Darkness is the beginning of life. Life begins in the darkness of the womb, and is nurtured by the darkness until the creature inside is ready to face the light.

But when that creature comes out and people witness a skin that is as dark as chocolate and hot cocoa, we hear gasps of disbelief. Dismay. Sometimes smirks of ridicule. From that moment on, the child is destined to be judged by the colour of their skin.

“It was my mother’s fault that she birthed Me on the banks of Kaveri For try as they did they could not wash the black alluvial soil off my skin. Kali”

The above excerpt is taken from the poem ‘Kali’ by writer and blogger Hema Gopinath Sah. It is a brilliant, searing story of a life lived, literally, on the edge of darkness—as perceived by the colour-coded world of fair-skin-dreams. And yet, she beautifully captures the nuances of the glow, the enchantment that fills that darkness from the inside out.

Nobel laureate Toni Morrison’s God Help The Child features an African woman as protagonist, who is shunned by her own mother for being “blacker” than even the “regular black skinned folks.” And yet, Bride, the protagonist, turns her blackness into an advantage by wearing only white. Showing off her darkness, as it were, and is hailed as a striking beauty. The choreography of beauty is hard to fathom indeed.

The obsession with skin colour, especially among races that have been historically persecuted for being too black or too brown, is perplexing. Why would we do to our own folk what we had protested against since centuries? Perhaps it is a colonial hangover, the remnants of subjugation. But that doesn’t quite explain it.  Not entirely.

The language we speak in, the metaphors we use, reveal a lot about us as people. The fact that darkness and blackness are metaphors for evil and unknown fears speaks volumes about our subconscious associations of darkness with ugliness. We fear darkness. And yet, it is not darkness that is to be feared. It is the actions undertaken in the cover of darkness that are the source of our terror. And that terror arises primarily out of the limitations of our senses, our inability to be at optimum performance in the dark. To a nocturnal animal, whose eyes glow in the dark, night is the time for activity and energy, the night is theirs to seize. It becomes a matter of relative ability then, to perceive darkness as terrifying or welcoming. A matter of perception. Darkness in itself holds no ugliness, no evil, no terror. All of that lies in our hearts. Humans being primarily creatures of daytime, we fear darkness as the realm of predators.

And yet, darkness has so much to offer us. The soft cover of night brings us peace, like a mother’s touch on the forehead, enfolding us into the realm of oblivion and bliss. To sleep, perchance to dream. Darkness is gentle, romantic. It speaks in the hushed tones of love and pulls hearts together with its own gravity. Sometimes, it assumes the lithe form of the Muse, guiding creative energies into culmination. Darkness provokes the bursting forth of ideas—at the melting moments of twilight, the enchanting hour of midnight, or the darkest edges of night just before dawn.

Darkness and light exist as twin souls, each complementing the other, creating the rhythmic cycle of life—neither one superior, nor the other inferior. They were created just so in nature. Darkness is beautiful. All you need is the ability to see.

Zehra Naqvi