Sunday, May 31, 2009

I have a dream



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...

51 comments:

Sucharita Sarkar said...

Aparna,

This post brought tears to my eyes. My elder daughter faces similar roadblocks and colour-comparisons and I, too, dream of a more sensitised world...

Rajesh said...

Very nice. Sadly people give lot of importance to complexion rather than what is deep inside.

sujata said...

Loved the post..could see my model ramp walking throughout. She's got such glamour and such talent, the skin colour I fail to notice and so will the others. But India is slowly awakening to the concept of a healthy skin rather than a fair skin. I remember when we were kids there was only one face powder shade that would turn you a hideous white.

PURN!MA said...

What to say? it is indeed a sad picture, being looked down upon for not being fair-skinned.

I'd like to share this with you.
I r'ber when I was mere 6 yr old, I'd compared my complexion to my friend's who wasn't as fair as I was. I was more amazed than being proud. afterall to my inexperienced though biased eyes, fair was more appealing than dark! My mom reprimanded me then n there, asked me to apologise to my fnd and made me swear that I'd never do it again in my life.

I did not understand why I was made to apologise (and I dint have the guts to question her)... but today I realise that mom taught me a very valuable lesson that I otherwise wouldn't have learnt!

Rohit said...

Aparna,You have touched upon a very sensitive topic and a very good post indeed.We talk about Indian students being rascially discriminated outside our country ..but the worse kind of rascism is prevelant in india and its called "fairness cream" and its glorified.One look at the fairness cream ads and you'd wonder whether to be successful you need to be fair skinned??Priyanka chopra and SRK ads are just glorified forms of the same.

Ms. Neha Gandhi said...

woww...i mean just simply wow...
so so so beautiful...
i loved ur post so much that i dont mind reading it like a 100 times

eye-in-sty-in said...

thats was beautiful! How well you have presented the topic of race, color and gender while keeping it sensitive enough for a child to read and understand. hats off to you!

PS: Can you pls remove the word verification from the comments? Its a minor irritant. Had to type "tsica" today :P

AnjuGandhi said...
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AnjuGandhi said...

Thanx Aparna for dropping by my blog and commenting. we both seem to have some thing in common. Love for our daughters.
Yes, daughters are the best thing to happen. Ain't we daughters ? and I think we are the best.
nice post you have written.
I ditto your sentiments
The discrimination on basis of colour still exist specially in our Indian society. that is why we have so many creams which will make you fair just in 15 days. As if colour will get you every thing in the world/

Onkar said...

Written with great feeling. Simply superb.

Aparna said...
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Aparna said...

Thanks Sucharita, My blood boils everytime I hear something like your daughter although dark, is pretty. As if her beauty has anything to do with the colour of her skin.

Thanks Rajesh for appreciating.

Sujata, I think you are biased but thanks anyway. I hope Ayushi never has to resort to using any such horrible face powder and fairness creams.

Aparna said...

@ Purnima, you have a very wise mother. unknowingly we may cause pain to others, it is their job to correct us. What will we do without them? Thanks a lot for sharing your memories.

@ Rohit, you are so right. These products are atrocious and they just play on the psyche of the dark toned people. Most of the people in India are dark,I don't see why we should we feel apologetic about it.

@ Neha, thanks a lot, I hope you will now be a regular visitor to my blog.

Aparna said...

@ eye-in-sty-in, I wrote this post for both my daughters. I hope they gain something from it.
I can delete the word verification from the comments? I did not know that. I always took it for granted.To reply to you I had to type roonwyj written in an alien script.

Thanks Anju for writing in. You have fun with your blogs and templates. I will visit regularly.

Thanks a lot Onkar. I appreciate your encouraging words.

Kavi said...

Splendid post ! With a real dilemma.

I carried this cross for a very long time. That i was darker than the average Joe ! It was keeping me from growing and going any further.

