While in school, the thought of the day when height and weight would be measured during PT class would instill a kind of dread in me. Why, you ask? Well, being on the chubbier side, I used to hate having others know how much I weigh. Among peers, to be considered fat, especially in those painful years of adolescence where every change in your body, is another new embarrassment. Since the annual report card had a specific page where height and weight was to be measured and recorded two times a year, the height-weight measuring was mandatory. Our Physical Education Teachers never did the measuring and recording in dignified silence, as a mark of consideration for those, who weren't of the ideal measurements! So there we would be, standing in a row, as per our attendance rolls in alphabet order and my little heart would be going thud thud..There would be two teachers involved in the process. One to measure and say the figures out aloud and the other to duly note it down.
Now, I am not obese. I am what you call comfortably plump. But while in the description 'comfortably' indicates a coziness and homeliness, in reality its highly uncomfortable. You dangle somewhere on the borderline of thin and fat. No one understands the description - my weight is in the average range. The immediate response would be is that thin or fat?? Well, more like fat you see.. Thin is a rather definitive term. Fat is all-encompassing.
Skinny women get all the sympathetic tut-tuts when they dive into a divine chocolaty concoction and then exclaim "Oh My God, I have surely put on five kilos". The chubby ones, hearing this often look in painful resignation. Just smelling the air around the chocolate would have spiked their weighing needle by half a kilo! Some chubby ones, who sometimes harbour self-images of being on the thinner side than the thick, end up vocally endorsing the skinny exclamations...and that's when the fat ones have a moment of vindictive laugh (at least to themselves - Look who's agreeing, has she seen the mirror this morning. All the lard she struggles to hide with clever clothes can be seen due to the ill-advised design of her top!)
I have stoically borne years of being nicknamed Fatso and constantly exclaimed over, for being the runt of the litter ( my pituitary gland - I learnt in Biology in school - stopped flushing the hormone needed to grow tall pretty early unlike the rest of my mother's side, including my sister who just kept growing taller and taller.) So much so, that at any family function, any round of familiarisation that routinely happens when cousins from all over gather, usually began with "Ohhh, you grew sideways while your sister grows upwards." Chubby ones, let me tell you, learn to take a lot of criticism on the chin due to early exposure to insensitive relatives, while the truly fat ones learn to be totally immune.
As I crossed my thirties, fewer people take a swipe at my weight. I have somehow gone into the in-decent shape zone. Perhaps because everyone in my age group is now struggling with weight issues due to poor work-life balance and pregnancies etc. Now the first question is about how healthy. A number of my ex-colleagues in television had developed cholesterol and high blood pressure very early in life - towards their late twenties and early thirties. So the first question as they look at you is about whether I have had a health-check recently. Cloaked in the obvious concern is I believe, the need to justify their woes. Kind of like it is not just I who developed these health scares, everyone else I know is also as miserable as I.
Though the struggle with shedding the lard has been a perpetual battle, on all the health indicators, I score a perfect ten, including BMI or the Body Mass Index which the new age gurus say is a better indicator of weight than just the actual measurements. Now I have arrived at a new mantra - staying conscientiously fit. A healthy diet and routine walks keep me in the healthy zone.
Recently, mom gifted my sister and I a weighing scale to keep us sisters in check. It is blue in colour and one that has those tiny slim lines showing the graduation of weight. Even as I write this piece, I see it sitting silently in a corner, mocking me and my efforts to lose those few extra kilos. And then I wonder, why is so much stress placed in our society over weight of women? Aishwarya Rai not shedding her post-natal weight has gathered more reams of newsprint than articles on healthy eating. Any hint of extra-flab on Vidya Balan and the Bollywood diet-gurumatas pounce on her with alacrity. All the marriage proposals that you read on paper or on matrimonial slight want slim girls or girls of a 'slim-build'.
So what do you do if you are naturally on the more-endowed side? I once remember crying to Amma that I wish I was born in her era. She used to tell me how in her day and age, looking plump was seen as a sign of coming from a well-to-do family (only they could afford food that fattened the human body or something like that I guess was the rationale)
I guess this post is a reaction to my musings after a conversation with a dear friend who messaged me saying "I am having a Fat Day". It doesn't help that its summer and those with stick figures around her were walking around wearing next to nothing. Now if it wasn't India, she could have worn clothes she wanted to wear and not worry about being mauled or ridiculed. But in our exacting society, battling the bulge too is a major uphill task. Even if you manage to kick the bulge, the tag takes far longer to shed!
(Image courtesy: crazymarathoner.blogspot.com and Minnie Pauz)