My calling card is a color. One dab gives you a peek into a thousand stories, my stories. Ugly Duckling. Slumdog
Cinderella without a Fairy Godmother. Poor thing.
Wear dark colors, the fashion mags advised. So I sat in navy, black & grey boxes. You’re ugly, he said, the pretty girl’s aggressive best friend. Books & silence became my refuge. You look easy, desperate for attention. So my spine curved as I hid inside black. The heroine’s lehenga is orange, you can’t wear that. Play the sidekick in dark blue. Use Fair & Lovely for six months before you meet my parents. I learnt to fear the burn of the spotlight
I realized then that this calling card laid out cell by cell all over me did not carry the words – Pretty. Beautiful. Lovable. Desirable. No one knew me by those names. My skin, a bag stuffed with too many pointed observations & odd shaped ends. Punctured with poetry & pain. Bursting with stories that did not fit, while everyone looked the other way, politely, waiting for me to tidy up & conform.
But the mirror said I’ll be there for the rest of your life. You’ll be alone. Better get used to me. I closed my eyes, went within. Inside I found technicolor emotions. Oil paint fractals of thoughts. Animal prints of passion. Rainbow ideas
I’d found when the world stops listening to your stories, the walls turn audience. Your breathing becomes applause. What looked good on me was what looked good to me. Who plays invisible sidekick in their own life? Who can hide in shame inside their own skin? Not me. I wasn’t even good at hide-and-seek. No room for maroon & navy & apologetic beige in my skin. So I chucked them out & painted a new calling card.
With a palette
Of sunny yellow vivacity
Teal and turquoise rhymes
An orange slash of leadership
Sparkly silver maths & science
Audacious words on a blazing red mouth
And I came out to the world again
This time, wearing me.
The world listens . My calling card is a color. A homespun, hand painted color.
Of island city melanin. And experienced grey. And it says, every hue is mine.