A guide to reclaiming your body in India.

Oh, India, you beauty.

What comes to your mind when I say this?

Diversity?

Yes, right, diversity. Let’s talk about diversity and India. We have so many boxes to check when we enter that conversation.

☑ Land? It spans from the Siachen Glacier to Indira Point, from saffron to golden to green to sapphire. Check.

Food? Ah, well, if you’ve ever savoured Rogan Josh and Idli in one meal like I have, you’d know what we were about to say. It’s obvious. Check.

Religion? No need to elaborate. Check.

Language? Ami tomake bhalobashi, my crush, milo toh kahin. Check.

People? Check.

□ People’s bodies? Ambiguous.

 

Because, you see, this isn’t only a simple checklist of what makes India diverse, it’s a checklist that encompasses categories what most of India understands are diverse, and as of 2018, bodies don’t fall under that purview.

India doesn’t understand bodies. It body-shames everyday, and because the word body-shaming technically means “expressing mockery of the shape, size, or appearance of an individual”, India does not discriminate too. There’s always something to say, whether you’re ‘too skinny’, or ‘too fat’, or ‘too tall’, or ‘too short.’ It doesn’t matter. The definition of the perfect body is apparently very, very, narrow.

 

Imagine, imagine yourself walking through a forest as hot as some unnamed circle of hell, and the curse that you have to bear is to walk until eternity passes and more, but not moving forward one inch without falling back, and that is what it feels like trying to love your body in this country.

 

Even with all the added benefits of living in a joint family (read; one benefit – Aloo Parathas for breakfast), there come many more things that you would not want to hear. Unless you’re unimaginably lucky and blessed, there’s always going to be a hand discreetly stopping your hand when you reach for a serving of your favourite food, or in other cases, a verbal reprimand from your friendly neighbourhood aunties about how you’ve become thin as a railing, or a word to your parents from a caring relative about how your clothes are inappropriate for your body type.

 

You hear people telling you that your face is too angular, that you’re too muscular, that you’d be so much more beautiful or handsome if you just did xyz. And the thing about this is, it starts much younger than you’d expect.

 

India will comment on baby photos and tell her mother that she’s too dark, and that she needs besan and uptan.  India will tell twelve-year old boys and girls that their appearances matter more than what they’re learning at school.  It will tell the youth that they would not be “desirable” without letting them or teaching them to understand their bodies.

 

There will be people telling you to eat fruit often, to make sure that you keep walking, to keep telling you to take up another hobby, “such as sports, you know!”. There will be people staring unashamedly at your

kohl-lined eyes and your prized mini-skirt and telling you to be ashamed of your boldness.

 

And, to top it all off, when getting into a lift, you’ll have been made fun of by the group of friends with respect to the capacity of the lift. Because if you’re “too thin”, you can fit 10 more, and if you’re “too fat”, “will we survive this trip?”

There will always be the one odd advertisement telling you that you will either: a) Not get a marriage offer, or b) Not get a job offer, if you don’t hide your scars, followed by three others telling you to turn your complexion from how it was given to you to “ek gora nikhaar”, because that is how it will sell you to people looking for a forensic scientist at an accounting firm.

 

I’ve read millions of articles about bodies and shaming and objectification of the same bodies, and here I am writing another one.

This one is for everyone who’s felt the walls closing in around you while you try to breathe, so that you fit into the tiny space of beauty standards. It’s for telling you what you can do.

 

Charity begins at home, right? There are two changes you need to make within yourself to make the world a better place.

 

One, learn to love yourself.

 

I know, it is hard to love your body when everyone else is telling you to mould it, and it is hard to reclaim it when you are half-convinced it now belongs to everyone trying to mould it, but it’s up to you to love yourself first.

Every one of us has looked at mirrors and decided that there is one feature of them they do not like, and every one of us has looked into mirrors and decided that the one feature they’ve been called out deserved to be called out on. Realize, it wasn’t.

 

There are so many people who’re going to do it to you, who’re going to tell you how you look decides how you live, and you will learn to stand up to them if you aren’t already, but the first person you need to stand up to is yourself.

 

I’m speaking from experience, and it is not pretty. All hating myself brought me to do was stand in my bathroom every night for months at a time, trying to induce my own gag reflex, with music playing in the background to mask the sounds of my retching. I lost both weight and brain function.

Bulimia Nervosa sounds ugly, doesn’t it? The toilet bowl thinks the same.

 

The best part was, the people around me told me I was much prettier, so I continued.

 

Don’t make the same mistakes I did, and listen to yourself.

 

You’re the only one who can solve your problems, not your pseudo-concerned relatives.  You are the only one who deserves the right to figure out what’s best for you.

