Red, green, purple! Every time Keerat pulled off one romper and put on the other, her eight month old wiggled and chuckled, chubby hands grabbing at the young mother’s arms as she fretted over the colour that best lightened her dusky baby’s skin tone.
“She looks dark in each of these,” Keerat wiped her brow, straining for impending sounds of departure. Ten minutes at the most and someone would be at her door announcing the car was loaded and ready to roll. A wave of exhaustion washed over the new parent and she plunked down on the settee, defeated with rage.
“Who does she take after? Have you been outdoors a lot with her? You are so fair, she looks nothing like you! People are progressive these days; no one in their right mind would obsess over a fair complexion. Don’t worry; the next baby may turn out lighter. I think she takes after that aunt of hers; the one in Australia, we hear she is very bright at academics otherwise! Are you using “ubbttan” on her after the daily massage?”
Keerat pulled the rattle gently out of the baby’s busy mouth. She gazed at the diapered mite in wonder, trying to visualize her inside the womb. “Flesh of my flesh, blood of my blood,” her eyes welled up with tears of fury. “How dared they? They had some nerve sticking daggers into her heart! Why would they judge so?”
Her agitated mind pummelled ahead. This twiddling, gurgling bundle on the Dalmatian print counterpane does not hear the slights nor see the distaste on faces yet. A day will come when the barbs will tear into her soul, clouding her mind with self-doubt and confusion. She will never be picked to play the lead role in a school play. No boys will text her constricted notes. There will be the unflattering eyes of sales persons outside trial rooms. What happens to the colours she wants to wear but cannot because, “Blue is your shade, goes very well with your skin?” The well-meaning will go on to console her with, “But you have very nice features! And dark skin is healthy, all said and done, there is more melanin there.”
Keerat sprang up restlessly and punched her mother’s chat id, “Is this late for you Mum?! Why are people so judgmental?”
The luminous screen affirmed in green the typing at the other end, “That is the world Keerat, people will slot you no matter what. If it is not your colour, it will be the thick ankles or prematurely graying hair or an ample behind or the hair tint you happen to be using. People assess so they can feel better.”
“But my defenceless child Ma, my baby who doesn't have the adult’s capacity for resigned acceptance. She needs to hear she is gorgeous!”
“Yes Keerat, hold fast to that. This you can do, you have to get to her before the rest do. She will believe you the most.”
“Mum, I am going to do more. I am going to break this horrible pattern of a colour put down. Be prepared for hurt family feelings!”
“I am with you Keerat, this is only family, she has to face the world soon. Unless we give her a strong core at home where we exercise control, she will crumble and dissolve in the harshness outside.”
“Thanks Ma, love you!”
Keerat threw open the door and walked to the group chafing with impatience under the portico. They turned at her determined gait, “I am sorry but I will not be accompanying you all today!”