Growing up, she was bullied. Why? Because of the colour of her skin. It was easy to be cornered at school and be snickered at. “Why aren’t you applying ‘fair and lovely’?”those voices mocked.
She remembers how a girl on the playground threw a shoe at her and said, ‘Go away, you don’t belong here.’
It was easy to internalise anger and to hate herself. What could be worse?
From regressing to her shell, finding new love in college, being sexually assaulted by her professor to emerging as her hero, the story of this resilient Mumbaikar will move you.
Speaking to the Humans of Bombay, she narrates:
“Growing up, I was bullied because of my dark complexion and ‘foreigner’ looks. My classmates asked me why I wasn’t applying ‘fair and lovely’. It got worse when a girl threw her shoe at me, in a playground, saying ‘go away, you don’t belong here’… I internalised all the anger. I wore baggy clothes and withdrew in my shell… I hated myself because I could never match the beauty standards of those around me.
It was only when I went to college that things started to change. When my seniors told me to participate in a fun photoshoot — I naively agreed. They asked me to wear a towel, pose and smile. I knew they were ‘ragging’ me, but I can’t thank them enough because when I saw those photos, my perspective changed.
I realised that there was nothing wrong with me. I was beautiful. These photos captured the real me — and for the first time, I liked what I saw.
When I went on to a different university, I took up photography as a hobby. My confidence came through my camera… and it defeated my insecurities. I began to photograph myself more — I took care of myself better, lost the baggy clothes and set out to lose weight.
In 6 months I lost 20 kgs, and I knew that anything I set my heart on, I could achieve. I was a confident new person.
In fact, when the guy I was seeing threatened to leave me saying ‘it’s the way you look, my parents won’t accept you,’ I left him.
But I wasn’t done facing challenges… During college, one night, my professor locked me in his room and raped me. I was traumatized. I started feeling ‘dirty’ again. But, I kept reminding myself that the fault wasn’t mine — I yanked myself out of it. So, I worked twice as hard to keep my spirit intact and focus on my photography…I dreamt of being the best photographer in India. I took on every project that came my way, researched all kinds of photography and immersed myself in the process.
Three years later, when I came to Mumbai, I started my own company — a feeling I can’t express. It wasn’t easy — I faced rejections and was looked down by my previous bosses, but I stuck it out… and that’s been my biggest lesson.
Today, I have a great business, my own home and a boyfriend who makes me feel beautiful. But that’s only because I FEEL beautiful in my skin — I am the masterpiece I was searching for my entire life, and I love every shade, every scar, every color it displays.”
There are a thousand emotions this story provokes within me as a woman. Pain, disappointment, anger, all of which are solely for the number of struggles she faced through her life. But the strongest emotion I feel is awe and inspiration. This woman decided to rise above everything life threw at her. She was not shy to flaunt her scars. She wasn’t scared of feeling beautiful in her skin. She wasn’t scared of love. She did not rely on any other hero to save her, she transformed her life and became her hero.
More power to her!
(Edited by Shruti Singhal)
Feature image credit: Humans of Bombay.