*vitiligo: a condition in which the pigment is lost from areas of the skin, causing whitish patches, often with no clear cause.
When she was born, she had dark skin. Where she belonged, it was considered to be abnormal if a girl was born with dark skin. Parents would worry about their girl’s marriage as in-laws would demand more money because their daughter-in-law wouldn’t be beautiful enough to bear children with beauty. The money wouldn’t help anything we all know.
Anyway, she grew up to be a beautiful dark-skinned teen when one night a first white patch appeared below her neck. Her mother cried all night worrying, her father was sad and they kept on thinking about her future now. Who would marry her? How will she endure the abuse of society and the comments people can pass for this skin abnormality called Vitiligo.
Doctors say, “Vitiligo affects people of all skin types, but it may be more noticeable in people with darker skin. The condition is not life-threatening or contagious. It can be stressful or make you feel bad about yourself.” (Mayoclinic.org)
But she lived in a world where beauty was defined by outer appearance and Vitiligo was rare.
Slowly, the patches grew and she wouldn’t understand what should she do to cure it or help her parents not worry. She went to school as she always did and tried everything to cover herself up with pants and long dresses so people won’t notice. One day, a small white patch appeared near her mouth. But that’s when her father realized that he can’t just lose the battle for his daughter against this abnormality. He pacified her mother but her mother was an illiterate woman who couldn’t think beyond marrying her daughter well.
Her father and she went to various doctors. In the beginning, allopathy gave her allergies and the white patches became blisters. But all fate wants to tell her was, she needs to be stronger than what she is and it all will become better right after the worst will happen. Her father read books and papers about Vitiligo after work all night every day. He wouldn’t leave a chance to meet those who had it and the doctors they referred.
While he was struggling for helping his daughter, she faced a different world than she knew. Her cousins stopped hanging out with her because they thought the disease was infectious. When she was 20, a friend of hers stopped her from touching her newborn baby.
She came home and cried all day. She and her father decided that she will wear Indian suits to cover her whole body. Soon, they started visiting a popular doctor of Ayurveda. He prescribed her not to eat anything made with oil, butter, rice, milk and pretty much everything Indian cuisine is made of. She could only eat bread and green pepper with salt for the taste. It took a year before her patches on the face were gone completely.
She was happy. After five years of her struggle, she was happy after all. People were still whispering about her growing age and her “disease” but she was not hopeless now. Yes, it worried her for her future husband.
Many boys visited her house, met her and talked to her for marriage but when they came to know about Vitiligo, they got scared and ran away. Her mother suggested her to not disclose it while meeting prospective boys but she was not a lying person.
She strongly believed that someday she will meet someone like her father who wouldn’t care about Vitiligo and marry her with her abnormality. She even decided that, with truth, if she remained unmarried she wouldn’t worry. It was her clean soul that kept her hope high and truthful. We all know the liars and non-liars, people who cannot lie can win any victory.
Her father, during a work trip, met this young boy named Jai. He was a beautiful musician and had a job of high respect. Her father instantly connected to him and told him about his daughter. Soon, Jai and the girl got married. On their wedding night, she asked him why did he not get scared of her abnormal skin while he was a very handsome boy who could get any beautiful girl.
His answer was, “what if you got Vitiligo after we got married? Would I leave you then? No.”
That’s when she thanked her destiny for finding her a boy who understood her “disease” and still chose to live with her forever. But the story doesn’t end here. She soon got pregnant and it was her due date. She didn’t tell anyone but only talked to her parents about the fear she had for her child to be born with vitiligo. Her parents shared her concern as they were praying about it too. Her due date came and she gave birth to a beautiful baby girl. She had clear baby skin with no signs of Vitiligo. Do you know who that baby was? Me and yes, the story is about my mother. A lady who was born dark and got Vitiligo when she was fifteen. Yet, she grew to be one of the most confident and strong women I know.
This story is not for you or me. It’s for those who have this abnormality and society forces them to be molded into a peg they designed for beauty. They all fought and became successful because they had the courage to face the adversity each day when they stepped out of their homes. Each day when their friends stopped them to touch their babies or when their own mothers cried worrying for their future. If they all can sustain through Vitiligo, why can’t we accept a small pigment or a blemish? Beauty is in your act and not in your skin. This belief can make you beautiful every day in your life. Go with it!
My mother, Mrs. Taramani Rankawat, lives in Jodhpur, Rajasthan (India) and works as a social worker focussing on women’s rights and gender equality in her community.
About the Author: I’m Jyotsana Rankawat, I belong to a small town called Jodhpur (Rajasthan). I’m an alumna of the University of Amsterdam and I work for Sarvika Technologies, Jaipur on a project of Halo Branded Solutions, IL (USA) as a project manager. I’m working in the e-commerce industry for 7 years.
I have traveled and lived in 19 countries and I’m 31. My parents are travelers and they’ve always motivated me to be a non-judgmental kind traveler who welcomes everything that comes to her way.
My Father is an accountant in a private company and is a flutist. My mother is a social worker who has invested more than 20 years in helping women in her community. She is a strong independent woman who has fought for her rights and is a classic feminist. This article is about her.
I wrote this article after interviewing my mother on a video call while I was traveling in Chicago. It clicked me after watching a video of TED that vitiligo is an ignored area to talk about. I wanted to contribute as much as I could.