Even at the age of 3, she knew that she was not like them. A dark ,thin girl with bright eyes and an inquisitive mind. So different from the rosy cheeked, fair skinned children of her pre-school in Delhi. Children who appeared to be their teacher's pets. Any excuse, the lady would pick them up and give them big hugs. The little girl only got smiles and encouraging pats on her back.
Her child's mind told her to search for solutions. And she did it every single day. Washing herself with soap. Smearing her face with powder. Dabbing some white paint on her skin. But nothing seemed to work.
One day, her mother found her sitting in a tub full of white water. She was rubbing her body rigorously with it. The little imp had poured in half a bottle of Dettol in her bath water. The logic was, if the magical liquid made the ordinary, transparent water white, surely it also had the ability to change her from a dark skinned girl to a fair skinned beauty. The mother told the little girl that she was pretty just as she was, but the girl was not really convinced.
She heard stories of how her elder sister was admired when she was born. A beautiful bundle of pink skin and black hair. How all the doting doctors and expecting mothers came to see the new born any time of the day and night. "Why am I not like her?" In her innocent mind, being fair was directly proportionate to being thoroughly loved.
She often ran to her wise grandmother for answers. "Nani, why do you think I am so dark? Didi isn't." The wise grandmother who was a devotee of Krishna, said, "That's because Krishna loves you so much. When you were born, He decided to give you a part of Himself. And He gave you his complexion."
The little girl was momentarily pleased but not completely happy. The next day the mother found her standing in front of nani's Krishna. " I wish you had given me your wisdom or your talent for playing the flute. Why did you have to give me the complexion?"
Listening from behind the door, the mother was amused. Her little girl was such a darling. But she was also a little sad. What made a girl of three learn that our society placed a high value on fair skin? Why did her dark little girl think she was loved less than her fair sister? Did love, respect ,kindness and all the other human emotions get swayed by the skin tone?
The mother knew then she had a difficult job ahead. She would have to instill in her daughter that the colour of her skin was never going to stand in her way to success. The path would be determined by her hard work and her perseverance. The love that she received in life would not be determined by how she looked but by her ability to love back. It would be her indomitable spirit that would make her touch the sky. The mother knew it would be a difficult job. After all, they lived in a country where every young woman aspired to be fair. Where a light skin was considered to be a step up for success. Stepping forward, with a determined smile, the mother hugged her daughter tight....
This post is dedicated to all the Indian students studying abroad who have faced hate crimes.
It is also dedicated to my younger daughter Ayushi who was born premature, tiny and dark. Not many people celebrated her birth. Her parents were too worried about her health to be happy. Her grandparents had wished for a baby boy. They were also unhappy about the colour of her skin. Only her older sister welcomed her into the family with unbridled joy. After all she had prayed hard for a baby sister.
Ayushi has grown into a beautiful girl. She is an excellent student and wins medals every year for her academic performance. She draws, dances, skates and is one of the friendliest girl in her class. She still wants to be fair but knows her parents love her just the way she is.
Her mother dreams that one day Ayushi will cast her magic over the whole world . She dreams that her daughter will show that love, compassion and joy are all you need to be beautiful.
She also dreams that one day, her daughters will inherit a world free from racism and hate. She dreams...