Over time, as i connected to more people, and as people started relating to me better or rather, i must say, when i started relating to people, life began changing.

My lens shifted. And my colour faded into the background. And these days, there isnt a bother about taking on the sun or people who think ill of me because of my colour.

And i must say, such people are easy to spot. And there used to be anger. But now, there is only compassion, that they someday will change too from a limited world that they experience.

And i have realised that the only way to have the world relate to you well, is to look at the world differently.

I have my dreams as well. To see a changed world. And i think it is in me to make a difference. Atleast to my own immediate world !

Lovely blog you have here. Will be following you. And sorry for the logish comment. I usually try and be concise. Today, i just let the words flow !

Wishing you and Ayushi the very best !

Thank you !

Sumandebray said...

Aparna,
It’s a great post and a very touchy one too and narrated in such a manner that I could almost visualize. We all have someone very close to us who suffered the agony of discrimination or have been particularly sad because of skin color or height. It is unfortunate that most people fail to look beyond the physical appearance. While it is the attitude and the inner qualities that make a person stand out in the crowd.
The irony of this matter is Indian public admires a light colored girl while the ideal man is he who is Tall DARK and Handsome and maybe ubersexual.
The racism in Australia in my opinion goes much beyond the skin color.
I am glad that you visited my page and not to mention those kind words of encouragement of yours. It puts a kind of pressure when someone with a gift of gab like yours likes it.

Pradip Biswas said...

Sujataji
This post is a problem that we indians face who were once ruled by only "whites" not by "blacks". Both the Moguls and British were whites. We the servants of them think their language, body colour etc are the best and achieving it is a blessing of good luck. The reason "Fair and Lovely" skin cream earned trillions in India.

SJ said...

Aparna, this is not limited to girls. People at my wedding were so surprised to see that I agreed to marry a guy who was not tall, fair and handsome. I married a dark, 5 ft 5' guy and an average looking guy! Its not the colour of the skin that counts its what is inside! My husband is a far better human being than I am and I love him to death!

Yaaay to Ayushi!!! Boo to the fair-skin addicts!

Nona said...

Very thought provoking. Thanks for sharing the experience.

nsiyer said...

Aparna, splendid piece and very touching.
What I loved the most was Ayushi in front of Krishna and having that mind boggling conversation. That is your masterpiece. All the best to you and Ayushi and I have become your follower.

Ishita said...

This post is awesome! I started crying too! I always thought her wanting to be fair skinned was funny. Not any more...

Roshni Mitra Chintalapati said...

What a beautiful post!
I was enraged when I visited India about 3-4 months back to see that the fairness creams and ads had not gone away yet. How can even a 3 year old not see the signs..they are everywhere!

Love your blog! Thanks for visiting mine...do drop by whenever you can!

Zeba Talkhani said...

Beautiful.

Sakshi said...

Huggs to Ayushi and to her mom..Yup this is something everyone faces and god bless all those who don't care for such things as colors, countries etc etc...

Meira said...

Lovely post. I hope our kids get the courage to destroy all traces of this stupid discrimination!

Jyothi said...

Lovely post. I too have a similar incident to mention here.
When I was around 7 years old,I happened to be in a car with one of my distant cousins of my same age. I had never met her before.We were sitting on our mothers laps and because of the lack of space, we were leaning on to the front seat. Our hands were side by side. She looked at this for a while and said, "Doesn't this look like a uniform combination?" It didn't strike me at first, she had to explain to me that we were the extremes in skin colour. To this day, whenever I hear the mention of skin colour , I think of her. Did I miss the sadness in her eyes then? I don't know.

Swatantra said...

Hi,

First time on your blog.. I wish ayushi a very good luck for the future!!

I believe she will surely make the best of everything, as her mom is the best!!

Tararumpumpum said...

