Sayanora Philip | Photo: Sidheekul Akber
They are questioning us why we are exposing ourselves, which indirectly means that something that shouldn't be shown is being shown. Are the arms and legs of women something that cannot be looked at? Especially that of women who do not fit in the beauty concepts of certain people? What I wear is my choice molded by my likes and not just a matter of my comfort.
I saw derogatory comments below the video of me dancing with my friends that read that I would soon appear in a bikini. My reply is that I just might. Are dark and fat women not supposed to wear trousers and bikinis? Is there some sort of unwritten rule that states that only lean and beautiful women can wear what they like? Some people say that it is vulgar when I wear shorts and sleeveless clothes. My body is not vulgar to me. I love my body and embrace it.
Some people ask me- ‘Aren’t you a mother? Why are you wearing such short clothes that reveal your thighs?’ So what if I’m a mother?
Does being a mother mean that the woman must change her personality and interests?
I love my legs and my thighs that help me stand up straight. Why do these people insert a sexual outlook into that? The media has had a great part to play in the objectification of female bodies. We are not even accustomed to seeing XL models through the media.
I was a person who used to loathe my body. The circumstances that led to that are not exactly happy memories either. I was in class 5 or 6. I was the first to get picked by my teacher for a program in school saying that my moves were neat. But they ruled me out saying that I was not fair enough. The excuse given by the teacher was- ‘Sayanora is dark and cannot be included in the dance as all other girls are fair. It will be impossible to cover up her darkness using makeup.’ The wound cracked open by the teacher’s insensitive comment that there was no makeup apt for Sayanora stung me. A lot.
I believe that the part played by that comment in making me an introvert and dousing my self-confidence was huge. I did not receive any consolatory comments that deemed the teacher’s comment wrong either.
I stopped my dance training since that day. I loved Bharatanatyam, but I had to leave it midway.
I was the girl who stood up honestly and admitted that I hadn’t done the homework when the Mathematics teacher started asking for it in class. Being made to stand out for my honesty is not what hurt me more. It was the fact that the teacher had allowed more than half of the students who hadn’t done the homework like me to sit in class and I, who had spoken the truth, was made to stand out till the end of the class. These deep wounds have not healed even after all these years.
The reason for that incident could have been the general hatred towards dark people, preconceptions, or simply the lack of love.
Even during my pre-degree time, I was a secluded person who did not talk to others much. That is when music came to my rescue. When all of my friends started getting love letters, I started wondering if someone would ever marry me. Nobody tried to comfort me or redirect the course of my thoughts on this either. Everything must begin from families. A family must be able to find the specialties of each kid and encourage them. They must also be able to impart the wisdom that our weakness pointed out by others must not be thought of as our limitations.
I had a teenage where I used to compare my complexion to the complexion of others’ arms. I even almost attempted skin lightening during a certain phase. I started embracing my true complexion only very recently. I am now comfortable with my complexion and appearance. But when I gained confidence as a musician and started attending reality shows as a judge, they tried to conceal my true complexion by lathering makeup all over me. I now own the confidence to say no to that. Many people have the wrong conception that people apply makeup to attain a lighter complexion. But makeup can be applied according to our shade. I now tell the makeup artists whenever I attend shows- ‘Please don’t make me fair.’
Comedy shows that celebrate insensitive jokes
Whenever I went to comedy shows as a judge, most of the jokes made on the show were insensitive comments about appearance and complexion. I did not break out laughing when everyone else did as they said pointing at a dark woman - ‘Oh! The ill-fate of whoever married you!’ I have had several such situations in my life where I have chosen to say nothing thinking that I shouldn’t ruin the mood when everyone else is having a good time. My outlook has changed since then.
I did the music direction and background score of the movie ‘Kuttanpillayude Sivarathri’. Many told me that it was the first time a woman was doing the background music of a movie. I do not know the authenticity of that. However, I was not considered for any famous award shows for that and did not even receive any encouragement award.
When my marriage was fixed, one of my husband’s relatives asked me- ‘Your sister is quite fair. Why did you turn out to be so dark?’ People will continue to do and say such inconsiderate and insensitive things, but I will continue my journey, by loving myself and embracing life as it is. I do not plan on changing for anyone else. This is what I want to tell each one of you- Stand in front of the mirror and admire yourself. No cyber shaming or suppression should ever be able to pull you down or douse the fire within you!