For Pooja Ganatra, red hair, deep emerald eyes, and freckles were more than just a set of features growing up. As she’s aged, though, the young woman has come to terms with the physical characteristics that set her so far apart from the rest of her community in India—and as she’s grown and matured, she’s come to love them in time.
When Ganatra was born, her parents were shocked. The Mumbai native has two Indian parents—Rajesh and Hemaxi—and both have black hair, brown eyes, and dark skin.
Ganatra, though, has always looked different. Where her parents and other relatives have black hair, hers is a bright, distinct red—and where they have brown eyes and even-toned, dark skin, her green eyes are complimented by a fair, freckled complexion.
Needless to say, she stood out from day one—and it was incredibly difficult growing up.
At age 3, she had been brought to the hospital with a believed skin disease (which had just been her freckles popping up), and her parents had even questioned whether or not her looks were the result of a birth defect. In a rather homogenous country, she stood out in stark contrast.
At school, Ganatra was bullied from childhood on. She was called all sorts of names by her classmates, who said she was “diseased,” to the point where she would run home crying. Never in her early youth did she ever find herself to be “attractive.”
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At first, the remarks affected her immensely, particularly since her own family wasn’t sure how to handle it.
In recent years, though, the young woman has come to terms with how she looks—and now, she embraces her unique set of features.
After traveling the world, she realized that in the eyes of others outside her country, she was considered “beautiful,” and she was told this.
“I realized that looking different,” she explained, “could actually be a gift.”
And now, she’s determined to embrace her unique appearance rather than hide it.
Although Ganatra and her parents still aren’t fully certain why she looks like she does, there’s a suspicion that her mother’s side has colonial blood dating back generations.
When England colonized India, it’s possible that Ganatra’s ancestors saw some multi-cultural relationships bloom—and although her recessive genes wouldn’t pop up often, they could have been carried down for generations. Her mother has fairer skin than her father and has a few freckles on her arms—so it’s entirely likely that she’s just seeing some long-dormant family genetics pop up to the surface.
She hasn’t gotten a DNA test done yet. But for now, the young woman is happy in her skin—and doesn’t plan to let anyone change that.