I remember watching Shahnaz Husain on television, with hair as golden as a lion’s mane and eyes heavily rimmed with kohl. I must have been around seven years old. I also remember feeling a sense of pride because I didn’t need that cream she was selling as I was already “blessed” with fair skin. This wasn’t as much of a conscious thought as a sense of validation for my then growing self. The kind of validation that places you a step above the women around you.
Over the years I’ve heard words being tossed around offhandedly. Words such as “wheatish”, “dark”, “black”…and along with them a series of phrases that had their roots in normalcy.
“Fair” – “You’re so beautiful. Your skin is so lovely.”
“Wheatish” – “I wish I had your skin color, I’d look so pretty!”
“Dark” – “Isko toh koi accha ladka nahi milega. Kaun karega isse shaadi?
Fast-forward to today, and to all the reasons I smile now. For I now see past these broken illusions. I smile because I’ve known such wonderful, powerful women who let no one define their worth based on skin colour. I smile because I’ve truly lived the “True beauty is who you are on the inside” adage, and so have a million other women who’ve risen from the ashes of societal stereotypes and proudly shown the finger to people who complained.
And that’s why I ask today, why is it that we need to be a certain kind of beautiful to feel beautiful? Why can’t we own our goddess-selves and shine like we were always meant to, honouring the skin we breathe in, its colour spoken of and thought about with pride? Why not be the beautiful we already are? Why not celebrate the body we are born into, the powerful enigma that it is?
And why let our worth, our existence, our very being, be defined by words and ideas that shame it, belittle it and make it feel never enough?
Your “dark skin” speaks of the night sky, the stars and the silent, steady moon. It always has. It speaks of glories and pitfalls that you’ve battled through and are here today, standing like a warrior in your own might. It speaks of reverberating power, of days and months and years of the light beneath those pores. It speaks of you, all of you.
Let your dreams define your height.
Let your everyday scars be tinged with the gold of persistence.
Let your worth be determined by the very stars that shine in your eyes.