Let Her Be.
Updated: Oct 19, 2020
“The validation of your dreams is not in the color of your skin, but in the quality of your heart.”
-Kingsley Opuwari Manuel
Walking through the aisles of the general store was not what Meera had planned for the afternoon. But her mother could be pretty persuasive and had promised to buy her whatever she liked. Thinking of it as a fair deal, eleven-year-old Meera had agreed to accompany her. After all, there was something she really wanted.
She waited patiently for her mother to take all that was needed. Finally, she was asked if there was anything she would like to buy, and, being a shy person, she quietly took her mother’s hand and kept walking, only to stop in front of a shelf that contained different kinds of cosmetics. Her mother had a puzzled expression on her face. Meera was not the kind of girl who took much interest in them! But her expression of confusion intensified when she pointed at a fairness cream and said, “I want this, mom.”
“But, Meera, why do you want it?”
“Because I saw on TV that it makes people fair. I want to be fair too, mom.”
She was taken aback. For a moment, her mother was quiet, as if not knowing what to say. Then, with an affectionate tone, she said, “You do not need to be fair, sweetheart. You are perfect, just the way you are. Don’t let the commercials make you think otherwise.”
It was evident she was not going to buy the cream. Meera was not very reassured by her mother’s words. After all, she never thought of Meera as anything but her sweet little girl. But, in school, her friends did not seem to think the same. She remembered that morning, a morning still glued to her mind.
"Eh! Don't sit there! If you sit where she sits, you'll have dark skin too!" a girl said, telling her friend to not sit beside Meera. Meera was sitting at the back of her school bus, on the way to school with her friends. They were idly talking when one of them started teasing her about something. She had always struggled with those kinds of arguments, not knowing what to say to make them stop teasing her. Meera had been the butt of people’s jokes many times, and she felt helpless about it. But she didn’t want to be laughed at anymore. She stood up and said something back. All of a sudden, each one of her 'friends' got involved in the argument and started being mean to her.
Her eyes pooled up with tears, as one of them said, “Let her be. There is no use fighting with her. After all, dark-skinned people are not only dark on the outside. Their personalities are dark as well.” Laughter erupted all around her, and she was engulfed by sadness. She was controlling herself, trying not to shed a single tear, even as they repeated the word ‘kaali’ (dark-skinned) over and over. She did not want to appear weak. But it still hurt when she was teased about her color. She knew she was not as pretty as the other girls with fair skin, but it was not her fault. What could she possibly say to them? So, trying to appear strong and furious, she had turned her face away and had not uttered another word.
Snapping back to the present, she realized that her mother was waiting for her to say something. “I understand mom.” she said, with a smile that did not quite reach her eyes; eyes that seemed to reflect the word ‘kaali’. She walked away with her mother, stealing one last glance at the fairness cream, her chances of a miracle diminishing with every step she took.