Vitiligo is a long-term skin condition characterized by patches of the skin losing their pigment. The patches of skin affected become white and usually have sharp margins. The hair from the skin may also become white. Loss of skin color can affect any part of the body, including the mouth, hair and eyes. It may be more noticeable in people with darker skin. Treatment may improve the appearance of the skin but doesn’t cure the skin condition.
My father has Vitiligo.
He started having those white patches when I was in school and I used to see him go to different doctors and try everything that was possible to control these white patches. For a young girl, her father is perfect if she loves him. And I loved him. I could not understand the bother about these patches. It was terrible for him, a constant reminder by people that if he did not take care of it now, it might impact his children’s life.
That was confusing for me because we were always told that we build our own lives through diligence and education. What was more confusing was that I thought that the skin condition just made my father who he was, like I was tall, my sister had green eyes and so on. He was still the funniest and the most loving man in my life. And Vitiligo made him nothing less. Time passed and the patches grew and eventually everyone got used to seeing him like that. Sadly it turns out that, that’s just what I thought; until recently when I was rejected by a guy’s family for marriage.
India still goes by this system of arranged marriages. I had my reasons to agree to it, to everyone’s surprise.
I agreed to make a profile on one of the matrimonial websites. It was like Tinder, but with so many more filters and way worse bios. I was asked to look for three filters in particular—caste, salary and face. That was shocking and so reductive. I went through a moral crisis because I was doing everything I was not in favor of. But I just needed a guarantee this time, that the guy would be interested in getting married and not just a relationship that would wreck me at the end of a couple of years.
Years of staying away from my family has taught me how to look out for myself and make compromises and adjustments without entirely giving up on who I am. So I did the same. I started prioritizing education and at least a decent bio before shortlisting people. It still felt reductive, but I could live with that. I endured several sessions of advisories and suggestions, about random reasons to look for. My parents told me to just go for what suits me; they knew I was already agreeing to a lot because I was looking for guys online and not in the real world. I found several decent guys, some were humble, some intellectual, some fun. But I was looking for a partner who was more compatible than just a date. Who would make me want to believe in arranged marriages and happy endings. And guess what, I found someone!
It was so dreamy. We were compatible, we were genuinely interested in each other and our families were warming up to the idea of each other too. We took it slow; we shared cautiously at the beginning, then later, without any restrain. It was happening so naturally. And then Lockdown happened. We started behaving like lovelorn lovers who couldn’t wait to meet each other. We turned dusks into dawns, talking over the phone, pouring out our childhood insecurities to present day regrets. We decided the colour of our future apartment and holiday destinations. It was dreamy, like I said. I wore my heart on my sleeve with him.
So did he. Or that was what I thought. Last week his family rejected me because my father has Vitiligo.
I was in shock and my father heartbroken.
He told me that everyone in his family was onboard with me. I had started my wedding planning with my best friends. His family was full of people who had PhDs and were placed in top MNCs. They were such enlightened, educated people. I had told him within weeks of my interaction about my father’s Vitiligo. I couldn’t understand, what went wrong!
It slipped his mind to share it with his family, he informed.
My mind was racing. It was oscillating between denial, repression, displaced anger and every other defense mechanism to keep me away from feeling crushed. The past four months had made me believe in him, in his family and a future together. I still don’t know how to move forward from here. It’s not just about the heartbreak. It’s about Vitiligo too. I have seen the unkindness of people towards people with this condition. I have read threads of comments where people confessed it was better to have died than to live with it.
I wonder about all those people who have this condition. What it must do to their sense of self when people made them believe that it was a ‘dirty disease’ they carry, when people’s glances might have made them hate their skins, when people with Vitiligo have been reduced to just Vitiligo instead of people with a heart, mind, feelings, skills and a soul.
I was reduced to a Vitiligo-ed father’s daughter by people who specifically mentioned the qualifications and institutes of almost everyone in the family, immediate or extended. Education failed them. It could not teach them kindness and acceptance.
I was toyed with, for months. It was not fair. I wish I was more cautious. I wish all girls were like that.
But what I wish more is that the boy’s family may have some sense of dignity. Some sense of integrity. Until then, I continue my search and fight. It’s not a very colorful world.
Kritika is an educator who wants to use her opportunity as a teacher to help and enlighten young impressionable minds about our humans, earth and cultures. She believes that each movement begins at home and strives to make a difference wherever she is and goes. You can find her on Instagram.
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