An Anthem for Brown – Babitha Marina Justin

An Anthem for Brown


We grew up in a place where shades of brown mattered: from beige to burnt umber. My mother told me that black is beauty though she herself did not believe it. In the school bus, we measured our skintones against each others knuckles; the paler potato-peel brown always won. Some were lemon rinds turned sable, others coconut shell or chestnut. Some bore the burden of a deep chocolate brown; others treasured their pumice stones and scrubbed and scrubbed till they bled.

And then the fairness creams came, unannounced. Suddenly, along vast fields levelled with truckloads of rocksand to make concrete jungles, there were billboards of dark women miraculously turning white. Pale, lissome girls
wearing chunks of wedding gold with dainty necks any burglar would gladly slit.

We followed the rule that silence is golden; we smothered our skins with layers of serums and creams to hold that silence to our skins without a wrinkle.


Babitha Marina Justin’s poems have appeared in Eclectica Magazine, Silver Needle Press, Adolphus Journal, Ogazine, The Four Quarters Magazine, Taj Mahal Review, Kritya and Journal of Post-Colonial Literature. Her first collection of poetry, Of Fireflies, Guns and the Hills, was published by the Writers Workshop in 2015.