In first class, a little girl does not talk to her seat partner because she is dark skinned. The dark skinned girl is addressed as “kali” or “bhoot”. Even before she could learn the first letters of language, she knew a few adjectives which obviously were not sweet. She asked her parents why her classmates called her “kali”. Her parents said that only evil people use such words and that she should avoid such comments as she is beautiful and intelligent. But, how could a 6 year old understand this? She looked at the mirror and questioned her God as to why was she brown and why not pink and fair. In third standard she wanted to participate in a play as Cinderella but the teacher made an excuse saying she was not eligible and chose the fair girl with rosy cheeks. During, the children’s dance shows she was never positioned in the first row because teachers wanted the fair and cute children on the front. She hated the school and when her father was transferred to another city, she was delighted at the prospect of a change where she would not just be a color. If only racism had borders. In the new school, in Uttarkhand, there was hardly any dark skinned person. In her previous school at least she was not alone, but here the classmates laughed and said, “Is everyone in your city as dark as you?” Her younger sister was fair and she was happy that she did not have to suffer all this humiliation. She tried to keep a happy face when she met her sister in the school bus or her parents at home after all nobody could help her. One day her sister said, “Didi, that guy in the bus was talking to his friend and said dekh kaise kali mata hass rahi hai while looking at you. Why did he say that? I was very hurt, you are beautiful.” In that second she wished that she had never been born but smiled and said, “Only evil people use such words and you shouldn’t listen to them. I know I am beautiful and so do you.”
While reading Gone with the Wind, she wished to go back in time to meet Rhett Butler but then she realized that had she been there during that period she would have been enslaved and shipped off to America to work for the plantation owners. Yet, how different was the present? Her mind was still imprisoned in pain and agony, a slave to the world which only saw her color with respect to theirs.
During a mehendi competition, her teacher was looking for students who would volunteer to get mehendi designed on their hands. She scrubbed and washed her hands, had her nails shining bright and stood with her palm open so that her teacher would notice her. Stupid girl forgot her past so quickly. Then she saw the fairest girls chosen for the task; her heart ached and vision faltered. She spent the night crying with her face in the pillow. She was just 12 years old.
This is the story of almost every dark child around the world. The child might stop caring about these things and learn to accept himself / herself or might even lose every ounce of confidence. Nobody knows how hard these instances affect his / her psychology or if he / she could deal with it. The story brings out the silent sobs of the children who learn to paint themselves dark before they can even learn to make proper letters. Cinderella, Snow White, Ariel, Rapunzel are fables which a dark child can hardly relate to. The saying ‘you are blushing’ hardly makes sense nor do the songs ‘gore gaal pe kala til’. Why are all poems about rosy lips when most of the population in India does not have rosy lips? Who should the child relate to? If he/she relates to the fairy tales or poems then he/she does not belong to this world because there is hardly any space for the dark skinned.
It’s unlucky to be born dark and a sin to be a dark girl. You will have a hard time finding a groom. Why? Haven’t you read the matrimonial columns and websites? Every prospective groom wants a fair bride, no matter who he is. An old friend asked me to help him find a girl and the basic requirements were: she should be WHITE, now you know why he is an ‘old friend’.
Yes, the world is growing but how? By selling fair and lovely? How ironic is the very name of the product: Fair and Lovely, as if only being fair can make you lovely. Yes, the world is progressing as America got a Black president and an Indian won the Miss Universe title but doesn’t it make you feel angry that each of these achievements are taken by surprise as if this were a miracle? Being dark does not make you inferior to anybody so why should your achievement be taken as a wonder. Can’t a dark person lead a normal life without being exalted or humbled?
School, college, marriage, career and even later in life, it seems as if rather than me being colored, the color has become me. I have lost my identity and I am dark because you are fair, I am the other because you are the subject.