Varun Hargan was born and raised in Ahmedabad, India and immigrated to Canada with his family at the age of 15. He first noticed a patch when he was 20 years old. No one in Varun’s family or extended family had vitiligo, so being the first to have it was a bit of a rollercoaster ride for him mentally. It definitely got more difficult as vitiligo progressed through his body as the years passed. “I never experienced bullying, since I was 20 when I was diagnosed with vitiligo. But I’ve experienced a different form of bullying from extended family. Just random comments passed in front of my family or me about my vitiligo. My family didn’t know how to handle it initially, but they saw how strong I was mentally, and that made them strong as well,” Varun recalls.
Sadly, it put Varun in awkward social situations as the stigma attached to vitiligo is crazy in India. “One of my relatives would keep a “separate” cup for me when I’d visit her in India because she thought her family would be “cursed” if they touched anything that I did. As the years passed, stuff like this has become white noise to my ears and my brain,” he recalls.
Varun gets asked a few common questions all the time. Is it contagious? Does someone in his family have it? Did he eat tomato and milk at the same time? Did he get burnt and these are the after effects of the burns? So, how did Varun deal with it? “It was hard to come to terms with it initially. But, once you overcome the denial part, the rest is easy. If I have to hear bullshit from people about myself, I’ll hear it from one ear and take it out from the other,” he reveals his secret.
As there are two sides of a coin, Varun thinks there are two sides to having vitiligo too. “Do I wish I didn’t have it? Yes, sometimes. I wouldn’t have to see the stares and get questioned all the time if I didn’t have it. But, I’ve grown and learned a lot about people because of my vitiligo. It made me grow as a human being and gave me valuable traits such as empathy, kindness, and compassion. It also acted as a natural filter for me since it naturally took out terrible and poisonous people in my life, without me uttering a word,” he pours his heart out.
Varun thinks he had his share of distractions during his career when he had a few breakups in his relationships (all because of vitiligo), but he never gave up on his career. He’s been a pilot for over six years now and is currently working for a flagship Canadian airline. Whenever he sees someone with vitiligo, he goes up to them and has a quick chat. “I call it natural art. It usually brings a smile to their and my face,” he shares.
Varun feels vitiligo fighters are stronger than what everyone thinks. He just wishes people were better educated about vitiligo. “There are a lot of misconceptions about vitiligo in the Indian culture, not sure about other cultures. I truly believe that people with vitiligo and other visible skin conditions are mentally the strongest people because of what they go through on a daily basis. But the world has an exact opposite impression of us,” Varun shares.
Varun has stopped taking any treatments for about five years now, and he says he could not be happier. How does he remain so positive? We were curious. He replies, “I’ve realized that people will say what they have to say about my skin. That’s their job. My job is to keep living my life and fulfilling my dreams. I’m blessed to have friends and immediate family that love me for who I am.” We couldn’t agree more. We wish Varun all the best for future.