Can you tell us a bit about yourself?
I am a 35 year old Indian woman. I married my best friend 9 years ago and we have two little girls. I grew up in a beautiful little town in the North of India, right in the foothills of the Himalayas. I am blessed with beautiful dark complexion which I have grown to love over the years. I say “grown to love” because it was not always so. I haven’t always seen my colour as a “blessing” but I definitely do now. I would love to share a little bit of my story with you.
What was your earliest memory of becoming aware of your ‘race’ or ‘colour’?
My skin colour has been a part of my life for as long as I remember. When I was growing up, the world taught me that being dark wasn’t a great thing. I was often compared to my sibling who was lighter skinned, not by my family but by other ‘well-meaning’ friends around. I remember in school, teachers would sometimes favor girls who were lighter skinned. At times, I was even embarrassed by my colour.
Can you give us an example of colourism from your experience?
There have been many such instances in my life where I have experienced colourism. I’d like to share a few:
When I was in my teens I’ve had “aunties” subtly (or not so subtly) tell me to use this face cream called “Fair & Lovely.” They claimed it would make me fairer and therefore beautiful.
In university, a bunch of my fair friends would discuss indignantly, while I was with them, “I’ve become so dark!!” It was a major crisis for them!
When I was getting married, some of my husband’s acquaintances were very surprised he was marrying a “dark” girl because “what if we had dark-skinned babies??” Needless to say, he married me and we have been blessed with two beautiful daughters.
How do you feel your colour has shaped your life so far?
Being different is never easy, regardless of whether it is a matter of our clothes size, body shape, or skin colour. In my childhood and teens my skin colour led to a lot of insecurities. I felt less important than others who were fairer. This was one of the main reasons I was a timid and shy young girl around people who were not my family. At home I was the complete opposite!
As I grew up and matured, I found my identity inwards. I’ve been blessed by family and friends who have looked beyond my skin colour and loved me for who I am. I’ve understood that my color (though beautiful) does not define who I am. I am not my round face. I am not my dark skin. I am not what I look like. I am ME, my heart and soul within me. I love my dark chocolate skin and I am grateful for it. It is a blessing because it has made me who I am today. It has also defined how I see other people. I have learned the importance of not judging people based on outer appearances.
What advice would you give to ordinary people who want to counter colourism?
Don’t judge the book by its cover. There’s so much more to a person than their skin colour, clothes size, body shape, and education. Take time to really get to know people. Don’t let the world tell you who is worth it and who’s not. Open your eyes and see the beauty around you. It comes in all shapes, sizes, and colours.
What are your hopes for the future as you raise your two beautiful daughters in a flawed system?
Growing up in India, I have seen a lot of the colourism sort of racism, the “wanted: fair brides” ads in newspapers and the promotion of fairness beauty creams. Bearing in mind that more than 50% of Indian people have darker skin tones, I fail to understand how this notion of “only fair” being beautiful has come about. What I want is for people to open their eyes and see the beauty that is evident in every skin tone. I want to raise my girls in a world where we let love, kindness, acceptance, integrity, honesty, tolerance, and inclusion take top priority.
My point is, dark skin isn’t beautiful ‘too’. Dark skin is beautiful. Full Stop. As is every other skin color, every other size and shape we come in. For my girls, my hope is that they will always know they are beautiful and they will choose to see the beauty in others. I pray they will be kind to those different from themselves, and love, respect and accept people from all walks of life.