They say that writers start writing when a sorrow inspires them to reflect about a struggle they’re facing, and when they decide to write about it, it’s to make their heart feel lighter. Maybe that’s why I am writing this letter.
I was an inconsiderate and insecure young girl of 13 years when you paid a visit to our house. We welcomed you and your family with so much respect and love. When by coincidence my mom left to the kitchen, you, my beloved auntie, got the opportunity to observe me from head to toe and started insulting me in Punjabi. You started going on about my appearance to the other auntie in Punjabi because you were so sure that I wouldn’t understand.
Nine years later, I still remember every single word you uttered. The moment you started observing me and telling the other woman that I am not even half as pretty as my cousin and the only thing you can see on my body are my bones, was the moment you made me feel more insecure. You made me insecure for life. I still struggle accepting myself and the way I look. This is still so difficult for me to swallow. The worst part out of all this is the way you elaborated your remarks on my appearance. I will never forget the way you mentioned that my hair is very curly and frizzy, I’m brown-skinned and that my body hasn’t got the ideal shape. According to you I was too ‘thin’ – almost as thin as a toothpick. The way you emphasised that my other female family members are much prettier than me still hurts the most – why did you have to compare us like that?
As I grew older, I spent more than half of my time grooming myself to look as perfect as different people I saw on screen so that one day I could meet you and have you say that I am pretty. I wish you haven’t said that I’m not pretty; I wish you could have instead said that I don’t need to groom myself to look pretty because being myself is enough. Auntie, I’m a grown-up now who’s constantly working and fulfilling her dreams. I’m a very ambitious person and have made a lot of achievements in life until now. I’m so thankful for every opportunity I got in my life, but your voice still rattles me. Whenever someone tries to compliment me on my appearance, your voice comes up in my head and forms a barrier which inhibits me from accepting the compliment.
I’m not here to accuse you for your insulting words – I’m here to shed light on a social issue so many of our girls go through. Being beautiful, fair and having the perfect sleek straight hair is what you require in girls. But have you ever reflected that the only things you should pay attention to are the heart of a girl and her pure intentions. We have to fight every single day with ourselves, as well as with society. We have to prove ourselves twice as hard. We cross our limits because we constantly have to live by the expectations of society. I’m tired. I’m very tired; your words flash through my mind as I’m penning down this letter. Auntie, I feel like I have resurrected from what was dead in me because of your words. It’s finally time to accept myself and start shining. And it’s time for us as a society to be more mindful of our words, especially when directing them at young girls. After all, who are we to judge someone’s appearance?
As my end note, here is the message I have for every girl, one I wish you had for me: you’re beautiful, please pass it on.