If I were to prepare a list of the many stereotypes I have had to face in my life, the hate I have received for simply being my mother’s daughter would probably top that list.
If you make me stand alongside my mother, you would start having doubts right away. Let me tell you why. My mother is, by all means, an angel – “the perfect Indian beauty”, as they say. With her beautiful fair skin, petite figure, wavy natural hair framing her face, and an innocent smile – she is often the source of admiration for most of my friends. “A supermodel,” they call her.
Enter me, the taller-than-socially-acceptable, frizzy-haired daughter with broad features that are far-from-pretty, oily dark ebony skin and slightly crooked teeth which make smiling all the more awkward. You could say that I’m the polar opposite of my Mom. It’s a universally accepted fact that I am not pretty – at least not by the social standards of beauty as they stand today.
Ideally, I would not be much bothered by this contrast (read: I should be proud because of Mom’s beauty), but somewhere, somehow, I was.
That’s because every time I got out with Mom, I see many raised eyebrows. People who have had nothing to do with us would walk up and ask how we were related. And when Mom would answer and say, “Woh meri beti hai (she is my daughter),” the eyebrows would shoot even higher.
An awkward smile would follow, both from me as I tried to figure out what to do, and from the stranger, as they would direct their sharp, piercing glances at me, examining me from head to toe, rummaging for the slightest bit of similarity in this mother-daughter duo.
And that was still more respectful.
One time, a friend’s grandmother expected me to justify my ‘ugliness’ when Mom dropped me at my friend’s place to copy some notes. The only thing that the 12-year-old me could do was stare at the ground with self-loathing as she said, “Yes, I saw your mother. Just like a ‘Chinese doll’, she looked. Why do you look like this, sweetheart? Why can’t you look like your mother?”
When I couldn’t give a reply, she continued on, “Oh, I see, so you look like your father. Couldn’t you tell that? Okay fine, you didn’t get your mother’s looks. But okay, girls who look like their father are lucky in life.”
I just sat there thinking about how “lucky I was” to be subject to this kind of humiliation almost every day.
Another time, at a parent-teacher-meeting I attended with my Mom, a classmate’s mother – a friendly, jovial woman – secretly told me in front of Mom, “Tum aisi kyun dikhti hai re? Zara apne upar dhyaan diya karo beta, nahi to kabhi dekha gaya ki ladke wale tumhe dekhne aakar tumhari Ma ko hi pasand kar liye. (Why do you look like this? You should take care if yourself, otherwise when a boy will come to see you for marriage, he will choose your mother instead of you).”
She then laughed, pleased with her own little joke.
Also read: My Body’s Coming-of-Age Story
My demure Mom stood there, saying nothing, so that the cordial relations between the two families would not be strained. I stood there as well, humiliated, once again.
But these well-wishers, they have no idea about what all I’ve done int half-baked attempts to look more like my mother. They don’t know about the millions of products I had applied on my face to remove the darkness that makes me “ugly”, as they see it.
There have been so many times where I’ve had to bury in my heart the desire to wear heels out of fear of being mocked because of my height. There’s been millions of time where I have wished my features were a little more feminine, just like Mom’s.
Then came a time that I snapped somewhat under the weight of these non-stop comments about me and my body. And I hated my mother from the depths of my heart for the hate that I received. I hated her fair skin. I hated her comforting voice. I hated her slender figure. I hated her demure nature that said nothing when I was being attacked. I hated her, as she was the very reason why society would never accept me as I was.
I hated my gorgeous Mom.
I stopped clicking pictures with her and secretly deleted all her pictures from my phone and all my pictures from my parents’ phone. All my social media photos were taken down, and new, highly filtered images of me with fair skin and feminine proportions started appearing. At restaurants and movies, I would not sit beside her. I would do anything to ensure we were not seen together outdoors.
To my dismay, Mom never said a single word about any of this.
It took me a long time to realise why she didn’t. It was because every time someone said something nasty about me, they abused her as well. Every time a grandmother compared me with my Mom, who “looked a China doll”, they unknowingly objectified my Mom as well.
Every time someone joked that my “potential bride groom” would run away with Mom, they hideously insulted and broke down my Mom as well.
What the grandmother said might be true after all. I am not lucky. But my mother is not lucky for being so beautiful either. Mom too is unlucky because of that pretty face. She is unlucky because of the constant insults she faces along with me.
She is unlucky to have a daughter who hated her because of her looks. She is unlucky for existing in a society where her value is judged by her bodily features.
Aditi Tarafdar is a 16-year-old girl who aspires to live a fulfilled life following her (probably grandiose) dreams, irrespective of what the society has defined for her. She loves observing those little unnoticeable and often taken for granted things about the world around her, and vents her feelings about these little things in the articles and poems that she writes.