How many of us have come across at least one of these in our lives…
You pass by a hoarding screaming in your face – “Get fairer skin in 7 days!!!”
You sit down to watch the news and you advert showing women (and men)getting anything from husbands to jobs – No, not with talent, but lighter skin!
You skim through the matrimonial website/newspaper section and you see these little words glaring back at you; repeatedly – Wanted- tall, fair, talented brides….
You are having an innocuous dinner table conversation and your aunt subtly hints at “natural” products that can help the brown skin.  How are you to find a husband otherwise?
And then there was the famous campaign by Dove , ” Talk to your daughters before the Beauty Industry Does!”
Who can dispute that ‘Skin-Esteem’ is the founding stone to strong ‘Self-esteem’?

Rebecca Manari

Rebecca and her kids!

The message is everywhere – Brown skin is not good enough.  If you have any intention of getting your life straightened, the first thing to do is get your skin lightened!   You know it has trespassed limits when 3-year-olds ask how they can lighten their skin- yes, that’s right – 3-year-olds!
One mother saw this happening and decided to not take it lying down.
Meet Rebecca Manari.  A primary school and a special needs educator, her heart is set on making impressionable minds see the right and the light in everything.
Rebecca did something beautiful . She targeted the same young, fresh minds with an anti-dote of self-esteem replete with an absorbing story. Her book “Brown Like Dosas,  Samosas and Sticky Chikki”  comes with a strong message- brown skin is just as good as any other skin; and there is NO need to treat it.
Rebecca introduces the young, sun-kissed protagonist, Samaira, of her book ‘Brown Like Dosas, Samosas and Sticky Chikki’. Declares the little girl proudly, “Coconut, cinnamon and the bark of a tree, that’s what we look like: my friends and me!”.  This snappy, 26-page book is also a sensory delight to kids with it eye-catching, magical illustrations by Singapore based Heetal Dattani. This is arguably India’s first children’s publication using skin colour as its theme.

Kidskintha did an exclusive interview with Rebecca. Read on…

What was your inspiration behind the book? What made you think that this is a topic that needs to be written on?
The idea that everybody was clamoring for one type of skin and hair was ridiculous. I distinctly remember a lecture from a teacher, where she said- individuals lose part of themselves when they try to look like someone else.  The same kind of hair, nose, skin, mouth- cosmetic surgeries in the name of adhering to ridiculous beauty standards …that lecture stayed with me.
The idea for this book was rather gradual. I had always come across those in-the-face ads; but once I had my son, I started paying special attention to all the ads. Observation in the media, changes in youth mindset, stories about low self-esteem – all of them influenced me. Also, in a certain way, having my own children, especially my daughter brought up that nagging worry in me about this matter..She was always looking in the mirror, always trying to do up her hair and face, even though she is only 3. I wanted something positive to help boost her confidence.

Proud of Brown!

Proud of Brown!

How did you get down to working on this book?
When I presented this idea to Fun-Ok-Please, they readily agreed to publish my book.  The writing itself took about 3 weeks; however we spent about 2 years doing the right illustrations. Children place a lot of emphasis on visual inputs and we had to really get that right to cut ice. Our Singapore-based illustrator, Heetal Dattani did a great job of it.  Also, since this was a sensitive topic, we had to take care not to offend any child; dark-skinned or otherwise.
How do you plan to take this forward to a larger audience?
I am planning to conduct workshops in schools around this issue. I also plan to work around gender stereotyping messages to young children.
Do you think parents subtly infuse this message to their children? Rather unknowingly?
We come across parents who express worry over their daughter’s dark skin, try to ‘fix’ the problem, find remedies for the right complexion, compare with others of lighter skin- all of which are subtle but strong messages to children.  Most parents mean well, but to fret over something that is not even a problem – is a deep-rooted societal issue. The skin you are born with does not have to get any attention from you- except in cases where there are skin conditions. There is no reason to change any complexion at all.
Parents also need to be sensitized, but adults are a lot harder to deal with. I think it’s a lot more meaningful to deal with young impressionable minds.
How did you manage your time with your kids and work?
My publisher, Fun-Ok-Please was very understanding and let me work around my schedule, helping me do a thorough job of it. Most of the work was done when the kids were asleep J
Tell us the easiest way to get our hands on your book.
The book is now on Amazon India; available for shipping all over India. UReads also has my book; available for International Shipping.
A few words on what you like about Kidskintha…
I liked the KidKuips series and am impressed by the way it brings out the way kids think! The quips are really interesting and some of them can be extremely thought-provoking and funny.  I am going to be sending in my own kid’s quips to be published on Kidskintha!