysfunctional issue prevailing in our society. It is like living with the truth but finding it too hard to accept because of the illogical societal conditioning and parameters.
Color shaming has been prevailing in Indian society since the time people were treated differently, based on the social implications from the cultural meanings attached to their skin color. The effect of such prejudice is such that it hampers self-esteem, personal relationships and even puts a person in mental distress. But hey, who cares? You are not fair and saying this is so fair! Why is ‘fair’ only lovely? I always wondered. Even boys are not spared from this melancholy.
I am a dark-skinned female and was always labeled as kali in school, and boys used to make fun of me. I used to hide in family pictures and was always conscious of choosing the color of the clothes I wore so that I don’t end up looking darker. Well, then the word ‘dusky’ evolved, and this skin color not only got registered in the color dictionary but also got due recognition. From a black beauty, I was transformed into a dusky beauty, what an achievement. Voila!
Unfortunately, this diversity in skin color has created a hierarchy of beauty—a hierarchy that tells you that the light-skinned people are the epitome of beauty, while the dark-skinned people fall at the bottom, and this creates an unwarranted pressure in the minds of people.
To soothe me, my family members and my friends used to say that ‘although your skin color is dark, you have got beautiful features and nice long hair’, but to be very honest, this never helped—rather, it created emotional distress within me. It’s not only about me, but it’s also about all the people falling under the same tough spot which could stunt anybody’s self-esteem. Why can’t people just let it be? Jo jaisa hai vo vaisa hai!
What I learned from this whole circus revolving around my skin color is that I cannot change it, and this is how I was born. I wanted to embrace it long back, but people around me always reminded me of my shortcomings with their snide remarks. Hence, it got delayed. But I guess my color didn’t come in my way for anything I did in my life; it has absolutely no role to play even in the major events of my life like from falling in love to getting married to the love of my life and giving birth to a cute little daughter.
This shortcoming is only created by people and the society we live in. It is like mind over matter, if you don’t mind it; it doesn’t matter. Your color and your body is the most precious thing, and you are born the way you are; you can carry yourself well and carry this body with the utmost confidence, which would kill so many stereotypical beliefs. So, wear that smile and kill such beliefs with your confidence!