Pasty green doesn't suit you. White makes you look darker. Why would you even dare to wear black? That's forbidden. Don't even think about wearing yellow. It looks too much yellowish on you, like a blob of mustard on a piece of brown bread. How about you stay naked so that they can stare at you from head to toe and skin you alive with their eyes? How about you wash yourself with tons of laundry detergent so that you look clean? Apply some turmeric paste even though dressing up in yellow makes you look sallow. You should apply some rice face mask but you cannot wear white. Put on those charcoal peel thingy, too. Instead of saving money for your dream car in future, why don't you think about saving money for a laser treatment? Pretty face boosts your confidence. Trust me. It's a privilege. The color of your skin doesn't define your identity; it defines your beauty, and this is what you should believe, or maybe forced to believe.
You are a third grade student. For some unknown reason you don't have any friends in your new school. They look at you as if they are looking at a bug flying around and can jump on them anytime. They look at you as if you are selling flowers on the street and they are not willing to buy any from you. During “tiffin period” all of them run to the playground and start playing. You go near them and they tell you to move away or stand away. You have always been told to move or stand in “the corner.” That's what you do better. That's what suits you. That's where you belong; at the corner of everyone's eyes like eye sand. Itchy, sticky and disturbing.
You do not simply have the luck that someone in your family would like you. They don't even bother to look at you even if you are hit by a tennis ball-- until you beg them to look at you. Look at me, I got hurt so bad. They just stare back at you.
Hey! We're going to get scolded if our moms notice that she got hurt while she was with us. Said one of them.
Oh, shut up you. No one will even notice she got bruised. I bet she is going to get an invisible bruise. Then they start walking away. You follow them like a lost puppy that needs attention or maybe a puppy on a leash who has a rude owner.
You are just a kid. Maybe a quiet and miserable eight or nine-year-old. You love to go to your dad's office. His colleagues love you. They let you sit on their big office chair. They let you play with the typewriter and sometimes teach you how to use that. But it bothers you when one of them asks dad,
You and Bhabi have fair skin. Why is our little angel so dark?
A painful thing about the typewriter is that unlike Microsoft Word, you cannot undo stuff you have already written even if you make a spelling mistake. You have to start from the scratch again using a new paper. Even if you throw away the paper, it's still there. You have the option to recycle or maybe throw the paper in water. That might help.
You are nineteen. You are with your eight-year-old cousin. You are having a sisterly bonding moment and you are thrilled. You think maybe she is the one family member who likes you. Why do you look so dark? Look at me, I am so pretty. I think you look devilish. That isn't the first time you are asked question like this from a kid. You don't know how to respond. You feel like using her face for a punching bag. That's a violent thought. Maybe you are evil.
You are twenty-two. The dark-skinned guys do not have to worry about getting a girl. They don't care if they are “full city roasted” coffee or “French roasted.” No one is judging them; they are simply not made with the same mechanism as the dark girls. Yet you somehow managed to get a boyfriend. But you do not have guys falling for you like your other friends and cousins. You know the reason. You try to make yourself believe it's because you have a boyfriend. You are insecure about your boyfriend too because he has fair skin and when you go out people often make comments like, “Look at the couple. The guy is so handsome and good looking. Why is he with this girl?” So, you wonder, too, why is he with you? This question haunts you down and day by day you become more insecure and weird.
But hey! There's always these little perks you have for being who you are. Your mom will not have to worry about people coming with marriage proposals. She wouldn't have to worry about too many guys looking at you and calling you Hot or Pretty Face.
You are twenty-three. It's New Year's Eve. It's time for you to leave. Leave your country and go to a strange place full of unknown faces. You are done with your packing. That's what you did for New Year's Eve. There were boom-dhooms of the firework and people yelling Happy New Year without having any clue whether they are going to have a “happy” new year or not. You just went to the veranda to see what all the fuss is about. Come here and pack your bag with us. Yelled your mom. Suddenly, there was a knock on the door. Well, quite a few knocks. It's your cousin and aunt; come to wish you Happy New Year as you are leaving them for good. You are happy. Really happy like a freaky little kid with a creepy Batman mask on her hand, which is black and has two holes for eyes and mouth.
Go there and marry a white dude, bon. You are not getting any fairer than this you know. At least the kid will come out prettier. Said my cousin who maybe has the severe sickness called; “I Cannot Stop Myself from Projectile Vomiting the Stuff I Have in My Brain; Which Is Basically Horse Shit And Dead Worms.”
Here we go again, with all the crap about the kid you never want to have because taking care of yourself with all the childhood trauma and depression had been a tough job so far. Besides, you do not want to bring a child who might have your dark skin and obviously your depressive genes.
Do not give her those Haram ideas. Do not even think about doing anything Haram. But you have to think about the amount of dowry you have to give if you want to marry her off with a decent guy, Bhabi. Said my Aunt who has a thing called “Typical Bangladeshi female sadistic misogynist with a touch of stupidity syndrome.”
Then again there are few perks of being a dark girl in your society. Your family members (not your parents though) wouldn't have to worry about you standing near to your cousin who is sitting like a doll in front of her future in-laws, because there's no chance that they are going to look at you and maybe choose you instead of her for their son. You can walk a lot under the sun without worrying about getting scorched. You do not have to use so many products to keep your skin "Fair & Lovely.”
A dark guy does not have to worry about all these. He is brought up as the king of the world. As the one who can criticize a girl by her skin color. As the one who can gossip with his friends about how a kala meye has looked at him and smiled the other day, and he didn't like it. But you are only given the rights to judge a guy by his earnings, his properties, his intelligence but not his skin color. Why would you? You are a girl, remember? I am not saying you should judge a man by their skin color or that it is right to judge a man by their property and income. I am just saying, you are a girl and that's what you are told to do, or given permission to think about. So just get out from this box full of “unfair & ugly” thoughts they put in your head.
Nayer Sultana is a student of Creative Writing Program at Eastern Illinois University.