Absolute support, extensive awareness, enlightenment and advocate for those living with Vitiligo, for their Rights and well-being
Active Vitiligo Support in Africa

The story of my growing up with Vitiligo

That was long time back… I was in class 2 when my mother first detected a small white spot on my back… She didn’t take that too seriously as I was just recovering from chicken pox, and she thought it was effect on the skin from chicken pox. But then the spots kept on increasing and I found it very amusing those days to follow the growth of those white spots… I used to find it somewhat interesting…

Then there were regular visits to different doctors… I never used to understand why… Then there were experiments on me by different doctors, the deep-muscle steroid injections, the dark thick ‘Ludermol’ oil that mother helped me apply on the spots and used to usher me to sunbath for half hour, but that half hour under the summer Indian Sun seemed to me like a lifetime… At times, when I was in Kolkata, I remember Dadu helping me apply Ludermol to my spots… I loved to play pranks with Dadu… I used to point to some part of my skin, imagine some imaginary white spot and used to squeal at Dadu “Dadu, here too!!! I just discovered a new spot!!!” And Dadu used to get all worked up, used to hurriedly wear his spectacles and used to start searching for the new white spot that I had just pointed out to him… And then he never used to find that spot anyways!!! ’Cos, it was of course imagined by me… The thought of fooling Dadu threw me into squeals of laughter and I used to tease him “See, u r so silly, I have made a fool of you.”

Sometimes, there were trips to far off temples along with my parents to ask God to assist me recover from this condition. At times, there was a change of doctors, for a second opinion, or a different opinion. At times, there were long distance travels with Appa to some place that I don’t remember now, for search of some form of medication for this. One vivid memory was seeing my mother silently cry one day when she saw a white spot on my head through my dark hair, and then she discovered one white hair there. I was surprised to see her cry, and could not quite understand what went wrong. These were all memories before my teenage years.

Now I was a teenager. And I was going to higher classes in school, happy, above average student. Had secret spots hidden inside my white socks, so no one in school knew about that and it was quite a happy arrangement for me.

Then came “the slap” that changed everything. Everyone was in the school assembly ground, doing our morning prayers before classes began. That day my shoes had gathered dust, and as a punishment I was supposed to open my shoes and peel off my socks and stand in a corner bare feet till assembly was over, then be bare feet the whole day. How could I ever bring myself to ever do that!!!!???? There were those horrendous white spots right beneath my socks, which I had kept hidden so successfully from all my peers!!! How could I ever give up that secret and lose all friends? I just could not do that. So, when I did not listen to any of the teachers, stood transfixed, red with shame, then the teachers and the head girl complained to the principal of the school of my stubbornness. The principal came to me, repeated the instructions to me, once, twice, thrice, four times… Her voice was getting louder and louder with each repetition. Then she just slapped me in front of the whole assembly, whole school, all seniors and all teachers…

Earlier I had somehow frozen hot with shame, but then something inside me broke, and then there were drops of moisture on my upper lips, sticky moisture in my armpits and my inner thighs, my mouth ran dry, but my eyes were watery… and then I was trembling and my legs gave in and I fell to the floor… I was fully conscious, and I remember no one coming to help me get up, everyone thinking in their minds “Serves the obstinate girl right”. Then I was bullied and forced to open my shoes and socks, then I could feel everyone gaze at my white spots, and those gazes felt like hot lava on my skin, burning me alive. I remembered the good luck of Goddess Sita, when she wanted it; the ground had opened up for her to fetch her in during the time of her death. Why was the earth not so kind to me? Why didn’t she open up for me to devour me in? Then I was bare feet the whole day in school, and I didn’t get up from my desk the whole day in fear of my white ugly spots being detected by more peers, I kept my feet carefully hidden in the cool darkness under my desk. Then at the end of the day, the principal called for me in her office, told me the punishment is over for me, I can wear my socks and shoes, and then she looked straight into me and said “There are some things that you HAVE to accept in life. The faster you accept it, the happier you will be.” That sentence held no special meaning for me then, nor did it have any special meaning for me for years to come, but now I realize the importance of those words.

Then came the difficult days in school… When I wanted to be friends with other girls in school, but they used to stare at me, make me the laughing stock among everyone. Then I remember my low confidence level while participating in any school programs, which I eventually gave up. Then those ugly harsh stares from peers, then those awkward questions from everyone, then those snubbing off by others… Then those teenage days when most of my school peers started blooming into beautiful looking girls (for it was a girls’ school that I was in), started dating boys and I started developing a hunch as I was ashamed of my body and my looks, and wanted to hide from everything and everyone around.

There was Mrs. Mukherjee, my English teacher; Ms. Majumdar, my Geography teacher; and Mrs. Niyogi, my History teacher. I will never forget them for their kindness and understanding towards me. They have formed me into what I am today. If people compliment today me by saying I am a woman of substance, I would say that all those substances were filled choc-o-block in to me by these teachers during my formative years.

The day I was being ridiculed by my class mates while we were all in back seats of the school bus, I remember Mrs. Mukherjee calling out to me to come to her, holding out her arms for me, and making me sit beside her. I felt so important and cared for, while I was sitting beside her, that moment I never wanted to be with my class mates anyways… Then I remember Ms. Majumdar, so uncool to look at, but with so much beauty within her. Seeing her, I learnt that beauty is only skin deep. What really matters is your thought and your personality. Otherwise how could such an uncool looking woman draw so much attention and love and respect even without trying a bit? And then there was Mrs. Niyogi, who was the only teacher who was kind to me the day the principal slapped me, she had later come to me, tried to console me with her kind words, while gently patting me encouragingly.

Then I remember those difficult days when I used to be depressed, used to cry long into the nights, feeling alone and low. I used to drift into a sleep where I dreamt of magic erasers, erasing off all my white spots… And then the erasers changed into a ferocious tiger chasing me in the dark, and I am trying to hide among the long elephant grasses around me… And I remember those difficult study hours, half awake, half asleep, knowing that I have to work hard and study and be successful, as I have to fend for myself, as I will be alone, and there will be no one for me. And thus with all these fears I grew up… and here I am today… Check me out in the pictures below…