First of all, let me tell you this article is not about self-pity or written to garner sympathy. It’s about my experiences and my journey of growing up as a beautiful confident young woman. The only purpose of this article is to urge people to consider our skin tones are normal.
I was born in Patna with a little pigmented skin, but we call it as 'dark complexion' and with a not very well contoured face or a sharp jawline. I was an average girl, but my parents always treated me like a princess.
Even during teenage, I never got attention from the opposite sex. I have often wondered why, as an innocent girl of 15, I was not aware of the biases our society has been plagued with. The first encounter I had of being called 'Dark and Ugly' was when a few people came to our house for a Roka ceremony. A woman who was getting ready in my room said, "Hey, it would be really difficult for you to get married as you are too dark and there is a high probability of you bearing a pigmented kid." I was taken aback as I had never thought this was one of the parameters for being beautiful or desirable. Since then, I realized that dark skin somehow or the other gets equated to being ugly and undesirable.
"Hey, it would be really difficult for you to get married as you are too dark."
Perplexed with all this negativity, I decided to talk about this to my mother and that was the day I came to know about my identity. Firstly, she told me to remember you are born as a woman and our society is dominated by men. Secondly, we are Dalits. People consciously or subconsciously might even judge you for this and thirdly, you were born with a dark complexion which the society does not consider as beautiful. I still remember the day, my mother had baked a cake for me and we were sitting on our tiny balcony, and she was listening to all the woes and was trying to calm me down while explaining every little possible humiliation, I might have to go through, in life. Ahh, how to forget, whenever I would accompany my mother for weddings or some get together, I would be bombarded with beauty tips all across the world from Multani mitti to Kesar. I am really grateful to all the people for their constant struggle to make me beautiful.
Firstly, she told me to remember you are born as a woman and our society is dominated by men. Secondly, we are Dalits. People consciously or subconsciously might even judge you for this and thirdly, you were born with a dark complexion which the society does not consider as beautiful.
Finally, I grew out of Patna got an admission in the prestigious St. Stephens College to study history and came to Delhi. Breathing fresh air of freedom and being proud of my achievements albeit short-lived. I came to know about 'Reservation' and how my admission was considered not on merit but because of government policies, again, I got a call from a few of my well-wishers, congratulating me with a pinch of sarcasm. Here unfolds the second subconscious humiliation of being born as a Dalit.
“Aarre yaar uska admission toh quota se huya hain naah.”
Yes, I am a Dalit A proud Dalit. I am happy about my identity to call me low-born or untouchable or a Dusadh. I am proud and happy about it. My identity has given me the confidence to stand up and speak for myself and I am never ashamed of it. I know I am beautiful I don’t need your words of consolation that “chehra pa pani bahut hain” or “you are so smart and intelligent” with a smirk. I am beautiful with my skin colour and I Don’t Wish To Be Fair And Lovely I Am Happy Being Dark And Ugly.
Yes, I am a Dalit A proud Dalit. I am happy about my identity to call me low-born or untouchable or a Dusadh.
People often compliment on how exotic we look, we might be exotic for white people not for our fellow Indians. You know what the worst is when I talk about this in social gatherings, women and men with lighter skin tone would come to me say, "Oh you are so beautiful and these days it doesn’t matter." I feel pity how oblivious you are of your social and cultural capital, you are born with. Women with lighter skin tone have even said to me, "I wish I had your skin tone."
Please stop making us feel that our skin colour is different, while assuring that it's beautiful, why can’t it be normal? I haven’t heard anyone say it to a fair woman, "your skin colour is beautiful," and why because it adheres to the societal norm of being beautiful.
Aditi Narayani is a Research Scholar at the Centre for the Study of Discrimination and Exclusion, Jawaharlal Nehru University. She has co-authored a book called “Mithila ki Vidushi Prampara”. The views expressed are the author’s own.