How My Maternal Relatives Treated Me And My Mother Like Criminals ‘Coz We Are Dark Skinned

There is no value for education for a brown skinned woman in this world. The atrocities I have faced as a student in America and as a software engineer in India have left me traumatised for life.

This is a documentation of my maternal uncles, aunts and cousins treated me and my mother like criminals of the family because of the colour of our skin despite our education.

Colourism in my own family

We were a very close knit family in my childhood. I used to visit my grandparents home during my summer holidays to play with my cousins. Everything we did was interconnected. My maternal uncles and aunts used to be there too.

As we grew up and most of us enrolled into engineering colleges. It was OK for my cousins to become engineers because they were termed as articulate and more clever because of the colour of their skin. They were supposed to be meritorious and deserving despite having less merit than me.

It was during my final year of engineering when I realised the hatred that my mother’s youngest sister carried in her heart and mind for me. I went to see her at her office to request her recommendation for the final year project at NAL.

I saw her true colours and was aghast at her abusive behaviour. I was taken aback by her vile anger towards me and my classmates. All of us exited her office crying our hearts out at what had happened. Maybe it was my fault because I tend to see the good in people and am often too late to realise their true colours.

The discrimination continued even after moving to the US

I had the same experience when I moved to the US to do my master’s at the same university where my mothers youngest brother (uncle) was a professor in Computer Science. I was enrolled in the Electrical Engineering program and used to visit him in his office at times. My parents had taken out an education loan in India hoping I would find a job in the US and would repay it post graduation.

My maternal uncle and his wife who were supposed to guide me and help me in a foreign country, instead abused me physically, mentally and emotionally as a 21-year-old. At that time I was too young to understand what was happening with me. Why were they taking out their anger and vengeance on me?

At one point I was even confused about my gender. I was a young woman treated and made to work like a man. My uncle’s wife would visit me at my on-campus apartment and take me for a drive in her BMW and would yell and scream in her car. She would vent her anger and hatred. I would often get a severe headache after she dropped me back to my apartment. She would even make comments like “Do you think I am a bank to buy you Indian snacks?”, when she would take me to an Indian snacks shop in Dallas.

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At that point I was a poor student and did not understand her sarcastic comments and the hatred and vengeance my maternal uncle, his wife and son had for me in their hearts and head.

I was subjected to degrading the demeaning treatment all through my graduate school days whenever I met my uncle and his wife. For example my uncle’s wife would lovingly lend me her pair of worn shoes which would hurt and prick when I wore them. And once I graduated, I went on OPT and was sent off to my father’s cousin’s home in Atlanta to search for a job. Once I landed there, the scene was totally different. It is very expensive in the US to live without a job. My aunt asked me to move out of her house within one month.

More degrading and dehumanising treatment

It had been 2.5 years that I had been living in the US. What happened after that and all the degrading and dehumanising treatment I suffered at the hands of some Indians in Atlanta is too painful to recall. Its because my parents are middle class and I was a poor student living in studio apartments in the US and sleeping on floors. And that too, a brown skinned woman.

Overall it was a harrowing experience to move around with one suitcase for 8 months trying to find a job in Atlanta so that I could pay back my student loans. But what made the whole thing worse and unbearable was the constant mental abuse my uncle and his wife put me through over the phone. They’d accuse my mother and I of all sorts of things and left me traumatised for life.

After all this, one afternoon I suddenly had to leave the country. My uncle booked my tickets saying he cannot help me financially and made me feel guilty about him paying for my air tickets back to India. I was made to feel like I was some kind of a criminal and a lowly creature. I was denied basic respect as a woman and treated like dirt because of the colour of my skin. No one came to my rescue.

Once I returned to India, my mother’s youngest sisters, the cunning women they are, wanted to make good use of my education in India and exploit me. We went to meet my mother’s brother one day after I had returned from the US and he too became abusive and asked my mother to kick me out of the house and that I had achieved nothing in life and that I was a “zero” and that I should be “shown my place”.

Once I was invited to my cousin’s mehendi ceremony which was held at my mother’s younger sister’s house and as soon as I stepped in my younger male cousin reprimanded me saying “That’s not the way you speak”. This is how I am treated by my cousins as a guest in their house. My mother’s other younger sister also abused me verbally one day and called me a “dirty girl” and asked my mother to kick me out of the house.

After I started working for an MNC in Bangalore, my NAL aunt used to threaten me quietly when I was alone saying that “If you make mistakes in a private company, you would lose my job”. She used to prick my mother’s ears saying how boys were always better than girls at work.

Same story in corporate environments

I am still being exploited in corporates in India because of the colour of my skin despite working hard to earn a degree in the US. I was treated like a slave by my white skinned Indian woman manager and some of the white Americans who visited one of the workplaces that I was working at. I was humiliated and ridiculed for speaking up in front of the American VP in the conference room. I was called a brown boy who had grown too big for his shoes. At one point I was gaslighted into believing that I was a guy and that I deserved the abuse that I was being put through.

My maternal uncle made me feel guilty for even getting paid. He recommended me to his friend and helped me with a job in India for a meagre salary of Rs. 7500 twenty years ago. He even threatened me, bitching about getting paid a low salary because I was US returned. He accused me of cheating in India and falsifying my US credentials and that me and my mother were just money-mongers.

My parents paid back my educational loans with their life time savings. My maternal uncle even demanded the meagre amount that he had loaned me during my student days. His viewpoint was that we were lowly creatures and incapable of cutting it in America. And that we should pay tuition in dollars to US universities and even repay him in dollars while I get paid in rupees like any other engineering graduate in India.

He literally extorted my parents for money in the US convincing me that I was no good at my studies and tried to extort money after I returned to India from me and my parents. He threatened me with legal action if I did not pay him back. He even accused me of swindling my parent’s money in the US. And called me a “rotten egg” who just wanted to have a good life on someone else’s money.

Getting married is not the solution to all our problems!

My maternal aunts tried to get my parents to marry me off so I can be a slave in India to an Indian man and his family and serve my in-laws while my fairer cousins continue to travel and enjoy life in the US. I put my foot down and refused to get into such a contract. I value my freedom too much and cannot imagine being in such a relationship especially after my parents spent lakhs of rupees on my education in America.

Today, I am a single working woman in one of the IT companies in Bangalore like 100’s of other Indians where I face male dominance every day of my work life in India. There is no value for education for a brown skinned woman in this world. The atrocities I have faced as a student in America and as a software engineer in India have left me traumatised for life.

I continue to live with my parents practising yoga which has helped me deal with my trauma and finally I have realised that women are supposed to be loved and respected irrespective of their accomplishments. And not abused, harassed and subjected to degrading and demeaning and humiliating treatment irrespective of the colour of their skin.

We as women need to have self-respect and walk away from any relationship or workplace which abuses and harasses us. But when people whom you trust, your own relatives and your bosses show their true colours and humiliate and insult you for being educated because they feel their men are being wronged, you are helpless.

Image source: sisant on pixabay

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About the Author

Mrunalini

I am just another software professional not by choice but by circumstances and necessity, passionate about travel and exploring new destinations be it mountains or beaches, forests or ancient temples, hillstations or quaint hamlets. I read more...

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