I was busy doing something, Arpana was as usual talking with her imaginary friends and walking around, suddenly, she looks at the mirror and asks me,
“Amma, nan yen black a irrikuaen?” (Why am I black in color?”)
I was taken aback by the question, I did expect it at some point, but this came too fast.
I kept doing what I was doing, and told her, (in a matter-of-fact tone) “Because God made you that way”.
Replies, “Appo, yen Rosy* white aa iruka” (Why is Rosy white in color?”)
My heart was racing, and my mind was trying to figure out the next probable list of questions, and I told her “Because God made her that way.”
“Amma, Jesus kitta solraen, yennaku indha color pudikala, white color thaan pudichiriku” (I’m going to tell Jesus, that I don’t like this color, I like only white color)
I fell in love with the innocence, and I wanted to hug her and tell her that I love her so much. However, I thought that I if I did that, she would start taking this seriously. So, stern faced I told her, “Arpana, you are asking for a very wrong thing. Jesus won’t be happy if you ask Him to change your color.”
I didn’t want to face more questions, so I continued doing my stuff, praying in my heart that she’ll move to another conversation.
She came back again, this time, “Amma, yen back yenna color a irriku?” (What color is my back?”)
Now I had no choice, it was time to talk to her.
Pictures of my own childhood played before me. I studied in a school with many fair-skinned north Indian friends.
I was jealous of their shiny skin, and flawless complexion. I would never leave the house without a coat of fair-and-lovely, powder and lip gloss. When I was younger, some teacher would score my name off a dance programme or a drama, and I would think that it was because I was not ‘white’ in colour. I longed to be that girl who would invite the ‘important’ chief-guest with a bouquet, but somehow it was usually the most beautiful looking girl, which was quite obviously not me.
I wasn’t that ‘very fair, eyes are blue, teacher’s pet, lovely too’ kind of kid. But, I longed to be. And when my baby sister was born, man, she was so so ‘white’ in colour. I was so proud of her. I would sneak out her photographs to school and show off to my friends and teachers, “See, that’s my ‘white-in-color’ sister.” And they would say, “Is she your own sister?” I would proudly reply, “Yes, my very own!!” Somehow, when I did that, I felt that my revenge was taken.
It was a lonely road, never told my parents about it. Even, if I did, I knew that they would just ask me to ignore the feelings and move on. When I came to Chennai, it was a relief to see many skin tones like mine. Slowly, I realised that I wasn’t so ‘black’ after all.
Coming back to Arpana’s question. I began thinking of some nonsense answers to stop the conversation.
- Black is the most beautiful color, white is a yucky color.
- People with black color have white hearts.
Then, I realised that I need to talk sense with her and drive home a meaningful point.
I told her, “See Arpana, when you were in my tummy, you were like a small dot, every day Jesus worked so hard to give you eyes, nose, face, brain and every part of your body. Amma, didn’t do anything. I didn’t know what was happening, but slowly Jesus was making your body. Everything in your body is something that Jesus made, and he made it perfect, He won’t make a mistake. He thought that you will look most beautiful in black, so He gave you that color. White is the best color for Rosy so he gave her that color.”
She listened intently, so I began to ask her,
“Okay, what color is Appa?”
With a smile on her face, “Romba black” (Very black)
“Do you think Appa is beautiful?”
She nods her head.
“Do you love appa?”
Appa na romba love panren (I love Appa very much)
“Does amma love appa, do other people in the church love appa?”
She nods her head.
“See Arpana, Appa looks very beautiful, so many people love Appa so much because he is so kind, and sharing and has Jesus in your heart. NO matter, what color Arpana, you are very beautiful and everyone will love you if you have Jesus in your heart.”
Looks like she was convinced, and she skipped away to play with her toys.
Maybe this conversation was over for now, but I know that this is a journey where she will drift away for a while, and then come back to reality. Despite my opinions, reservations and rationale, I hope to stand by her side as she tries several lotions, magical potions, herbal masks, and all other funny commercials she sees on tv. Because if I don’t, somebody else will, and will take her too far
While she is working hard to look beautiful on the outside, I know that God will carve experiences and lessons that will make her look beautiful from within. My job is to keep keep celebrating her, loving her, investing on her, and creating opportunities for her to become stronger, wiser and sweeter.
One day, without my preaching, life will teach her, and she will say, “Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.” And I hope to hear, when she’s all grown up, she’ll say confidently, “I’m not ‘wheatish’, I’m dark-skinned! And I love the way I am.”
Like Amy Charmichael, who stopped asking for blue eyes, when she discovered God’s purpose for her life. I know that when my daughter finds out what God has in store for her life, she will have little time to think about her colour.
Until then, I’m praying not for white colour but clear thinking.
[I’m not trying any herbal whitening masks or saffron pastes on her!! Just plain soap, turmeric and clean water.]