Facing the music: How I learned to embrace my differences.

From the minute we are born, we are judged and compared by our weight, race, colour, character, and so on.

As crazy as it sounds, one of my biggest insecurities used to be my dark skin. I want to give you a little insight of how I tried to overcome this. Instead of feeling afraid that I might be seen as an outsider, I learnt to embrace and be proud of who and what I am.

I remember growing up feeling afraid and on edge of how people might treat me because of my skin colour. I had quite a rough childhood in London, where I grew up. I was badly bullied and I never knew why, until one day I was made fun of and got called a Paki and I felt like my whole world just came tumbling down.

I cannot express how deeply that hurt. The feeling is indescribable because it felt like a personal attack. I never saw myself as someone ‘different’ or someone that may stand out in a crowd.

When I was younger I used to purchase all the skin lightening products and treatments that made me look fair. I was worried I would never be able to fit in and I felt embarrassed and used to downplay everything when anyone asked me about my culture, religion, or where I was originally from.  

In general, racism and prejudice have always been a difficult and uncomfortable topic to talk about and we live in a generation where it should not exist but sadly, it still does.

On a more personal level though, the truth is, the pigmentation of my skin colour does not define me at all and never will. I am different and I love it.

Time to spill the beans on my background…

For those who do not know me and to surprise some who do, my grand-parents were born in India, my parents in Africa, and I was born in the UK which makes me British Asian (Indian). I have had endless amount of conversations about this with my mates and it is hard for me to explain (I should do some research).

Apart from England, I have lived in India and America. I speak a total of three languages: English, Gujarati and Hindi. (I did also study German and French if that counts) I can understand the two Indian languages perfectly, but my pronunciation can be a bit broken – at least I am still learning!

On many occasions I have been told how original my name is and if it has any meaning. My name Renisa comes from Indian musical notes. A little music lesson here for you: In the major Romance and Slavic languages, the syllables Do, Re, Mi, Fa, Sol, La, and Si are used to name notes the same way that the letters C, D, E, F, G, A, and B are used to name notes in English. The Indian conversion of this is Sa Re Ga Ma Pa Dha Ni and that is where my name comes from RE-NI-SA. Pretty cool ay?

Speaking of music, I was brought up listening to a lot of Bollywood music and films. Taking a trip down memory lane here; I would dress up in my ethnic wear for celebrations and different occasions. I managed to dig out a few pictures, as you can see I was in my element. (Diva much?)

In the first two pictures, the outfit I am wearing is called a Ghagra Choli- It is is a form of skirt which is long, embroidered and pleated. It is secured at the waist or hip. This was one of the earliest forms of a stitched skirt. I wore these outfits when we went to a Diwali party. Diwali is the five-day festival of lights also a festival of new beginnings, basically an Indian Christmas.

In the last picture I am wearing a Sari. I wore this to my prom, it is a long piece of cotton or silk wrapped around the body with one end draped over the head or over one shoulder. A sari ranges from 3.5 yards to 9 yards in length, and if I wanted to wear this again, most definitely will need a Youtube Tutorial.

Looking back at these pictures I did not realise how much I miss dressing up, and the Indian festivities, but I will forever be so grateful and happy I was able to learn about my culture and traditions.

When it comes to food, I am the biggest foodie of my family. (I will dedicate one of my blog pieces to food soon I am sure).  However when it comes to Indian food, my parents create the most indulgent, authentic meals and trust me if I gave you the recipes I guarantee, you would not be disappointed. Hit me up guys if you would like a step by step recipe!

One day it finally clicked. I have so many qualities and attributes that are not common with other people and instead of shying away from them, I have learned to embrace these differences and be proud of them!

I have the best of both worlds and when I realised this, my self- confidence started to shine through. Thankfully I became free when I stopped being afraid and I slowly learnt to love myself.

Whilst writing this blog piece I wanted to give more people an understanding, that every single one of us has at least one characteristic that makes us distinctive and unique and this is the most beautiful thing about us human beings.

I wonder what your special features are.