I'm the girl who's instantly offered whitening facials in a salon even if I go to get my moustache waxed.
I'm the woman in Sialkot who has been rejected and is 'still on the shelf'; I'm also that cousin of yours that you will never find pretty, regardless of how scintillating I appear.
You see, I'm suffering from a disease: Kaala Rang.
They talk about me daily on morning shows and remedies for my condition are readily available on TV.
So frightening is the ailment that I am on the verge of deciding to never step out, owing to how acceptable dark-skinned jokes are, how routine it is to mock a certain skin colour and therefore devalue an identity.
I'm certain that the days aren't far when whitening labels would also be found on food packages (to be consumed at daytime, to glow like a tubelight at night), or when some affectionate herbalist lady walks up to me and hands me a chalk to smear on all over my face.
Perhpas, even then, our ladies would complain, 'Yeh chalk ka shade sahi nahin tha aur gora moo chahiye!' (The chalk wasn't the right shade of white, I wanted a lighter one).
Which brings me to the question, who keeps this obsession with gori rangat (fair complexion) alive in our society? Males or females? I'm of the opinion that it's mostly the women folk.
The same women who only settle for a fair daughter-in-law have also passed this check-her-shade-then-reject gene to their sons, the theory being that a fair bahu will produce fair grandchildren, which will ultimately lead to a gora Pakistan!
Our society has no room for the dusky ones. We are the untouchables then, it seems.
The 'Kaali Pakistani' has to work doubly hard on her persona to leave any kind of social impact; her fairer counterpart, in contrast, will have many more doors open for her, even if she does not happen to be intellectually bright.
Instead of shaming this ideology and putting it in its rightful place (the trash can), our social fabric continues to promote the idea. Ladies throng to parlours in the hope of looking their fairest and not their best; physical features be damned.
There are no buyers for the sanwali. But, here's some news, we are not for sale. It is time to own up to this beautiful brown shade and reject all those who think of us as lesser beings.
Also read: Dark times, fair brides
Companies will continue selling their tanning creams in the west, while cashing in on the fair skin complex in the east. The need of the hour is for dark-skinned ladies to take a bold stand and stop contributing with their money and silence to anything labelled 'whitening'; don't encourage this colonial mindset by secretly trying out those totkas (home remedies).
Wouldn't it be awesome if girls of an impressionable age are taught to look at their abusers in the eye and go:
'Yes I am kaali, but you have a regressive mindset and ain't no one got a cream for that'.
It is important to dismantle the culture of mocking, brick by brick: when we embrace ourselves and are not hassled by name-calling, we take the power in our own hands. They will never make room for us, we have to shove ourselves in.
It is great to work on your education or your interpersonal skills, but equally important to wear your skin with pride ‒ it is what nature designed for you.
That is the only way to cure a society ailing from this hideous complexion complex, but till then, keep praying for its recovery.
Get well soon, Pakistan.