Passport, check. Malls, skyscrapers remind me of my own island. I see grey pavements, white curbstones.

LESSON 1: Every city is Mumbai minus paan stains.

At lunch, I’m invisible to blonde waiters. A Fillipina barmaid brings me breakfast. Her skin is closer to butter than milk but her smile is the blinding white of sunshine.

LESSON 2: Hunger is a universal hue.

The sea varies in colour depending on which island I’m on. Indigo looks at me with lidded eyes, says take your time but you’ll come to me. Cerulean mornings ask me to come out & swim. Mykonos turquoise crooks a finger, whispers follow without splash. Inky evenings write new stories.

LESSON 3: My journey is the colour of water.

I have dinner with a co-traveller. We relish unfamiliar casseroles, talk about home. She runs a tanning salon in Utah. I say that’ll never work in my land. She touches my arm & says, “You’re such a lovely colour!”

LESSON 4: A tan by another name is just another colour.

Oh, streetwear! A lavender scarf waves over purple leggings. A woman glides by, denim hijab over shoulders covered with a pink jumper, swishing a fishtail skirt, stonewash blue. Silver butterfly on a leather jacket. The woman’s hijab is pinned with the same brooch.

LESSON 5: When colour is a statement, identity is an accessory.

My face is the colour of food gone bad. Not tomato red like the Brit driver. Not pink like the Ukrainian waiter. Not chocolate like the African-American in the next cabin. It’s not brown anymore. Orange, I say. Giggles break out as the waiter brings breakfast to the next table– yoghurt, white as them. I’m still hungry.

LESSON 6: Stay hungry, stay brown.

I stop converting currency in my head. A man sells brooches like the ones I saw. I pick up one. He points to me & says, “You don’t touch. Go away.” I hope it turns skin green.

LESSON 7: Stones of colour hurt more.

The manager offers an apology. Tells us of his own travels. Charms us with baklava & tales.

LESSON 8: Stories are colour blind.

Over the bay, the world is steel grey. I shut my book. It’s getting cold. I go back.

LESSON 9: At least the night sky is the same colour over everyone.

This was part of a series called #BodyCanvas where I explored notions of colour & design in the context of our selves & personalities through polls, questions, posts and an Instagram Live with Paromita Deb Areng.


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