‘She was told, her skin is too dark, she did not hesitate to offer, The Sun loved her so much, it kissed her, more than the rest.’ Sita was 6 years old when she first understood the meaning of the word ‘Kaali’. Her elder sister had pulled her arm, kept it against hers, and with a twirl in lips she had said ‘” dekh tu kitni kali”, see how dark you are.
Born in a middle class family in1931, in ‘Mian Wali ‘ , a small town , now in Pakistan, she was the fifth born child, a girl with a dusky complexion .There were murmurs about the newborn, amongst the relatives, though no one voiced their opinion, openly.
This 6 year old girl, could never understand what made her a dark horse in the family of swans, and to add to it, her two elder brothers mocked her of having been picked from a nearby garbage bin, and she grew up believing the same.
The only solace she found was in her mother’s arms, who comforted her when Sita used to be on the receiving end of her grandma’s jibes and taunts, ‘Kaali’ she always called her. Tears would well in her eyes, as she would feel the sting of this word, but she could never understand what made her culpable of a crime, she had never committed.
As years passed by, she began to learn to read and write from one of her brothers, who at times showed a bit of compassion towards her, while she being very sharp consumed all the knowledge that he would impart.
Time flew and one after the other all her siblings got married, and as she turned 14 , there came a proposal for her as well.
It was from a wealthy family of landlords, turned bankrupt, due to reckless spending and gambling.
Ram Chander, this boy 18 years of age, loathed the ways of his family, so he ran as far away as he could from his family at the age of 13.
This was his opportunity to learn, and life and age being on his side, favored him by giving him a mentor, who helped him get into textile production and designing.
At the age of 18, his paternal uncles found him and wooed him, back home. The family was ready to bind him, getting him married was their best bet.
Fate had decided, one dark horse meets another.(sic) All dolled up in a maroon velvet suit, with 24 carat gold thread work, ‘nauratan ‘ jewellery, kohl in her eyes, this trembling, petite dusky girl was married off to Ram Chander.
On the very first night, he had declared to her , ” I am going away in a few days and then you can go back to your parents, I do not need a wife or a marriage. ”
“Do you hear me?” he had asked. She had heard him, she shook her head somewhat to answer and somewhat to bring herself out of her dreamy blur.
Every morning she got up with the fear of him, not being by her side.
Three months had passed and he was still there. One evening she mustered the courage and asked him,”
How come you are still here?”
With a twinkle in his eyes he replied,” Your smile and your food, do not let me leave.”
Some one had seen her without ridicule, beyond the color of her skin, she had found a friend for life, her confidence had found its feet.
This woman Sita, my ‘ Nani’ or Biji as we all lovingly called her, became an inspiration to many in the years to come, for her intelligence, skillfullness, and her modern approach towards life despite the complexities of her growing years.
This anecdote from her life dates back to the 1940s while this being 2018, the irony of the situation remains that in this era of internet and robotics a matrimonial ad, in our country still reads
‘ Required a Fair-complexioned beautiful girl for a well educated boy’. The legacy of fair being beautiful, that the Brits left for us, still stays with us and the fairness creme industry keeps on minting money at the cost of our very own personal racism.