At first look, this woman who has red hair, green eyes and blemishes might lead some people to think that she is of Irish origin. However, the 24-year-old woman is Indian whose parents look just like any other typical Indian.
She was hurried to the hospital out of concern for a skin condition because of her appearance, and she was even informed she couldn’t wear sleeveless tops while attending university. Her appearance has made her feel like an outsider in her own country, with Indians gazing, commenting, and asking for pictures.
Even though fair skin is one of the many commendable features in India, Pooja Ganatra always gets harassed and ignored because of her untypical looks.
“When I was born, my family had never seen anyone who looked like me before because they all have brown skin, black hair and brown eyes, like most Indians.
“Everyone in my community was thoroughly fascinated by me and were all very curious as to why I looked so different from my parents”
The woman who was born in Mumbai now administers her own clothing business. She recalled that her lentigines were once thought of as a skin disease when she was young.
“When my freckles started appearing everywhere when I was three, because none of my relatives had ever gotten lentigines before, they didn’t know what they were,” Pooja said.
“I was hurried to the doctors because everyone thought it was a birth deformity or skin disease”
When she realised that the lentigines were not harmful or the result of any skin diseases, she felt relieved. However, her relief did not last long when people frequently stare at her and ask her about her unique feature. “People would always come up and ask ‘What are those spots on your face? Why do you have so many marks?’. It was a real mental challenge.”
“Even in my first year of university, I have pulled aside and told not to wear sleeveless shirts because they were ‘too eye-catching’ with my white skin. There was no rule against sleeveless clothing and every other girl dressed like me, yet I was singled out”
Despite that, she also has funny moments regarding her looks. “Indians love to pose for photos with different-looking people from overseas, so I often get people coming up to me asking for pictures. It’s happened more than 100 times in my life – I have to tell them, ‘Relax, I’m Indian too.”
“The funniest one is when I’m charged the foreigner price for public attractions because they think I’m a backpacker, so I have to prove I’m Indian,” Pooja recalls the time taxi drivers mistook her as a foreign backpacker and stunned when they listened to her speaking in Hindi.
She continued, “When I was in America people wouldn’t believe me when I told them I’m Indian. Even the customs officer at the airport had to look twice at my passport and asked me if I’m really from India.”
Pooja’s father, Rajesh, 51, has a darker skin tone while her mother, Hemaxi, 46, has fair skin that this lighter than typical Indian and some freckles but none of them are on her face
It remains a mystery to Pooja and her family how she got her unique looks.
“I’d love to get a DNA test one day to discover more about my ancestry because I don’t know anything about it. I have no idea why I look the way that I do but a test into my genes could explain a lot.”
She also did not reject the idea that her ancestors were from the United Kingdom. “My grandmother died when my mum was very young, so I was never able to ask her about it but I’m very curious.”
We too are curious, Pooja! We hope whatever the DNA results will be, Pooja’s rare beauty can finally be accepted by the public. After all, it is what is in our hearts that counts.