A thing of beauty is a joy forever, said John Keats, perhaps, with a different mindset than the one I ascribe to him. To me, the meaning of this line has varied since the time I first time read it. I was quite young, young enough to spell and deduce the meaning of ‘beautiful’. An over-energised and enthusiastic person, but among all these accreditations of mine, there was still something that used to keep bothering me. I believed that I was lesser than others; I questioned why aunties of the mohalla would speak and admire the looks and dresses of my friend and not mine.
I thought it was because she was fairer and more beautiful than me, which made me insecure. They used to say, “She is too dark to be called beautiful.” I felt like a criminal. I felt I won’t ever overcome it. Like my caste and gender, my complexion won’t ever be accepted, no matter how hard I try.
Many such incidents kept deepening the feeling of dejection inside me. I tried hard to see the other picture as well. I wondered, maybe it was not just my looks, maybe it was my caste too. Growing up, I realised that many girls were growing professionally, merely owing to their beautiful personality and fairer skin. That used to give me a feeling that my efforts are not getting any incentives. I would often hide my romantic relationships from the world, for I thought people would question my partner and think, “What the fuck does he see in her?”
Fairness is not just a colour but a reflection of your class, caste, the way you are brought up, and tons of other intersectionalities. It makes it easy for another person to identify whether you are elite or not, and accordingly, they can mould their attitude towards you. The notion of accepted skin colour is also a subject of elitism, because no matter how fair a poor girl is, her meal, the sun or her job will drag her into the pool of dark-skinned women.
It is not just about the colour, it is way more that that. It is a reflection of how mature, educated, intelligent, empowered, groomed and classy a woman is. But one can’t deny the fact that it has also emerged from our perception. On the contrary, all we can do is grow out of years of such archaic perception.