It’s like a dream where you know only the middle and not the beginning. I don’t remember how all of it started. I have spent half of my childhood believing that I can’t have it all or more like I didn’t deserve it. The reason was me being a dark-skinned Indian girl. From the very beginning, this terrible thought was etched into my soul that I was not good enough.
My eight-year-old self used to believe that only fair-skinned and vibrant girls were allowed to be happy. On television and in theatre, I saw all these pretty fair-skinned girls and somewhere, somehow I began to believe that they were the only species of girls who were admired by everyone, who got to do pretty amazing stuff, fall in love and have a perfect fairytale ending. All those movies made me believe that nobody would fall in love with me and I would never be treated the way I deserved to be treated. From the start, television and cinema has always depicted dark-skinned people as either poverty stricken or villainous. I had this terrible thought that my dad would marry me to somebody right after school and I’d be unhappy and lonely all my life.
At school, I always thought that everyone looks down upon me and nobody would ever see me for who I actually am. I felt like the ugly friend who made others look good. I have always been afraid of being seen. I was bullied for having a dark complexion to the level that one day I stormed out of the class without taking the teacher’s permission. The bullying was most of the time in code words so the teachers couldn’t understand the context even if it all happened in front of them.
All this continued until tenth standard. When I entered eleventh, I went through a transformation and everything changed–just like the movies. I suddenly became more confident than ever. Something makes me believe that it wasn’t a sudden change, though. It was a culmination of small steps that made this huge change. Between the age of 15 and 16, I indulged in avid reading that opened the doors to whole different world for me. All the stories of the terrific and inspiring women who proved that even the skies could not stop them made me break the walls that I had been building for years. I watched the movies that were culturally diverse and listened to great music that vibed with me. I talked to people who made me feel like I belong. I started to participate more, interact more and feel better about myself. I began to love myself for who I was. I realised that people actually don’t think as low of me as I did.
The teachers grew fonder of me in the last two years of school and so did everyone else. My grades got better and I aced all my classes. I cracked the law entrance test and will leave for college after summer. It wasn’t my complexion keeping people out, but the boundaries that would never be here if it wasn’t for my own thoughts.
On the farewell day (same as prom), I got Miss Farewell (prom queen) and that was the moment it was crystal clear to me that my looks will never define who I am. I had kind of always believed that you have to be a doll to get that title but turns out that you don’t.
Yes, I don’t fit into the Indian stereotype of beauty, but does that mean that I am not beautiful? I believe I am. I no longer care what the television or cinema believes is beautiful.
To all the little girls looking at picture perfect girls on billboards, magazines or the internet and striving to be like them, I want you to know that it’s okay if you are not like them. You don’t have to be them. You just have to be yourself. You are beautiful even if others don’t see it. You’re beautiful even if you don’t believe that you are. Your complexion or your size doesn’t define you.
It took me so so long to set free my eight-year-old self who locked herself in. Now that I am free, now that I can see the light that I didn’t before, I want all of you to see it. Get out of the cages you have shut yourselves in and walk into the sunrise that awaits you.
Author: Shiwangee Chadrakar
Author Bio: I’m 18 years old. A writer and a law student.