I was born dusky. Why I started my story with this? Because this became the biggest reality of my life. My scope, my limitations, my sky. “ I was a normal child, but this world made me feel different”. The growing up years were a continuous flutter brimming with my complexion stories.
My mum would always be comparing me with my cousin sister who was taller, fair-skinned and comparatively beautiful. Well, beautiful is a comparative term that became toxic for me. A home facial for acquiring fairness was prescribed by every auntie that superficially blessed me. I was told to abstain from tea because that could presumably be made you darker. I was strictly proscribed against playing in the sun to avoid tanning.
Whenever I wanted to break the vicious spell and liberate out, Parents would intervene saying “Abhi se dhyaan denge Tabhi to iske shadi hogi”( if we pay attention from the beginning, then only we’ll be able to marry her off). A typical patriarchal mindset, same old rotten school of thought that graduated at marriage.
I always augmented with these thoughts, convincingly reclaiming myself and my sanity, that I will survive. My colour wouldn’t affect my future and I will be better off…. but it did!!
I wasn’t exceptionally skilled, good looking or great academically.
My mediocrity irked my mother and she would always try to find the best from my mundane as some content for her bantering. All the prejudiced flimsy chat episodes embarrassed me, I would usually withdraw from gatherings and this made me reticent and self-absorbed.
In all the time I had for me, I would either watch the blooms in our garden or teach our maid Gauri. She had served us since her juvenile years and I had an affinity for her simplicity and dedication.
At least she wasn’t being counselled every day to ripen her complexion.
I had just completed college and grown into this docile slim bud that was rampaging to burst. The day came when a marriage proposal was pushed my way by a compelling auntie. I had to be ready for a pompous “ ladki dikaho”( match making) session and deck up artificially for the best look possible.
I was also ordered to cake up the face to match the “milky white” complexion boldly mentioned in my marriage profile. The boy and his family blatantly rejected me then and there. This shook me within. I felt insulted and humiliated. My colour can’t define my identity. Why I had become this meek timid girl who had believed her self worth was limited to her dusky skin?
I further retracted in my shell becoming unsociable but a rebel got impregnated creepingly. Meanwhile, the news of an alliance came for my “ Gori pretty “ cousin sister. The timing couldn’t have been better. This scraped my wounds further. I strictly told my parents to stop looking for suitors any further. I tried to digress from the tensions by teaching Gauri every day for her exams.
I wanted her to win and stand belligerent unlike me. That diligent girl would religiously finish her work and study hard burning midnight oil.
Months unfurled quickly and Gauri passed her high school in flying colours. She honoured the credit of passing upon me as her mentor, her pillar of strength while I was trying to hold feet in turbulent waters. I wondered “ I’m myself struggling for identity sustenance, how can I be her mentor “ but I realized my worth sooner!!
Shocking news jolted us. My cousin sister was being tormented in her marriage and her husband and in-laws were plaguing her repeatedly. The whole family was appalled, dismayed!! This conveyed a triggering message to me, who was always self-loathing.
“Why was she tortured?”. “She was beautiful and fair-skinned, still she wasn’t admired and respected? Why”
Skin colour didn’t guarantee happiness.
This challenged my self created theory of “dusky isn’t deserving”!! I started pumping myself out of diffidence. A zeal to refurbish life was knocking hard. The throbbing pain of pervasive patriarchy and chauvinistic mindset was strangulating me. I accepted my tenacity and decided to rise against my self-doubts.
I turned headstrong now, to become aware of my self-worth and weave a success story out of the shreds. I started preparing for my bank probationary officer exams and cleared them in my first attempt. I was moving out of my safe abode for officers training and joining.
I wasn’t a dreary caged bird eager to fly. I was already leaping ready for my maiden flight into the liberated open skies. Yeah, my sky had changed, it wasn’t my colour anymore, it was my ambitions, my forage.