For the prompt 'memory', I reflected on my childhood experiences of being dark-skinned in a society that preached the lighter skin tone. The constant nagging of my neighbours who asked me to stop playing in the sun as I’ll get more tanned, accompanied with ‘fair and lovely’ (a fairness cream in India) commercials instilled countless insecurities in me. One time in 5th grade, a boy from my class shouted at me: “You’re so dark that you look like Kalimaa". As a 10-year-old, the first images that appeared in my mind after hearing his comment were -
What he meant was that he found my dark complexion ugly and scary. His statement disturbed me for years, and it wasn’t until recently that I started viewing my skin differently.
Upon researching, I found out that Goddess Kali (काली: meaning ‘black or dark-coloured one’’) is a feminist icon and a symbol of courage in the Hindu mythology. She is the destroyer of evil forces and an epitome of shakti – strength, power, and energy.
In order to visually present my anger that stemmed from a childhood memory of being bullied because of my darker skin shade, I dressed up as the Indian Goddess Kali. In the act, I perform her traditional dance and strike her most common pose - her fearsome guise as the slayer of demons with a lolling tongue which represents freedom from human-perceived constraints. The look is accessorised with golden jewellery, trishul, sword, shell and a bowl filled with blood.
In the midst of the religious chant 'Jai Kali maa' (Victory to the Goddess), I narrate Priyal Thakkar's poem titled 'Polite Folk' which for years has helped me regain confidence in my natural skin colour.