I respect your views, Aparna , but have a completely different take on this,. Nobody is born with the kind of prejudices you have talked about in your post. I wonder from where little Ayushi got this impression that being fair-skinned is a big deal? From her school teachers? I doubt it, 'cause it just can't be that her teachers would specifically pick fair-skinned kids as their favourites? From the society? Highly unlikely for a child of three to interact with outsiders and get this impression. Then, from where? Well, I think there is no perfect answer to that question. Which is why I feel that the more we tell our kids that the colour of our skin isn't important to get ahead in life, the more it will prejudice their minds. We should just leave them kids alone, and they'll themselves realise that the colour of the skin never does make a difference. In fact, I’ll stick my neck out and say that I have never, repeat never come across a situation where a person was preferred over another person because of the colour of their skin. Those things happened in the days of our great grandmothers, not any more. Talking of fairness creams, well I think fairness creams are as much popular in India as are tanning methods in the West. As humans, we always long to be what we aren't. Mark my words, Ii’l Ayushi will never get discriminated against for the colour of her skin. God bless her! :)

SJ said...

@Tararumpumpum,

How do kids learn bad words? parents don't teach them. Kids learn most of the things from TV -you have some fairness cream commercial running every 15 mins, and from their friends. Why do you think India dosn't have a big group of obese kids? Do you know how many people diet like crazy to get skinny and so they will get a good boy. You only have to see the matrimony ads to get a glimpse of todays situation. Not much has changed from our grandmothers time- people still accept dowry, women are still critized for not having borne a son, people still look for 'wheatish" complexion girls.

Sorry for speaking out of turn but what Aparna has written is very valid and a very true situation even now.

A Childhood Journey said...

Very touching post. Being a good human being outweighs any kind of physical beauty. Color of the skin is trivial.

And I have personally always liked the dusky complexion much more attractive.

Tararumpumpum said...

@SJ

I think I was just talking about my experiences... which could be different from yours... and I guess there's space for both views to co-exist. :)

Cheers

Aparna said...

@ Kavi,good to connect with another dreamer.I loved your longish comment. Discrimination is a serious topic and we can not be concise and short about our views on it.

@Sumandebray, you are right, the racism in Australia is totally different. But whether in India or abroad, people do get discriminated against their physical appearances. It is sad because we have no control over how we look.

@ Pradeep Biswas, may be you are right. There is also an assumption that if you are fair skinned, you come from a more affluent background.

@SJ, true, men also face such issues. Why else would there be a fairness cream for men? And thanks for defending my point of view so passionately.I really loved it.

Aparna said...

@ Nona, glad you liked the post. Thank you.

@ nsiyer, thanks a ton. Hope you will always appreciate my posts.

@ ishita,thanks a lot honey.Both ayushi and you rock.

@ Roshni mitra chintalpati, thanks for visiting my blog, I am glad you liked it.

Aparna said...

@ Zeba, Sakshi, Meira and Swatantra, I deeply, deeply appreciate your comments. Thank you everyone.

@ Jyothi, thank you for sharing the childhood memory.

@ A Childhood Journey, thank you very much. Hope you will keep visiting my blog.

Aparna said...

@ Tararumpumpum,Finally a different perspective! I understand what you meant by ayushi gettting influenced not just by the outsiders. I hope you know that in india, family is not just the parents. While it is true that my husband and I have never discussed about skin tones, we are unfortunately not the only people in ayushis radar. And in schools, girls are always discussing about complexions. At 3, they may not discuss it like us, but they are certainly aware of the difference in their skin tones. Ask any dark girl in India, she will tell you many horror stories of her school days. BTW, Do we ever see dark skinned girls in the advertising world endorsing a beauty product? In a society where arranged marriages are a norm, a lot of girls are rejected by the boys' families solely for being dark. It is more so in north india where people are obsessed with "gori chitti ladkiyan"
I can go on and on about this. Society does not change overnight. I sincerely hope that when we show outrage over the racist attacks in Australia, we also realise that discrimination happens in every form in our country too. We just refuse to acknowledge it.

