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Hema Gopinath Sah In Her Poem ‘Kali’: “I Am Six When I Am Made To Understand That”

  • IWB Post
  •  April 16, 2018

Oh my god! She is so pretty. She is so fair, is a line we hear so often. Our obsession to look fair and lovely just doesn’t seem to end. Family, friends, internet, advertisements, movies, actors, everybody’s existence has a motto – to provide the dark-skinned person with a remedy for fairer skin.

We definitely need something stronger than detergents to wash off our age-old mentality. To do the same, or maybe just addressing the never-ending colour-phobia, a Mumbai-based 45-year-old blogger and mother, Hema Gopinath Sah, wrote a poem named ‘Kali’.

The poem narrates a life of a dark-skinned woman from the time she was a little girl to the time when she became a mother. It emphasises on how the colour of the skin mattered then and is stubborn enough to stay in people’s mind even now. It speaks how people in India consider dark skin as a “condition” and are ready with remedies.

Gopinath wrote this poem for her 17-year-old friend Catherin. She told Indian Express, I wrote this for the talented, beautiful Catherin. She takes great pics and loves posting them on social media. Occasionally I find insensitive, colourist comments on her posts, which I had hoped would disappear in this post Millennial next generation. But Catherin deals with them beautifully, she completely ignores them. Something I need to learn.”


It was my mother’s fault that she birthed
Me on the banks of Kaveri
For try as they did they could not wash the black alluvial soil off my skin
Little piece of coal my mother’s brother calls me
As he pretends he can’t spot me in the darkened birthing chamber
It sounds very cute when said in Tamil
An endearment.

These are the few first lines of the poem where it beautifully and hard-hittingly highlights the casual-colourism starts within the family. As the poem moves forward, it speaks of the superiority of the fair skin over other achievements.

I am six when I am made to understand that
I who was proudly showing off my 99% in Maths was less than my classmate,
At least I’m fairer than you she says,
Sadly looking down at her own 73% marks

Read the entire poem here:

This poem is the story of my life through the colour coded eyes of our society. I wrote this poem as an ode to my friend and the beautiful mode l @cathrin55555 . Who’s just 17, yet still faces the same discrimination that I did . Nothing has changed apparently. #colorism #racism #darkskin #darkcomplexion #discrimination #kali #poetsofinstagram #poetry #poem #black #blackskin

788 Likes, 50 Comments – hema (@hemagopinathansah) on Instagram: “This poem is the story of my life through the colour coded eyes of our society. I wrote this poem…”

Gopinath shared, “I grew up thinking, nay, knowing that I was not good-looking, that I would never be considered good-looking and it was better that I studied hard and became smart. For only then would I stand a chance in life. I was told that I could take part in sports because, hey I didn’t have to worry about tanning. It is very very hard for an outsider to conceptualise how deeply entrenched this notion is, that those dark of skin are less than that of those who have the ‘good fortune’ of having less melanin in their skin cells. I once saw a TV interview of a little girl no more than 4, she was asked why another little girl was her best friend, so the girl replied because she is fair. The audience laughed delightedly in understanding. How do we ever change this, lift this prejudice, which is entrenched in our DNA?”

She wants the word fair to have only one meaning – which is equality. “I want to claim the word Fair back. I want it to only mean the opposite of unfair. It should only stand for what it was intended- justice, equality, equitability,” said Gopinath.

H/T: Indian Express

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