I was born in a very conservative Marwari family in Rajasthan, where they still treat daughters as a burden. When I was born, my grandmother expressed her displeasure for two things- one was that I was a girl and the other that I had dark complexion. I was brought up in an environment where I was always made to feel that I was inferior to my cousins who were either male or fair.
For years, I could feel the difference in people’s behaviour towards me. My grandmother would shower my other cousins with love and pamper them, and treat me as an outsider. I always felt unwanted in my own home. Once I heard my relatives say to my parents that getting me married was going to such a difficult task, and that they should start saving right away, because they would have to give a hefty dowry for a girl like me.
I felt horrible about myself– I wanted to be their pride, not a cause for concern. When the people you call your family say you are not good enough, you start to believe them. So I retreated into my shell– I’d spend time alone, would never express my feelings. I became so underconfident, I couldn’t even talk to my family members. Even in school, I only had two friends and I was very dependent on them for everything.
I was even body shamed for being skinny, I was called a skeleton, a stick, a pole… Once for a dance competition, I was all dressed up with makeup, feeling very happy. And this girl came up to me and said, ‘You look like a guy who’s dressed up like a girl.’
Even my relatives passed comments like ‘You look sick’ or ‘You’re so skinny, you won’t be able to conceive’. My self-esteem was non existent and I had reached an all time low.
At that point, I don’t know what changed but I had a moment where I stopped and tried to understand exactly what was happening. Was there something really wrong with me? Was I actually lacking something? I asked myself. I stepped out of this whole situation and tried to look at it from another perspective. With great difficulty I eventually started realising why they did what they did– they had been conditioned into this for years. The ideals of beauty have so strongly been reinforced in our society that people like me have to bear the heavy brunt of it. I had two choices – I could either believe them and resent them or forgive them and understand that they don’t define my worth.
I can finally say that today I am at a place where I am at peace with myself. I want to be a part of a world where beauty is not a ‘definition’ or a ‘standard’. A world where girls believe that it isn’t what’s on the surface that defines you, it’s what’s inside that makes you who you are. And I am going to keep trying to do just that, create a world where we’re celebrated, for simply being ourselves.”
Story Courtesy: Humans of Bombay.