Racism and colourism are deep-rooted in one’s psyche due to centuries of colonisation by people of a fairer complexion and, before that, Brahmanical hegemony in India. We applaud and desire fair skin meanwhile never leaving a chance to shame or advise anyone with dark skin.
For as long as I can remember, I have felt ugly and undesirable. I had been so obsessed with getting fairer that I started using ‘Fair & Lovely’ at the age of 9, hoping to become “not ugly“. When all that didn’t work out, I, a 9-year-old Shivani then, who was obsessed with Hindi TV serials, started contemplating about my next birth. I prayed to God, who I believed in then, and promised him that I would do enough good things in life to get fair skin in return for my next life.
One other factor that amplified my problem was the fact that everyone else in my family, except for my maternal grandfather, was extremely fair and always made me aware of how I was a ‘dark spot’ on the white sheet that was my family.
Going to expensive parlours was the absolute end of me. The staff there always made me feel inferior based on my complexion, and it always felt as if my heart dropped and fell into my stomach whenever I heard a comment about my complexion.
The only compliments I ever got were about my “facial features” and how my dark complexion doesn’t make them “noticeable to their full potential”. I know that my mental health issues are genetic, but the way I had been shamed all my life for my skin colour did trigger them a lot more.
Eventually, after extensive reading, I understood that our idea of beauty is the result of centuries of conditioning and beauty itself is a very vague term. I went even as far as to realise that beauty had been made an ambition for women in certain ways that could even restrict them for centuries—for example, lotus feet in China and corsets in Europe.
Beauty is a multi-million dollar industry today that capitalises on our insecurities. We must rebel against this by being so self-assured that taunts and comments don’t affect us anymore. I’m trying to do just that now.