‘No one can make you feel inferior without your own consent ‘ – Eleanor Roosevelt
“Ladki ka rang saf toh hain na ” (Girl’s complexion is fair, right?) – a question so often asked here in our country even today by so called well educated ‘to be mother-in laws’ of 21st century. Such is the unfortunate obsession for fair skin in our beloved country. But look at the irony of the fact, when your whole skin is about to turn white, you panic like anything because suddenly, you are being looked down upon for no fault of yours.
Well here I am, presenting my story (it won’t be sad & boring, I promise) spread over 13 long years of my struggle with a skin disease called Vitiligo or Leucoderma which in layman terms can be simply put as a problem of white patches, whereby melanin pigment of the skin starts fading away and your skin colour starts turning milky white.
Reason why I want my story to reach masses is not to glorify my successful fight with an incurable disease but to convey that irrespective of how deadly a disease is or for that matter how adverse the circumstances are, you just need to hold on, you just need to believe that things will eventually turn better for sure. Hoping against hope is basically the key.
Coming back to Vitiligo , well the disease in itself is not painful at all. There is absolutely no physical pain whatsoever but believe me , the taboo associated with this disease just fills you up with so much of inferiority complex initially that you almost start hating yourself .
The ordeal started one fine evening, when I was about 11 years old .I returned home after having a horrible cricket session with my friends (I was out for a Duck and went for too much runs while bowling, if I remember correctly).I was anyways dejected because of day’s proceeding but suddenly my mom noticed a small white patch on my knees and she panicked -“It’s a white spot! Come here, let me see properly ” , she said with her eyes already in tears, “This looks like fulveri (another synonym for vitiligo) ” , she said with a heavy heart. And pandora box of worries & uncertainties started from thereon.
My life was never the same since that day. Every now & then , My mom’s panic stricken voice and fearful expressions on being asked by her friends about my white spots ,were more than enough for me to know that something huge and something bad has happened to me. Then started a vicious and unpleasant circle of countless clinic visits to all dermatologists in the city and in the nearby cities including Delhi .For initial few days however , I was unable to understand the gravity of the situation (I wish I had never understood ,for ignorance is bliss sometimes) and I was more in a confused state but eventually I started feeling a little odd, I started to hide my spots any which way .So much so that I intentionally stopped wearing shorts at all and trousers/jeans came to my rescue.
I can still recall that extremely uncomfortable feeling of insecurity, that feeling of guilt for the crime that I had never committed, which stayed with me for next 3-4 years during school. After that ,though the treatment continued (steroids & all) ,but this negative intensity started to lower down a bit ,not because I made peace with vitiligo but because I changed my focus .I started preparing for IIT. –> #Changing the Focus does help!
But despite the likes Irodovs & Resnick Hallidays around (my engineer friends can relate to these terms easily), I could not clear IIT and boom!! Vitiligo came to haunt me again, this time more ferociously.
It was all over me, spreading like a wild fire. See the thing is ,it is someway directly proportional to your worry hormones. The more the anxiety levels are, the quicker is the spread. That was a horrible time – a career failure after 2 years of rigorous preparation & an incurable disease which I was battling for last few years – just too much for a 17 -18 year old to handle. I started thinking of ending my life. Yes, it is true, I was really low on confidence and was almost hopeless. Had my family not supported me that time, I would have committed suicide. –> #Family Support does wonders!
At that time, My Mom & Dad had many long conversations with me where mom was obviously tender while Dad pretended to be little tough but they both had the same motto – not to let me fall in depression. In the meantime, I got a counselling call from NIT kurukshetra (kurukshetra is my hometown as well) for Civil engineering .After another marathon session with my Dad and my brother ,it was decided that given my state of mind at that time, I should straightway join NIT and not even think of dropping a year to prepare for IIT again. And that Ladies & Gentleman proved to be a great decision as the things stand today –> #Moving on is sometimes the best option available !
Hey wait! Story is yet to finish .Few days into the college and I realized that it’s not school, it’s different. The way you dress, the way you look matters utmost here, especially during first two years. And so, by now my favorite enemy, the inferiority complex was back to haunt me. I remember one day crying heavily after returning from college .When inquired by parents, I uttered “No one will marry me!” And my Dad gave me a look which clearly said – you moron, you are have just turned 20 and you have already started thinking of marriage and who knows, may be about kids also!!
Jokes apart, I did had this insecurity that no one would like to be friends with me and that nobody will even invite me to their parties because I look so uncool with these white patches. After quite a few bad days , finally , one winter morning while sitting in the sun, I gave it a thought – why am I so unhappy and so ungrateful to God all the time despite having such a wonderful family, a wonderful college, some really great friends, no financial worries ,availing best possible treatment available etc. I further pondered that actually no body was pulling me down, no one was hurting me, and nobody was treating me as an inferior guy. If there was anyone who was probably doing all this to me, it was I myself through my wild & completely unnecessary imagination. As for the vitiligo, well I was at least having a painless disease while people around were unfortunately not so lucky .I realized that I should or rather I must be grateful to God .–> #One should always be thankful for all that one is having!
Eureka!! Yes, it was no less than a eureka moment for me because that fateful day and those thoughts literally turned my life 360 degrees for good .My smile, my confidence and my zeal were all back. And it did wonders in all spheres of my life, I started enjoying life, my friend circle expanded ,vitiligo spread got checked ( I told you, it’s all about anxiety ) .
But just when everything looked hunky-dory, my mom passed away leaving us all shocked. All the hell broke loose. Besides other things, I feared that since my emotional support is gone, vitiligo and related thoughts will make my life miserable once again for the umpteenth time. But by her blessings and thanks to my Dad’s & brother’s support, this time I didn’t let circumstances get better of me. Over a period of time, I reorganized myself and started facing life boldly. I started accepting things, especially bad things happening to me more easily .I was more at peace with myself and that reflected all over. During campus interviews in the final year of engineering, I got placed in one of the dream companies, NTPC Ltd, further boosting my self-confidence. Though I had heard it countless times earlier, but I realized it myself that its 100% true – It’s all about training your mind! –> #Thoughts do become things!
And luckily, the whole working culture here at NTPC is very amicable and people are of understanding nature .Colleagues support you whole heatedly, especially when it comes to health issues. –> #Try to be around people with positive or at least neutral thinking!
One last time when this issue of white patches resurfaced was when I was going to meet a girl (now my lovely wife Nishtha) for the marriage proposal. After all the basic mutual talks & forced laughters among parents & relatives (a typical start to a probable north Indian wedding ), there came a moment when both of us were left alone to have a talk.”Do you really want to marry me, considering the fact these white patches might spread later on to my face as well?” I said in a little reluctant and insecure manner.”What if this might have happened to you after marriage? It’s not an issue at all.” She said calmly. These thoughts of her really made me feel lucky that day to have met her. –> # Don’t just imagine other’s opinion about yourself, it might not be that bad, let them speak.
So guys no matter what, just keep going, keep fighting. Believe me, circumstances will change and change for good. They did for me, they will do for you. When things are not going your way, just keep reminding yourself –> # Just as good times didn’t last for long, even these bad times won’t!
While the vitiligo still stands tall , but I have grown taller over all these years. And looking back today, I still remember that day as an “unfortunate” one when my mom witnessed my first white patch , not because of vitiligo though but because of cricketing failures which virtually ended my probable glittering cricketing career :).