I regarded myself as a very observant person. I always made sure that I knew exactly what was happening around me. Little did I realize the harassment faced by brown skinned people in general. I live in India where fairness creams are advertised by celebrities who influence most of India's ignorant adults.
I remember one of the advertisements in which the girl did not get a job because she was dark so she applied a 'fairness cream' that made her 10 shades fairer which magically got her, her dream job. This is how beauty is defined, this was exactly what I was taught during my 17 years of schooling. A sad state of affair I know.
I remember taking pride in the school I went to. I got the full package. My parents were proud of their daughter's 'Convent education'. That was probably one of the worst schools you could pick. I'm grateful for the values and education they provided me with. I met my friends who were just as disturbed as me. I met an amazing teacher who inspired me and encouraged me to be a better version of myself. But that same school taught me how this society worked.
I vividly remember our bicentury program. I was about 10 years old. Thirty out of sixty students were selected by my teacher to be the angel. I remember being so excited, I mean which 10 year old wouldn't want to wear a white dress with a tiara and be a part of a very big event in our school. I raised my hand up and made sure it was the longest, screamed "Me Miss" about thousand times so that my teacher could hear me. She selected all the girls around me.
Some of the girls didn't want to participate even then, they were forced to participate in that event. As a 10-year-old I didn't understand what was the fault in me. Almost all the girls were a part of it except me. That broke my heart, that was the first time I felt sad.
Days passed, years flew by and I grew up. I didn't understand why my grandmother wanted me to wash my face regularly. I didn't understand why she restricted me from going out in the sun. I didn't know that being dark was ugly. This society convinced me that dark was synonymous to ugly.
My mom is from the North of India, she is about 20 shades lighter than me. I remember the stories made up by uneducated people, to reason my 'unfortunate' complexion. Apparently my mom ate black, sour grapes that made me dark.
All the girls around me hit puberty and everyone around me had drilled it into my naive mind that "being beautiful is to be fair". My grandmother made sure I knew that no guy would like me because of my complexion, every time she said that, I looked into my mother's eyes and I could see her pain through her glossy wet eyes.
By the time I was 13 I knew I was ugly because I was dark. I washed my face 5 times a day, made sure I applied all the fairness creams I could find. I made sure I was not out in the sun for a long time. I was slowly drowning in a huge wave of insecurities.
Being dark was considered a sin. I was diving deep into hating how I looked. Once I went to my mom and asked if there was anything I could ever do to make my complexion better. She couldn't see my plight so she took me to this renowned doctor who gave a 'milk powder' and tablets which has apparently worked and made his patients fair.
I was determined this time to do everything to make myself the best looking. To make my ugly face beautiful. The only reason I wasn't pretty was because of my complexion right?
I puked several times. I did it for about a month. I eventually gave up. My insecurities got the best of me. I refused to take pictures, I refused to put effort into the outfits I wore. I had given up. I had decided to be the ugly duckling.
It was carved in my thick skull that I'll never be called beautiful. I drowned myself in self pity for years. I became my sister's shadow. I didn't want to be seen. I didn't want to people to feel obligated to compliment me. I hated attending family functions, I didn't like anything to do with people.
This society made me hate myself. I no longer wanted to look at myself in the mirror. Mirror was probably my biggest enemy. It reminded me of something I could only aspire to become.
My parents did all they could to make me feel special. To make me feel like I was the best version of myself. They guided me to see the right path amidst all the chaos in my head. Believe me, my mind was in a rut of self-hatred. My dad was dark, he went through what I went through. He made it a point to tell me stories about his life growing up. He felt discouraged all his life. He attended various programs to gain his self confidence and self-worth.
I accepted my skin tone, my parents did, my friends did. I don't see the point in impressing people who will not make a difference in my life. Now I'm 17, I've never been this confident about myself. I just feel like I met the right people at the right time who taught me that there's more to this life than beauty. My friends who gave me a voice and listened to all my insecurities and helped get out of that bubble of self-pity and self-loathing I created for myself.
We grew up together and taught each other that a voice of reason is more attractive than a beautiful face with a superficial mind. I always say this and I'm going to repeat it again, I wouldn't be me without these people.