Today as I sipped my morning tea and read the newspaper, the article that drew my attention was an article about a politician making a racist remark about the colour of the skin of people in the southern part of India. Why the colour of the skin must be a matter of discussion I have never understood. But culturally it has been important in our country. The lighter skinned people are always the preferred one when it comes to matrimony or anything related to beauty. The beauty of the person is always directly proportional to the lighter colour of the skin. Beauty is skin deep or beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder are just surreal philosophies.
We all have different skin colour and hence we will be judged accordingly was brought to my attention as a kid. I was born with dark skin colour and my older sister had a lighter skin colour, so since childhood I have always heard remarks about it. Again, why was it a matter of discussion I have never understood. But neighbours, families, people everyone thought that it was an important aspect of life. So, since I had dark skin I always assumed that I was not beautiful, it was ingrained in me with the story books always portraying a light coloured skin princess, the media constantly equating the image of beauty with the skin colour and not to forget the aunties who gave me tips to lighten my skin colour. You know how impressionable kids are. I once took one tip very seriously. One aunty told me to apply turmeric mixed with milk on my face regularly. I tried it and it made me look yellow, like I had jaundice. But I was willing to live with jaundiced face for few days if I would get the desired result. Then another thought struck me, what if my face became lighter than my entire body, that would really look weird, so I gave up the jaundiced look.
I was a child happy to be engaged in different activities like any other child. So, once I had participated in a group dance performance. We rehearsed for days, were excited about wearing costumes and make up and performing in front of an audience. A day before our performance we went to hire costumes, that exercise was very exciting for us kids because all the costumes were vibrant and filled with some amount of glitter. Few aunties had accompanied us and they put a bunch of costumes in front of us and told us to pick the one we liked according to our size and colour. My hand instantly reached out to the red costume, it was bright and beautiful and I loved it. I showed it to the aunty, she looked at me and then at the costume and said, “Oh red is not your colour, it will not look good on your skin colour”. She took it from my hand and replaced it with a baby pink coloured costume and gave the red costume to the light coloured girl in the group. That day I was extremely hurt. I couldn’t understand how the colour of my skin should define my natural choices. I never wore red after that day.
Years passed, rebellious adolescence took over. I think the colour of my skin added an extra dose of rebellion in me. I did the things I wanted to do. I wore short clothes which my father didn’t approve of. I went and cut my long tresses short. I fought for stupid things. I did well in whatever I took up. I chose a profession which my parents didn’t approve of. Friends around me were getting married and the colour of the skin was again a matter of discussion. In India, in most arranged marriage scenarios the groom is looking for a light skin coloured bride and that was held as a matter of pride. I have even heard my own friends say that they would never marry a guy with dark skin colour and have wondered how shallow and judgemental they were and how come they were friends with me. Some were even scared of getting tanned and here I was fearless of the sun. Well luckily for me work took over my life and such things could be easily side lined. I was doing well in life as per my parameters but red never found a place in my wardrobe.
Once we were planning a surprise dance performance for a friend who was going to get married. So, we took out time out of our busy work schedule and practised at night and decided a theme for costume. We all went shopping according to our convenience. As I looked around a shop, a red skirt caught my eye, it was plain and yet bold and seemed to be making a statement. I didn’t think twice and I bought it along with a matching red top. I wore it with confidence and performed. As I danced that day, I felt liberated, I felt happy that I had finally broken a barrier someone had created for me. I had embraced the colour red, I told myself that it was just another colour. I can wear red, blue, yellow, pink or whatever I want, nobody gets to tell me what I colour I should wear. I chose my colour and red is my colour.