Look at yourself and the mirror once more, sometime soon. But, let go of everything you’ve heard about yourself or thought about yourself, and then look at yourself in the mirror. Understand that if everything that’s being reflected back to you is functioning, you’re doing something right. And, if you are going to change it, do it only because you want to.

Lose your weight, or eat a bit more, or do what you think you need and not because people are telling you to. Do it when you think you should. Listen to yourself.

 

Tell your haters to shut up, and tell that one annoying friend who has that annoying nickname for you which they find funny, to shut up too. You’re not ‘football’ or ‘matchstick’ or ‘khamba’, you’re you, and that’s enough.

 

Talk to your family and make them realize where they’re going wrong. Talk to your aunties.Tell them it isn’t just tough love.  You cannot change all of India, but if you start by changing your immediate surroundings, and others do the same, well — something’s bound to happen.

Tell yourself to take baby steps to loving yourself.

 

Notice that I’m asking you to love you, and not your body.

 

It’s because you’re not your body, or how you look. You have so much more to you. You have grey matter for a reason. You’re always going to be “desirable”  to the right person. Remember that it’s your shell, and it belongs to you, and claim it as yours.

 

Two, stop shaming others.

 

Yes, you do. No buts.

It might be when you’ve playfully told a person that their overbite was funny, or that their nose was weird, or that they should eat before the north wind takes them away.

It might be a fleeting moment of judgement where you’ve looked at a person and decided that they could not wear the clothes they were wearing with that body.

It might be when you’ve not stood up for your own friend when she’s been told that she wasn’t pretty enough.

You might have those thoughts, but before you speak about it, stop yourself. You’ll be a better person.

A friend once told me that if you think something upon seeing someone, and then you have a second thought stopping yourself from thinking that, because it’s their life and they can do whatever they want, the second thought matters more. It’s because you’ve been brought up and influenced and tried to fit into the perfect image, but you have started distancing yourself from stigma, and that is always progress.

 

So, bottom line, a) stop yourself, and b) stand up for them.

And, if nothing else works, follow the ‘Kurtzegat philosophy’. (No, he’s not a philosopher, he’s a youtuber. It doesn’t matter as long as he makes sense.)

Optimistic Nihilism. It tells you that if  this is the one life you can experience, and if you’re insignificant to the universe as a whole, you might as well enjoy it. If it’s the only thing you’re getting to have in the history and future of the whole goddamn universe, make it yours. If it’s all pointless, then you might as well create a point for yourself.

Apply that to your body, if it’s the only one you’re getting to have, make sure that you claim it as yours. It’s up to to to decide what you’ll do about it.  Do the things you love, and love yourself.

And, seriously and most eloquently, damn what people think about you to hell.

 

Run in that crop top. Show off your arms. Let the bit of jiggle you got around your face free. Wear clothes that fit. Line your eyes with however much kohl you want. Wear the cute skirt you’ve been hiding. Wear makeup if you feel like it (applies to all genders), and wear your hair as “ungodly-ly” you want. Wear those shorts, please, they were expensive. Laugh without wondering if your overbite is showing. Let that gap in your teeth keep you cool. Love your stretch marks and your scars. Never hide any of it.

 

Remember Prince Morocco from Merchant of Venice? (Sure you do, you’re Indian. You’ve gone through that curriculum. )

Now, he might be an idiot, disregard that, but he loved his skin. He knew why he had his shadowed uniform, because of the sun, and he prided himself on it.

If a complete and utter nincompoop can do that, you can too. Throw the ‘fair’ in the dustbin, because you’re already lovely, fellow brown people.

 

But, most importantly, take care of yourself, because that is all that matters.

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2 thoughts on “A guide to reclaiming your body in India.

  1. 醫學美容 SCULPTRA 塑然雅 cosmedicbook says:

    Ion Magnum 是一種最新的減脂儀器,可以快速燃燒掉你身體的脂肪 , 讓你不需要做大量的體育鍛煉 , 輕鬆方便的達到專業美體的效果。 效果: 通過將你體內的脂肪轉化成肌肉,輕鬆减掉你的體重和腰圍。25分鐘的理療比健身房幾個小時的運動效果還要好! 副作用/風險: 該設備已在美國食品藥品監督管理局注册,注册分類爲醫療器械I類,I類醫療器械就是指普通人使用安全性非常好且沒有任何風險的器械。 减脂過程: 减脂板會直接固定安放於你身體的目標减肥部位,通過特殊的信號,Ion Magnum會將該部位的脂肪燃燒轉化成肌肉。(注意:該設備與你在其他沙龍中瞭解的肌肉轉化設備是完全不同的。)療程: 要想取得而保持完美的效果,一個療程需要進行10次理療,每3-7天進行一次。維持理療可以每兩周進行一次。

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