The Real F Word
‘Being fat is like living in Hotel California- you can check out anytime you like, but you can never leave.’
8 August 1991 – The day a slightly “underweight” baby (2.4kg) — oh the irony- was born to two perfectly gorgeous human beings. The mother was model thin with features of Isabella Rossellini. The Father , an athlete- a state level tennis player with several trophy’s adoring his mantle piece. How did these two perfectly sculpted and talented human beings manage to produce an below average looking child with constant weight issues, bad skin , unruly hair and flat feet was (in my head) beyond a cruel tryst of destiny.
As far back as my memory can possibly take me I was always a fat child. I remember my father telling my mother to ban paranthas ( shallow fried stuffed bread) in the house because they were harmful. I remember the physician in school reprimanding me on my weight and reminding me that a borderline obese kid was “black mark” on my endocrinologist fathers name, for its a given that a world renown hormone expert would be ashamed of a chubby daughter i.e.. me.
I remember being constantly bullied in school. I remember locking myself in bathroom stalls and howling my eyes out because a tall lanky guy from the football team called me and two other girls the “three fat friends”.
I remember bunking gym class to read chemistry because with the extra fat came the zero hand eye coordination which meant I pretty much sucked at anything remotely athletic.
I remember everything single achievement for most of my teenage and adult life being overshadowed by one huge ( quite literally) flaw. Heck, I remember being reverse cat called in the middle of the road when two guys on a bike passed me and yelled “ Moti fatt jayegi”.
Don’t get me wrong- it’s not like I didn’t try to shed the weight or ate junk food daily. My father in particular was extremely strict about the food we consumed on a daily basis. There was no ghee on the rotis, there was no Poori ( traditional fried bread ) on Diwali, there was a tiny morsel of cake on birthdays. I used to watch my friends gorge on pizza while I could eat only salad. But I don’t know what black magic controls my metabolism that till date, if I let myself go for as much as a day, I wake up the next day a kilo heavier.
I had my ‘thinner’ phases of course, there was a time I drastically cut down on calories and ran like a possessed person on the treadmill and lost 11kg. But as I’m the quintessential cursed child within a month of me enjoying this new ‘thin’ self and the attention that comes with being a ‘transformed’ person I got diagnosed with a chronic illness that warranted the use of the one medicine that makes even the slimmest people with the metabolism of Serena Williams bloat up- steroids.
The steroids saved my life, but they also made sure the fat came back, and this time to all the disproportionately wrong places. They made sure my face fluffed out and chin was covered with pustular hormonal acne. It was as though I aged 20 years over night.
And then of course the body shaming knew no end, for if there’s one thing worse than being a fat girl in high school, it is being a fat and pimple faced girl in first year of college.
The names ranged from the kinder ‘panda’ to the out right obnoxious ‘water Buffalo’. The abuse went on to include an elderly uncle ji stopping me in the middle of the road to lecture me for almost over 20 minutes on how hideously unattractive I look, only stopping to tell me that tears only suit beautiful women with clear skin.
With the steroids came other medication as well- anti cancer drug which made half my hair fall out — which meant dear weight and dear skin had a new best friend- hair trouble, all three of whom seemed to conspire to turn me into a perpetually ‘conscious about my appearance’ nervous wreck ball. My family being extremely hands on about my illness found solace in coming up with solutions for everything. Overnight, hair extensions were ordered, conditioners were bought.
Nothing quite worked though, I went to sleep feeling ugly, I woke up to find shed hair on the pillow case.
For 7 years the medications continued.
7 whole years of being ridiculed, abused, rejected, shunned.
It has now been many years since I have been medication free ( touchwood for that) but the years of emotional torture have scarred me for life.
They say scars make you stronger, but these constantly tormenting ghosts of the horrid past still make it impossible for me live a normal life.
And then they ask me — “why don’t you wear colours other than black?”
“Why do you tilt your head a certain way when you get pictures clicked?”
“Why are you always checking your appearance in a selfie camera ?”
“Why do you wear so much makeup ?”
“Why can you not accept your body the way it is?”
“Why do you keep asking if your face has become fat, are you fishing for compliments?”
And the worst
“The fat is in your head, Radhika.”
You know what? It is. It is in my head.
It’s in my head because society put it there.
It’s in my head because of almost 30 years of the world telling me a few extra kgs make me inadequate, unworthy of love and unfit for this deceitful era of tummy tucks and nose jobs.
It’s in my head so much that even when I starve myself and become what the world accepts as “skinny” I don’t feel attractive.
It’s in my head all the time, so when I find that one piece of clothing I feel comfortable in I wear it day in and day out, till people wonder if I don’t own anything else.
It’s in my head so much that I allow others to make me feel inferior.
It’s in my head so much that even if I win a Nobel tomorrow ( I wish, sigh) it won’t really matter if the picture which is clicked is not up to the standard distorted image my brain has set for me.
It’s in my head so much that there are days I have to change clothes 6 times and yet cancel plans because the so called “fat in my head” fools me into believing that its safer to stay home, god forbid the thin and pretty kids at the party again pick on me for eating that piece of cake.
It’s in my head so much one normal meal sends me into downward spiraling guilt trip.
It’s in my head so much that my anxiety lies to me everyday and I magically feel 10kg heavier every time I eat a cookie.
It’s in my head so much that tears are flowing down my “fat” cheeks while typing this account.
So the next time you feel the urge to comment on another’s appearance, reminding them of the few kgs they have put on over the lockdown, or posting your workout snaps captioned with “excuses are for losers” think twice.
Remember reading this, think of my plight, because what maybe an innocent, ‘made out of concern’ remark for you might just trigger a series of negative emotions for them and bring back some of the pain they had carefully buried away.
Because if there is anything life has taught me it is that J.K. Rowling is right when she says — that no matter what the world may think ‘fat’ is really not the worst thing a person can be. There’s vindictive, jealous, shallow, vain and the worst- unkind.
So be kind always. Because much like climate change, the change society needs in terms of body shaming shall begin with you.
And the one plastic straw you were careful not to use may save the planet, just like the one comment you were considerate enough to not make, may save someone’s life.