Dear 10-year-old me,
Normally an informal letter starts with a ‘how is school’ but in your case, I won’t because I know how tough it is to be the only dark-skinned girl in class.
It must be very hard going to school everyday with a smile on your face, after crying yourself to sleep the night before. After a point, Amma will stop asking – she doesn’t want to hear that her 10-year-old is crying because someone called her kaali again. It must be that Ritwik.
It will get better, hang in there.
Even after being called “kaali kaluti, baigan jesi, koyla, blacky” and facing those disgusted looks – you still wake up each day and go. You are so brave, I wish I could be like you now.
Despite knowing the entire poem better than anyone else, you won’t be chosen because “strong makeup won’t look good on her”. You will lose out on some opportunities because you look different. There will always be some people who will ask with a smirk, “ Are you from Africa?”.
It’s okay. It will get better.
People will tell you all your life what to do and what not to do – not in the regular sense. People will tell you not to wear off-shoulder or crop tops so that your skin doesn’t get ‘darker’. People will tell you to drink more milk and less coffee, even though you love coffee. People will recommend all sorts of products to you: Fair & Lovely cream, multaani mitti, besan, Ayurvedic oil, curd , Ayurvedic scrub and other things, which supposedly will make you “fair”.
Didn’t Sangeeta aunty come up with yet another nuska for you to become fair? Don’t listen to them, all you will get is allergies and acne.
Society is so unaware of the science behind skin colour that people will go around spreading rumours about you smearing black paint on your face every morning.
Take pity on them, and don’t cry in bed.
You will get tired of it, but people won’t stop saying: “If you had been a bit lighter, you would look amazing”, “you are fine looking for a dark person”, “you are dark yet very pretty”. It is not you, it’s this prejudiced society we live in that considers fair skin as the only standard for beauty.
You must get uncomfortable watching Fair & Lovely advertisements on TV, that say guys don’t even look at dark-skinned girls or that they can never get a job they want.
It must be tough for a Bollywood buff like you to sit through movies when most movies and songs somehow imply that “goris” are always preferred.
While the song lyrics might change some day from ‘gori gori’ to ‘chittiyaan kalaaiyaan’ – the ideology won’t. But don’t worry, a time will come when you will be able to laugh at these advertisements and songs and you will realise that you don’t need that pinkish/whitish glow.
After submitting to years of mockery and criticism, I realised that snapping at people or trying to be invisible is not the solution.
But changing my attitude towards the problem is.
Usually, a letter like this ends on a hopeful note but I can’t – I can’t give you the hope that in future, people won’t treat you differently because of the way you look. In fact, even now, people are getting killed all over the world because of their skin colour.
But, as they say, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. Everything you are going through now will give you the strength to face what the world has to offer.
Never forget, you are not alone. Millions of people are going through the same. Hang in there. Laugh at the ridiculous comments.
Malavika is a journalism student at Kamala Nehru College, DU.
Featured image credit: Annie Spratt/Unsplash