Hello, I am Shovona Karmakar a professional photographer, and today I wish to share my experience when I realized how important is to love myself and stop listening to the narrow mold that the society wanted to fit in. I was never going to be the one who is been showcased as the face of Indian beauty with fair skin and straight silky hair. I started loving every part of me since the time I realized the way I am born is a gift in error.
Last month I visited Kolkata and when I was on my way back, I faced something I am used to now. At the airport. I was stopped at the gate where I showed my passport and they denied, calling it fake, I showed my adhaar card and it took a lot of my communication skill to convince the security person to let me enter the airport. The trouble did not give a pause there, as double frisking and double check in was awaiting for me, just because they had doubts over me being an African. I am often been charged double at national museums and architectural places unless I apply my communication skills.
When I shifted to Mumbai, many owners denied me on the basis of my looks.
My friend was forced to leave his place the day he shifted his house as I visited his place to help him with shifting and I thought to stay over night as it was late and I was dead tired but the next day when his landlord planned to visit him unannounced he got a chance to see me, sadly my friend was asked to leave the space as the landlord tagged me being an African and dealing with drugs which can be fatal for him in future.
Though I do share few hilarious incidences where being what I am was profitable and was offered an executive service as it was reserved for foreigners. You will be quite eager to know what I mean by the communication skills.. its as simple as "A line in hindi or bhojpuri." Auto rickshaw incidence: Gave me a free ride from Bandra to Goregoan, just because I belonged to his town not some foreign country. Happily its very difficult for else to forget me and I guess its a blessing in disguise. This very communication skill of mine do set me apart though there is nothing actually but I find it as a talent to make people smile at times. And one vendor told me that he can't forget my face all due to my God's gift and I am lucky to be the way I am. Let me share this with you all I was born this way. Having an Afro-curly hair with dark skin and a little muscular physique do put me into the very category of unconventional beauty standards. I may sound confident and one who has embraced self completely but the story was not always the same, in fact it took me a decade to bring the change in my mindset as now I look else individually not from any community. I flaunt my flaws and go creative in order to represent myself at my best. I am born to a middle class family to two Indian parents who are Bengali by birth. I do not have much idea about my ancestors. I was brought up in a cosmopolitan society in uttar pradesh where my dad was posted in a gvt company. As far as I can remember I was a skinny dark girl with curly hair who was misunderstood as an African, being an introvert making friends was a tough task for me and one who were there never let go any chance to bully me. Negro, jhingala was the first two words defined me. There is nothing wrong to be an African but you see being an Indian with unconventional looks its kinda tough to fit into the crowd. As I grew, acceptance became important to me, with no one around to let me feel at ease and help me to eradicate the feelings I was going through all I had to do is to fit in. Traditional advertising showcased fair looking woman with straight hair forced me to think that are the beauty standards I need to achieve, you see, I really didn't have anyone to look up to. I tried all the possible products available in the market promising fairer looking skin to straight silky hair. Things were not going towards what I wished, soon I was off any friends to play around and gradually I was house arrest. From being skinny I gained weight and that became an additional point for others to bully me. I was emotionally devastated, I started cursing my birth, I cursed my existence.
Something told me to hide myself behind bulgy pants and shirts and be a tomboy and somehow I found comfort in it. One thing which people do not understand is when such things are been bombarded the very person has no other way than been defensive or submissive. I chose the former. I was defensive, those may be mere words for else it was indeed a bullet tearing me apart short from the very gun. I decided to stand for myself and let me go through a very complex feeling, a mind boggling attitude is what I gained gradually. Well every war has come to an end, specially if its man made. My fight with my myself came to an end when few of my seniors helped me to see the best side of my existence. A small photo shoot changed the way I looked at myself, gradually I realized there nothing wrong with me instead its the ignorance of us to tag people. Well ones lack of exposure and knowledge can let other suffer. It may sound a problem related to a lot of issues of today's world but somehow I became a victim. I was been rejected on the basis of my looks in many of my past relationships. Yes it do shake me a lot but I feel I deserve way better than that. Lack of love do make many suffer with many emotional traumas, I do lacked one.
When I started portraying myself from the year 2010 to 2011 with none agreeing to be my muse, which I am thankful today, I discovered myself like never before. I learnt a lot which I never expected, though my camera is a non living material, I guess it loved me like no one else. A love which I was craving for since long really long. Things started becoming clearer to me, the haze was diminishing, my approach towards people changed and one who tried to make else look down was strong. I was more than happy to help people who thought low of self, life is beyond looks, action matters and karma is worth to earn. I really ponder how mean we humans can be at times, or its the media which is constantly fooling us.
Standardizing a versatile thing such as beauty in a country which caries endless geography and uncountable genetic pool is quite shocking. How we define ones character based on looks is thought provoking, indeed how we behaved with others back in our school is not something too late to think over and let us pass a mindset to the coming generation where competition is based on the persistence and capability and knowledge not over a thing as silly as how is one's appearance.
We all talk about a lot, a lot about lot of things and the reality is how many really practice.
Thankyou.. so much....
Thanks for reading.
See you tomorrow!