We Indians are walking talking shade cards: Hema Gopinathan Sah
Hema Gopinathan Sah is a Mumbai-based blogger-mother. In her recent poem ‘Kaali’, she talks about the prejudices and stereotypes women face because of their complexion. Sah knew that her poem would definitely strike a chord among some people. She wasn’t even amazed when the poem hit 50 shares. Soon the numbers started picking up, and when over 5000 people shared it, she knew that the poem had boomed beyond her imaginations. Hema shares, as a child, she was told that she must take part in studies or do well in studies because of her looks.
“The root of our prejudice seems to point towards our colonial past. Our Caucasian white skinned masters have left this legacy for us to propagate and continue to oppress our own.”
Skin colour does matter in our country.
“I bring it up in my poem, the mother of a prospective groom proudly stating that her son was white as milk and mother snapping at her that her daughter was black as the decoction and only when you mix the two will you get coffee.”
Her poem has created a great buzz on social media. A lot of people have appreciated her for highlighting the issue. Beauty is often determined by the colour of the skin in our country.
Opened up Spaces for Conversation
She shares that she had received emails and messages from around the world – India, US, UK, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Uganda and South Africa. Her poem has opened up spaces for conversation.
Hema says, “Many of them told me that they felt understood and validated for the first time. Our diaspora carries this prejudice in whichever part of the world they settle in. We Indians and Indian of origin are walking talking shade cards.”
I Love Telling Stories
The poetess confesses she loves storytelling as writing helps to air out the storyteller in her. “I love telling stories- both orally and through my writing. My conversations are always peppered with stories, that I use as analogies to articulate my point.”
From Corporate Career to “You are a Nothing”
We are a homeschooling family, we have home-educated both our kids for nearly 10 years now. My daughter (17) is on the verge of giving her 12th exams privately and my son (13) will continue to homeschooling till he is ready to take his public exams.
While my son never went to school, My daughter attended school until Grade 1. I think one day the teacher must have asked the children what their mothers did for a living and Viveka, my daughter came home weeping copiously that her friend’s mothers were lawyers and teachers and bankers and dentists and doctors; ‘you are a nothing’ she accused me. It hit quite close to home because I had given up a corporate career to be a stay-at-home-mother and homemaker.
Viveka, my daughter came home weeping copiously that her friend’s mothers were lawyers and teachers and bankers and dentists and doctors; ‘you are a nothing’ she accused me. It hit quite close to home because I had given up a corporate career to be a stay-at-home-mother and homemaker.”
According to her, being a housewife/mother is a vast space. They are the ones who can be everything or anything they want to be.
“And this profession of a housewife/ mother is considered a waste of education and ‘nothing’. But in this nothingness and this privilege of getting to be a stay-at-home-mother, there is a vast space – I can be everything or anything I want to be – I am a teacher, I am an artist, I am a writer, I am a storyteller, I am a handwork artist. All this was possible because I was a nothing. My website, therefore, doesn’t have a one point focus.”
Hema’s mother-in-law has always been her support and is also her chief editor. Her mother-in-law was her English teacher in school and is also her chief editor. Only after getting her writing critiqued by her, she publishes her work. She preaches that her children are always an inspiration and will always be her first gurus.
Talking about Indians’ preference for a fair-skinned bride, she says, “I hope we see an India where marriage is not a natural progression. Where women are educated and are self-sufficient and marry out of choice and not because family deems fit. We may then be able to break out of the old practice of seeking fair-skinned brides.”
She talks about the need to ban fairness creams as they are propagating lies. And not just fairness creams, the whole advertising industry needs to be pulled out as every ad is featuring only light-skinned/ Caucasian models. It is the inside that matters not the skin colour.
She shares some of the experiences people have shared with her. She says, “I am saddened and horrified to read some of the emails that women and some men wrote to me. How is it possible for someone to grow up with the absolute knowledge that they were ugly only because they had too much melanin in their skin? One gentleman wrote to me saying he ran from the country to the US as soon as he could because every day of his life he was called Kala Bhoot. I think education helps here. White skin or black skin, ultimately it’s the insides that matter. In a way not being considered good-looking forced me to look at other ways to define my self-worth. Through my education, my thoughts, my actions.”
Hema believes that women must create a sisterhood of support, of solidarity where they can draw strength from each other.
“I hope this space my poem Kali has created, opens up dialogues. One girl wrote to me that she read this poem out at a family gathering and how everyone cried and hugged. That gives me hope, a small quiet subversive movement to eliminate prejudice. That’s a happy thought.”
She talks about it is the time women must raise their voices. As women, we have been taught for too long to mute our voices. But, it’s the time every woman must speak up and raise her voice.
You can read the full poem here.
Also Read: Fifty Shades of Darkness
Deepali is an intern with SheThePeople.TV