Veena said...

A first time visitor here.. and loved this post.. :)

Dinesh Rohilla said...

Hi Aparna, Really very nice and sensitive post.

Aparna said...

Thank you Veena and Dinesh.
Hope you will visit my blog again.

Mia said...
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Mia said...

very nice to read the way you 've written yaar.. this is d first tym i'm visitin your blog n it's simply d best!
Btw, Ayushi will become an outstandin gal i wish.. i really loved you addressing your daughter several tyms as beautiful, pretty..wat else is needed then? And it's too sad dat even if they luk beautiful havin gud features n all, ppl give significance to d damn complexion..
However your extreme moral support n encouragement will take her world wide.. Love you n Ayushi..
:)

Suma said...

can understand what must be gling through your mind...

i have adorable 4 yrold twins-a boy and a girl...and i'm glad they live abroad so the girl may not have to hear casual comments on how how FAIR and thus CUTE her brother is...and sadly people who comment so, do it unthinkingly.

Aparna said...

Thank you Mia. Hope you will visit again. You have been very encouraging.

Thanks Suma. Yes I do have trouble with those people who think being fair is being cute/beautiful...but true beauty shines from within and one day people do realise that. All the best to your children.

wishes galore said...

this post just touched the right chords of heart..

i am sure as she ll grow, she ll realise what a issue people make out of something like colour of the skin..

ur writing skills are great...so simple and connect right to the reader..keep writing!!!

wishes galore said...

will be following you:)

SGD said...

Beautiful post!
And how true...I feel sick every time I see these blasted Fair & Lovely ads...as if going for higher studies & excelling is not enough...you need to be fair and then excel & then only will your success be acknowledged!! Why I wonder are these ads still made and more importantly allowed to be screened!
You have a wonderful blog!

Aparna said...

Thank you Wishes Galore and SGD
This was a post very close to my heart. I am glad you liked it.

Rachna said...

Hi Aparna,

Being a dark-skinned person myself, I can relate to your post. I don't have any horror stories to tell. Yes, people would comment like "Are you a South Indian", once in a while. I am brought up in Mumbai and a UPite by birth. Older women are more callous in their comments. But, I was always very confident. Maybe, its how my parents brought me up. Of course, I am aware that Indians prefer fair skin. But, my mom always taught me that i'ts the whole personality that matters. Besides, just by being fair; you are not necessarily beautiful. I would also say that I have always got compliments both from males and females. I am married to a fair-skinned man and it did not matter to both of us - the color of our skin. My older son who is darker sometimes brings up this topic, we always encourage him to talk. It's a reality that he is dark skinned but he doesn't have to feel apologetic about it. I have told him that people would comment and sometimes just casually but we ought not to get defensive. This is a part of him just like anything else and he ought to be equally proud of it.

Neither was he nor I ever discriminated when making friends, being the pet of teachers, having male friends, getting job offers or any other field. Even in movies and advertising, you would see a lot of dark girls doing well nowadays. Just don't get defensive when your daughter brings it up. Instill in her the confidence to face the world and to be comfortable in her own skin. Her personality is multifaceted, a tanned skin is beautiful too !

Nandini Vishwanath said...

SJ sent me here and I loved this post!

I know some people who are so worried about this coz of social conditioning and I see the effects now!

You write fantastically well, Aparna

Aparna said...

Thank you Rachna, I cherished each and every word of your comment.

Thank you Nandini, I hope SJ did not have to point her gun. I appreciate you writing in. Hope you will be a regular visitor from now on.

Apanatva said...

today i am reading all your posts all old ones also.all are very well written.
god bless you.

few i found thought provoking.
keep it up

Sandhya said...

Blame it on the fairness companies and all we folks who harp on the "you-have-to-be-fair-concept'
Fair isn't always beautiful. It takes a lot of effort you make children understand that. I'm sure you daughter will grow up to be a wonderful human being!