Vitiligo is a skin condition which results in white patches of skin to appear on different parts of the body. It is incurable, not contagious, and most of the time—harmless. There are around 1 million cases of Vitiligo diagnosed every year in India. Yet, there continues to be widespread myths about the skin condition. Kartiki Bhatnagar, a 17-year-old student at Delhi Public School, was diagnosed with a thyroid condition at the tender age of seven. This resulted in her developing white patches all over her body. Her classmates shunned her because they believed she was contagious. As the years passed, they learned to accept her for who she is and Kartiki came to terms with her condition. The voracious reader, amateur actor, debater and blogger has been writing since she was seven. In 2014, she started her own blog named Embracing Life. Excerpts from an interview with Bayside Journal:

When did you start blogging?

I attended a workshop called ‘Young Leaders for Active Citizenship’. Over there, we had this really engaging exercise called public narrative. Whether you were a politician or a public speaker, you had to come up with what would you speak about, how you would move people to action. I don’t know whether it was the environment or not, but after the first time, I was passionate enough to share my struggle with Vitiligo and everyone there was my age and very open minded and encouraging about it. That is when I found the courage to move ahead and post it on my blog–with a twist of course.

Did you do it to bust myths about Vitiligo or did you do it to encourage body positivity?

I think it was a little bit of both. People weren’t really aware, they thought it was contagious. I wanted people to become aware and come to terms with myself. I had a bit of a problem talking about it earlier– but now I can talk about it a very open, detached point of view. It’s like I am talking about someone else and it is not affecting me that much.

Your friend Shreyas was the one who encouraged you to get your message out there; he helped you set up your blog. Can you tell us something about that?

He didn’t know that I used to hide it. He didn’t realise that I was ashamed about it because it didn’t occur to him that it was something to be ashamed about. In fact, he says that he wants to have the same dual skin colour and he then he started pointing out different things about the spots and I could do this and that. That was the turning point when I realised something could be done about it instead of just loathing it.

Can you tell us something about ‘Bare the Midriff’?

This happened during the time of the same summer workshop. I used to commute by metro. You know, there are some unsaid rules about travelling in the metro, such as don’t wear such sleeves, don’t wear tank tops etc. One day, I was wearing not even a crop top, but a short shirt and I just raised my hand to tie my hair and I realised that five people are looking at me like there is something seriously wrong with me. It was because my tummy was showing. I get angry about these things pretty quickly and I channelise this through my writing. I started writing about it and one guy told me that the best way to go about it is through an Instagram campaign.

Is body positivity the aim of your blog?

Not for my entire blog, but for ‘Bare the Midriff’. My blog has a different tangent; body positivity is a part of it. It concentrates more on life positivity.

Any plans for the future?

I want to get into the field of psychology. After delving into the field, I realised why people behaved towards me the way they did; it made more sense to me. I have been thinking of getting henna done on it. I am still studying for my 12th; I’m no painter, just a writer. I just paint for stress relief. I may even tattoo it (Vitiligo patches) provided I get permission from my mother!

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