For the prompt ‘memory’, I reflected on my childhood experiences of being dark-skinned in a land that preached the lighter skin tone. The constant nagging of my neighbors who asked me to stop playing in the sun as I’ll get all the more tanned, accompanied with ‘fair and lovely’ (a fairness cream in India) commercials, instilled countless insecurities in me. This one time in 5th grade, a boy from my section shouted at me: “You’re so dark, you look like Kalimata. As a 10-year-old, the first thing that came to my mind was this horrifying image of the goddess –
He found my dark complexion ugly and scary. His statement disturbed me for years, and it wasn’t until 8th grade that I started viewing my skin differently.
Upon researching, I found out that Goddess Kali (काली: meaning ‘black or dark-colored one’’) is a feminist icon and a symbol of courage in the Hindu mythology. She is the destroyer of evil forces and an epitome of shakti – strength, power, and energy. So, I dressed up as her to visually present my anger that stemmed from this childhood memory of being bullied because of my skin color.
Poem credits – Priyal Thakkar.