She was sitting in her classroom reading a novel, when her friends joined her after the break to discuss about the group project they were assigned by their English teacher. She didn’t prefer to play outside, mostly because she wasn’t athletic. So, she used to sit alone inside the class during lunch breaks, while her friends went out to play basketball. During the discussion about the project, her friend Payal said, “Ananya, your skin complexion is really beautiful!” and instantly brought forward her hand and placed it next to Ananya’s hand, comparing it with her own complexion. Ananya just forced a smile on her face and said, “I really want tanned skin like yours.” then focused on the project.
This was one of the very common incidents encountered by Ananya every day. It wasn’t something that she could help but she felt uneasy about it as she grew. From her childhood she’s been identified for her fair complexion by everyone. Sometimes she felt that that’s the only identity she had over her other talents.
When she was in the fourth standard, her friends used to tease her because of her complexion. Some called her “white crow”, and when she inquired why was she being called names, they responded by saying that she was white and used to answer a lot to the teachers’ questions. Yes, that was not untrue but the reason she used to answer the teachers’ questions were because she did her homework unlike others. She did not feel right for being teased for doing something that was expected from every student.
Ananya was in fact an intelligent student among her batch, she was the perfect daughter her parents could have. Her skin complexion was fairer than other but it was not a rarity. She never actually understood the concept of skin complexion and why everybody around her was so obsessed with it. She often heard the aunties, complementing her mother’s skin too and learned to use smile as a response from her.
One day, at school, her friends were discussing about the preparations for Diwali. They all shared how their mothers are busy decorating the house as well as decorating themselves. Her friend, Riya expressed how excited she was to grow up and bleach her skin like her mother did, so that she could be white like Ananya. Ananya did not know how to react to that, as she was caught off guard. She however mentioned that bleaching is actually not good for skin and the conversation shifted to health care. She knew that it was unnecessary for Riya to drag her within the conversation.
This incident triggered her and forced her to search the answers from her mother. “Well, as far as one can recall, the identity of colour was associated with race and ethnicity throughout the history. The British were the one who made it obvious by converting it into a power tool to discriminate the colored. It was also heavily practiced by them in India to discriminate against Indians. Some of the impacts are still visible in the modern days and is actually a global issue.” Her mother answered her. She had always taught her daughter to never be proud of her skin complexion as it adds to nothing.
Day by day, these encounters were becoming repetitive. A feeling of guilt took shelter within her without her consent. Obviously, these incidents were not evident but the experience was intolerable. She often questioned herself, her abilities. Her well wishers told her that the others were jealous of her but it again made her curious why. What is there for people to be jealous about, especially in a world where brown skin is the national identity, yet others were threatened.
Days passed by, she graduated from school and moved out of her hometown for higher education. Her curiosity along with the guilt settled somewhere behind her. She expected that this big city would bring big deals for her as she had grown out of her shell. She made new friends, started working towards her dreams. One day, while she was getting her food from the canteen, a guy came to her and said that she should go outdoors more often, as a little tan would not harm. Little did he know, she was actually tanned as she became more active than before.
She moved ahead and wondered why these people couldn’t mind their own business. When one would actually need help, these people would be nowhere to be found. After reaching her class, she narrated the incident to her friend, who replied jokingly, “If you will apply fairness cream every day, you can’t expect people to not notice it.” All her friends laughed, even she did. She wondered how different the whole situation would have been if she would have been of darker complexion. Nobody would have laughed away the scene in that manner.
People are really active about things related to body shaming, racism, gender biases etc. but experiences like this are never addressed. Of course, there are very few who might find this disturbing but this is a serious issue as it is the adding to the cause of racism. A problem is a problem regardless of its way of expression or how marginal it is. What generates such thoughts among young children that makes them jealous about such unnecessary things? Why is it so important that it hides all the other qualities of an individual? Complementing the skin and commenting on the skin complexion are two different things with a very thin line. However, people do need to understand the differences.
Ananya recalled an encounter on the cultural day, where she had actually put effort to look good as well as on the speech about the cultural heritage. After finishing her speech, as she moved toward the crowd her friends complimented her. One of the most common compliments was, “you are looking beautiful, that is obvious as you are so fair.” Her thoughts wrapped her up within them, again. For once in her life she wanted to be known other than as the “white crow”.
How could somebody be so blind by the fairness? Whenever she tried to address the importance of normalization, people asked her to stop offending others because people did not see any problem in this. It mostly sounded like she was seeking for more attention. She obviously wanted attention but the type of attention which is not based on her complexion. In a world where everybody supports “Black Lives Matters”, those same people hesitate to actually practice it. Deep down everybody somehow gets triggered by others skin colour. There is nothing that one should actually be worried about. The very concept of associating beauty with fairness is so wrong. This is a fight against the very old definitions of beauty and so, it should be stopped. One cannot take away or get rid of their skin colour, but teaching everybody to acknowledge variety would be stop these issues.
Now, as she is a grown-up girl, she avoids this kind of conversations but still deep down, within her she still struggles. She can’t express her struggles to anyone as everybody would mock her for seeking attention because she is privileged, a type of privilege that she can’t even take credit for as it would immediately lead to something bigger. She wants more to her identity as it feels like limited and her experience is marginalized. It’s not something that she desires, it’s genetic but she still tries to stand out of it every day with smiles.
6 thoughts on “The Other Side”
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So very relatable. And you have penned it down impeccably. Proud of you!!
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This is amazing 🔥 I loved reading this 💖 good job 😊
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Thank you 😊