Saturday, 12 March 2016

Confessions of a 'Fat' girl

It was the third day of college. The ragging sessions were in full swing. Ragging in our college was mostly a fun affair, and a wonderful ice-breaking experience for me. All kinds of silly pranks were being played. During one such session, one of my seniors asked me to go and propose to her male friend sitting some distance away. Unwillingly, I went up to the guy pretending to hold a flower and blurted an 'I love you'. In return, this guy shouted back, 'Arre yaar kisse bhej diya? Size dekh kar toh bhejna tha!' I was mortified, angry and heartbroken. In that moment, it didn't matter if I scored above 90% in CBSE exams. It didn't matter that I was multi-talented. It didn't matter that I was kind and generous. All that mattered was that I was fat... Hello adult life - you sure are harsh!

Now let me clarify. I've been chubby since the time I turned a year old, give or take a few months. Partly genetics and partly an insatiable sweet tooth. Add to it the fact that I was always a bookworm with absolutely no interest in playing any sports. And there you have it - stereotypical bespectacled fat nerd with braces in her teeth. Let me also clarify - I've never been obese. Just cutely plump. By God's grace I've always been in reasonably good health. And to this day I do not fit into any definition of thin. I wear a size 10, have flabby arms and a mummy tummy. Today, I'm comfortable with how I look. But it wasn't always the case.

Teenage is a terrible time for everyone. You are going through so much. And you are beginning to feel things you never did before. You want to look good. You want to be cool. You want to be popular. At that time, like every good girl, I was immersed in my studies with no time for a love life. But I'm human you see, and I did crave male attention. Like my prettier friends used to get. Or other pretty people who were getting proposals from just about every other guy. So though I was performing brilliantly in academics, there was a part of me that had zero confidence. A part of me that felt like a total loser. Undesirable and unwanted. And I always blamed it on my weight. (I was never bullied though, thankfully)

It didn't help that the relatives were so happy voicing their concerns. 'Do you think it looks good? A young girl having arms like that! You look like your grandmother! How are your parents going to find you a suitable boy?' Thank you very much, I'm happily married to a very nice boy now. (And as if getting married is the sole purpose of a young girl's life. Maybe she doesn't, chill dude)

Thankfully my parents never put any pressure on me to look a certain way. My mom was happy to feed her children whatever they wanted and all my dad cared for was that we should be dressed modestly in clean, ironed clothes. What mattered to them was our career, our overall development, our well-being. There was no room for shallow things like fat or thin.

Today, I can look back at those times and laugh. But the stigma of being overweight tortured me for much of my life. It made me vulnerable. Open to emotional abuse of a certain kind that only fat people are aware of. It made me insecure. It made me try too hard to impress. It made me feel like a failure at times. It made me feel unloved. And a lot of my life was spent trying to fill the void that it created.

It wasn't until I was in my mid-twenties that I realised I was beautiful. By this time, I had developed a sartorial sense of my own, and was never sloppy. I could feel that people took notice when I walked into a room. Girls in my hostel would pay me compliments. Guys much younger than me had mini-crushes on me. Random people would come up to ask which college I was from. Honestly, it felt good.

Security, on the other hand, has kicked in only recently, after several years of being in a stable marriage with a man who loves me beyond my looks. It has taken so long to realise that love is so much more than how you look, how you talk or how much money you have. That being fat has little to do with how desirable you are. So long to kill the 'fat girl syndrome' that I suffered from for so long.

Why am I telling you all this? Because our society puts so much pressure on us to look a certain way. No matter how much people are talking about body shaming, a fat girl is still a fat girl. As is a dark skinned girl or a skinny girl or a short girl or a hairy girl. I was one of the fortunate few who could overcome this to a great extent. I still get nervous triggers if the numbers on the scale go higher. But most women, don't get over their complexes and fears about such labels their entire lives. It saps so much positivity, vitality and enrichment from their lives.

It is strange when mothers tell me that they are taking their 12 year olds to a dietician, to help lose the 'baby fat'. Or to aerobics classes aimed specifically at slimming. She's a child for God's sake! Don't rob her of her innocence. If you are concerned about her health, introduce her to sports or to rigorous dance forms like Bharatnatyam. Something that is fulfilling and nurturing. By all means, inculcate healthy eating habits. I don't endorse being unhealthy. But don't push her into a crazy world with a negative body image. She has so much to accomplish in life yet without worrying about losing weight.

I have adored Kate Winslet since I first saw her in Titanic for this very reason. She endorsed her curves with such élan and continues to set a good example for women all over the world. And it was sad for me to see the 'Internet is breaking over Parineeti Chopra's weight loss' news. There was one good actress with a full body who could have been an inspiration to millions of young girls... She too succumbed to the pressure of the need to look svelte. We really need more body positive icons for young women all over the world. Without the Spanx and the air brushing.

Have you seen the completely idiotic Nerolac Suraksha ad where a doctor needs to prove his worth by painting his house? Body shaming is exactly like that! So please, for heaven's sake, stop body shaming your daughters or granddaughters or nieces or neighbours. Childhood insecurities travel way beyond childhood. They affect every dimension of our lives, especially if they make us feel undesirable. No girl must have to think that she is unlovable because of a genetic trait she has little control over. Tell her how smart she is, how strong she is and how much possibility the world holds for her. That she doesn't need a man to validate her existence. She is an individual in her own right. That it's ok to eat cake when she feels like it. If she gets fat, there will only be more of her to love!

With love to all the girls who have been called undesirable by people too blind to see their beauty.


  1. Loved the flow of your write up. Very relavant to what people need to understand. "What women need most is Confidence that comes from within"

    1. Thank you Deepa :) Absolutely, that's what we need.

  2. Loved the flow of your write up. Very relavant to what people need to understand. "What women need most is Confidence that comes from within"

  3. This girl had it all but was on the "plump" side and due to her "self realisation" has a husband to loves her to the death. Kahan filmy he...

    1. That was very insightful. I could never have come up with such a realisation.

    2. No doubt, some ppl have really "plump" intelligence


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