Projects
Apala Bhattacharya

Age: 18, Location: Pune, India

Dark skinned girl

Dark.

It’s always the first adjective,

It has been since I was six.

And it’s really funny how

it’s always used to put me down.

No, it’s not a friendly suggestion,

when you put my worth in question.

And you hand me a fairness cream,

Make me go to such extremes

Because the worst thing I can be

is a dark-skinned girl.

Dark.

I’ve been told it’s the worst of all flaws

And for that, a round of applause.

Because it’s really funny how,

it’s always used to put me down.

No, it’s not well-intended concern,

when my skin is reason for you to mourn.

YYou force me to hate myself,

and say my beauty is my wealth

Because the least beautiful I can be

is as a dark-skinned girl.

Dark.

I’ve been told it makes me different

And not the good kind, you’re insistent.

And it’s really funny how,

it’s always used to put me down.

No, I will not give into your absurd obsession,

why must you always discuss my complexion?

I’m told light skin is superior,

I say the more melanin, the merrier

Because I accept myself just the way I am,

as a dark-skinned girl.

Description:

Dark is about the discrimination based on skin colour that many South Asian women face. Discrimination by people of our own community and those outside of it. The beauty standards worships fair-skinned, long haired women whereas dusky-skin is looked down upon. “Dark” is a statement. To all the people who try to create insecurities in young minds and then cash out the insecurities they created. And it’s a statement to the young minds, to embrace their skin and feel powerful for it.

Fear

I felt fear today, not the first time

But this fear-

that has been my friend for years,

slithered and trickled down

my spine.

This fear told me to be terrified

Of holding head up too high,

lest a man decide

I’m to be fucked

into the correct amount of shy.

This fear told me to think once, twice

to cross the threshold of my home

For asking for freedom-

Could be my greatest vice.

This fear tells me that very easily

I could be prey,

I could end up beaten,

Broken, in a ditch,

That I should always be careful

It could happen anytime-

night or day.

This fear tells me to

cover my chest

For the world will say

I asked for it,

If they can see my vest.

This fear tells me my body

is not mine,

That they decide what is modest

and what is not-

I should not clothe

as I like.

This fear chills me to the core,

because the world move on,

and people forget,

somewhere, some girl gets

mauled once more.

Description:

This poem is about sexual assault against women. One in five women experience a completed or attempted rape during their lifetime. Every 68 seconds, a woman experiences sexual assault and every 9 minutes, the victim is a child. India sees 88 cases every day, less than 30% of these perpetrators are convicted. More than 93% of these assaults were committed by someone known to the victim. Marital rape is not punishable by law in India. Women go out everyday, with fear in their minds. Fear for their lives. This piece is about that fear that we have all learnt to live with.

1. Introduce yourself!

I am Apala Bhattacharya. I am 18 years old. I like reading books and writing. I’m a South Asian Bengali by ethnicity and hail from Kolkata, India. I’ve recently finished high school and will attend university soon.

2. How have you identified yourself as a BIPOC individual through your creative work?

I am a South Asian woman. It’s part of who I am. I have consistently tried to portray the battles fought by people of my community at large through my writings. I aim to educate people on issues that are considered taboo and talk about malpractices in the society. Especially those within my community.

3. How has your creative work allowed you to express yourself?

As a fairly dark-skinned South Asian woman, I make it a point to talk about my upbringing, social malpractices and topics considered “taboo” in my culture and country through my writing. I use the platform I have and the privileges I was born with to raise awareness for those who haven’t had and still yet, don’t have the same opportunities as me. Through my creative work, I try to educate on the systemic oppression based on sex, gender, sexuality, caste, creed, religion etc within my community and bring to attention the cultural appropriation of my heritage and the practices associated with it.

4. What is your stance on BIPOC representation in the media?

Media representation of BIPOC people is poor. This remains a fact. People of colour have been vilified and portrayed as “uncivilised”, “uncultured”, “criminals”, “terrorists” and such. The list goes on. If a POC commits a crime, the whole community is showcased in poor light. However, if a hate crime is committed against a POC, suddenly their ethnicity becomes irrelevant. This needs to change, and it needs to change NOW. Our history books need to be more inclusive and we need to stop glorifying the colonists. Equity has to be prioritised over equality, because there is a hierarchy when it comes to systematic oppression. Our movements need to be intersectional and so does the media that represents us.

5. How has your culture influenced your work and who you are today?

I would say my heritage played a huge role of shaping me into who I am. Where I grew up, how I was raised, the values and responsibilities expected of me, opportunities denied to me, the discrimination against me because of my identity and ethnicity allowed me to become strong enough to fight for my rights. The oppression taught me to stand up for my community and to realise the privileges I have.

7. Who are some of your favorite creators and/or greatest inspirations?

Some of my inspirations and/or favourite creators are Khaled Hosseini, Malala Yousafzai, Angie Thomas, Arundhati Roy, Chitra Banerjee and Rupi Kaur.