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  • Writer's pictureKamran Mazhar

The Darker the Uglier?

It is quite fascinating to see when people from our country support the “Black Lives Matter” movement. How everyone writes articles and posts pictures on their social media handles about every race deserves an equal amount of love and respect. Despite all this, we forget or perhaps we do not even notice how much impact racial discrimination has even in our Indian society.

This article is not at all about the comparison of the sufferings of Black Americans and people living in India. It soberly talks about those people of India who by the will of God were born with darker skin. My name is Kamran Mazhar and this is the story of my upbringing in Northern India being a boy with a darker complexion.

All those voices and comments that I used to hear as a kid often haunt me. It all started when I was a young boy, maybe in middle school. I was a dark-complexioned skinny guy. And being dark was somehow the symbol of being less beautiful/attractive while I was growing up. The thoughts were very deeply embedded in my head that I can never be appealing with a dark skin tone. Being dark used to be the paragon of my inferiority complex. I used to carry tubes of facewashes and fairness creams in my school bag. I just could not accept the fact that being dark does not mean you are less attractive or appealing. It wasn’t just me who was living in this delusion. It includes all the people who lived around me and slowly led me astray thinking that “The Darker the Uglier.”

All those mean comments were being brutally stone pelted at me. I would like to share some of the worst comments that I heard about my dark skin. It was about the time when I was maybe 13 years old and it had become my everyday routine that after recess, I must wash my face with soap before entering the class. The reason is that while playing in the playground outside, my whole body used to get sweaty and tanned. And how can I even enter my class when I am at the peak of my inferiority complex? One fine day I was returning from recess and I followed my everyday routine. I went to the washroom first and started scrubbing my face with soap. There were a couple of my seniors already there in the washroom. The moment this guy sees me washing my face, he calls upon his friend and shouted while abusing me and says “Dekh ********** gora hone ki koshish kar raha hai” (Look that ****** is trying to be fair). The moment I listened to this guy, I immediately washed the soap off my face and rushed to my class. I didn't even know this guy and neither did he know me. Then why would he say such harsh words to a kid? How could he have the audacity to insult a kid that too in front of someone? What did this kid do to him anyway? Why couldn't he simply digest the fact that it is just a guy trying to wash his face? Why does the stigma of “being dark is ugly” revolves around society? Even school kids are infused with such inhuman thoughts.

There’s another incident that happened when I was maybe 15 years old. I had started to gain some confidence. One fine day I was on my way to my class and a guy whom I used to consider my friend called me up and asked to meet for a chat. I went to him, we talked for a bit and after that what he said was the worst comment on my skin color that I have listened to so far. He slowly comes near me, looks right into my eyes, and says “meri ***** ke rang ka hai tu” (you match the color of my bottom). I was a young school-going boy who hasn't even set his feet in the outer world and has already listened to such mean comments on the color of his skin. This comment completely tore me apart. All the confidence that I had gained vanished in a single moment. Perhaps no one saw me crying that day but only I know what I felt and how that 15-year-old guy was trying hard to not cry in front of his classmates. Even today while writing this article tears roll down my cheeks thinking how could someone say such harsh things to a kid? The more I know, the more I realize that people won’t even think twice to pass an unkind comment that can break an individual into pieces.

I remember it took me days to move on from what I witnessed that day. I used to question my existence. I even started questioning, “God am I so ugly”? I asked my parents, “am I so dark and ugly”? Defending my statement my father used to say “No son you are not dark, you are wheatish.” My father’s saying used to help me for some time but I used to forget about it completely the very next day because I had to face all those people and their comments all over again.

It’s just a few incidents that I have shared with you. Innumerable incidents happened to me and happen to many other people like me daily. It continued for years and with time I gradually learned that their way of thinking does not define me and my personality. Facing such issues at an early age slowly turns you into a completely different person than you are. I feel great now that I have realized that these comments mean nothing to me as an individual. But I feel there are still several people who might be going through the same every day. I’ve known people from rural parts of India saying that it becomes a major hindrance for their daughters to get married if they have dark skin complexion. People comment very easily that “arrey kalui se biyaah kaun karega” (“Who's going to marry a dark girl?”) without even realizing what negative impact their comments have on the lives of individuals. People tend to blame themselves that it’s all their fault for whatever is going wrong in their lives just because they're dark-complexioned.

I think there should be a strong emphasis on this issue. Children should be made aware that racial discrimination is cruel. They should be taught, from a young age, in their moral education classes about this in their schools. I think our schools need to address this issue immediately as current curriculums ignore it. Perhaps people do not even know that this issue even exists.

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1 Comment

Nazia Khan
Nazia Khan
Mar 31, 2023

Very well written! It's not easy to share such scarring experiences with the world but it's a very important topic and schools should create a safe space for students to talk about these kind of issues.

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