Shweta looked at herself one last time in the mirror. Adjusting her neckpiece, she ran her hands through the resplendent red Zardozi dupatta neatly tucked on her left shoulder with a glittering brooch, checked its pleats covering her bosom, and paused for a moment around her waist belt cinching it. With a creasing forehead she carefully rearranged it to cover her waist that was obscured by the flab. Scanning her reflection one last time, in the mirror from head to foot, she curled her lips into a nervous smile. Deep down a voice said to her “Now you look lovely! And you totally look like the showstopper tonight!”
It was her wedding day after all. And she looked every inch the quintessential Indian bride.
Just then, there was a tap on the door. She signaled her cousin to open the door. 2-3 relatives were waiting outside to catch a glimpse of the bride to be. They walked in bursting into extravagant laughs over some small talk.
For a second Shweta felt awkward (conscious rather) as they looked her up and down, examining and assessing her.
Sushmita Bua was rearing to go it seemed. She spoke without wasting time “Shweta Beta. How lovely you look! I saw your status a week ago. You were looking thin. Today you look fat compared to that. Your generation knows the camera angles, huh!!”
Before Shweta could process Sushmita Bua’s distasteful comment, another one flew in unannounced and uncalled for.
This time it was Rajji Chachi. “Whatever happened to all the dieting Beta? Didn’t make much difference, I see. But don’t worry. Amish loves you regardless! You are very lucky, Beta. I am so happy to see you dressed like a bride. Your long wait for a good groom has been rewarded well. Touchwood.” She said, wiping her pretentious tears.
Shweta smiled at her relatives with stoic resignation. No, she didn’t take umbrage at their nasty remarks. That part never happened. Always at the receiving end of sly comments and jibes regarding her body type from her own relatives, she buried the resentment part long ago. Somehow, she had come to accept that people are going to joke about it and forget. They obviously meant no harm. And that’s how she dealt with it. Smiling with all her might and traumatized within.
Today she embraced the trauma, yet again. It was her wedding day. It should have been the happiest day of her life. But today she felt abysmal sadness settling into her being, as if she were attending a funeral inside. Somebody just set fire to her self-confidence and now she was burning.
Even Amish’s appreciative gestures and honey dipped glances could not douse the fire within her. Even though she smiled generously at everyone in the wedding and played the beautiful bride part well, she felt like a walking corpse, on the inside. She felt ugly. She felt she wasn’t pretty enough for Amish. Only a while ago she was beaming at herself. Had it not been for those comments, she would have been a happy bride. The way it was supposed to be.
I tried but couldn’t really find a suitable ending to this story.
Because this is something that a lot of us experience on a daily basis. I am not Shweta nor is this my story, but I have faced similar situations as well. People walk up to you and the first thing they tell you is this Kaunsi chakki ka atta khati ho? You have gained weight na? or Are you not eating anything? You look like a hanger, or You look so thin in the photographs! Camera can hide all flaws! Of course, one can always give it back to naysayers. And yes, one can shoe them away with equally nasty answers. But know this. Not everyone can do that. Not everyone is born with a gift of the gab or an extra streak of self-confidence . Sometimes, young girls face so much criticism, advise and unwanted attention during their growing up years, that this, yes, this alarming and sickening conduct of our society, becomes acceptable, like a way of life.
My question to you is this- Have you ever walked up to someone and initiated a conversation like the one I just mentioned? Are you sure you have never subjected anyone with the trauma of self-doubt and body shaming? Do you begin a conversation with how fat or thin the other person is or do you talk to them genuinely interested in knowing them, their life, their accomplishments or even their fallings?
How do you conduct yourself in a family or a social gathering? Tell me. I want to know. I want to believe that you are not the one who crucifies another individual on the basis of how many kilos he/she has gained or lost.
Because that is where it all starts. When we meet. When we greet. When we connect. That’s when you throw these barbs at another individual and that’s how they begin to feel the hurt. Within themselves. And you do this again and again. Every time you meet them. Let me tell you, they smile back at you every single time.
Yes, fitness is for everyone. Yes, each one of us should try and find time to take care of our selves and our bodies. But how are these conversations helping or motivating?
I am writing this because I want you to change. I want you to stop bashing several young women out there for their appearances. Because not everyone is strong enough to deal with it an entire lifetime. Because it does affect the other person’s mental health. And mostly because it isn’t right. It isn’t right to start a conversation by making the other person feel less or inadequate. It doesn’t add any value to your life, nor does it make you worthier.
All it does is, leave them a little less confident and a lot more conscious of the way their body is going to define them. So even if you feel enticed to crack a lame joke about somebody’s shape and size, DON’T DO IT. It’s not nice. It’s rude. It’s definitely not normal!
Let’s normalize warm conversations. Let’s look at people as souls walking. When you meet an old friend at a party or when you greet your young relatives during a family gathering, embrace them with open hearts. Ask them about how life has been treating them. Share their joys. Pat their backs for their accomplishments. Compliment them. Make an attempt to know their struggles. Offer them a dependable shoulder.
Let’s learn to have a real conversation.