Wednesday, 18 December 2013

The Fat Girl In The Corner

Recently I've been coming across some interesting things around bodies and stereotypes. I have hardly spoken about such things because I have spent my life being the "fat" girl and always thought if I voiced my opinion people would think I'm being too sensitive. Yet I would find myself incensed by the fact that everyone in the universe thought it was okay for them to laugh at me, to crack a joke, to tell me for my "own good" how important it was for me to lose weight. Friends, colleagues, strangers, lovers.

When did I start thinking of myself as fat and ugly I wonder? I know I didn't think it as a kid. Was it in 8th grade when the guy I had a massive crush on rejected me saying I was too fat for him? Was it when my sister's well meaning friend told me while helping me dress up for my birthday that I was so pretty I could be a model if only I lost weight? Or when the ex said I wasn't good enough cos heads didn't turn when I entered a room? Was I fat because I ate too much or did I eat too much because people had told me I'm fat so many times that I had started to believe it at a deep gut level?

I know only that most of my social life was an agonizing debacle of trying to find outfits that hid my fat and made me look good. Of going from pillar to post putting every face pack and night cream I could on my face to get rid of the angry red blotches of acne. Smiling at every fat joke. Some times even cracking some before someone else could hoping that would be less humiliating. Telling every man in my life that I was ashamed of my body, trying to hide it. I remember feeling grateful if they chose to be accepting. Grateful if a man was interested in me. I spent a lifetime undermining everything I have to offer in a relationship and settling for any man who was willing to accept my ugliness.

Movies, television, advertisements, books, all of them only speak of the fat, the ugly, the acne ridden as bumbling idiots or tragic heroes. There are the geeks who turned into beauties or just fumbled upon a good looking partner. There is never a person with a different face/body type who is the main protagonist with no excuses. I saw a movie recently in which an actress tells the hero that she can torment him and take revenge now for what he did to her twelve years ago because "tab main moti aur bechaari thi, ab main sexy aur powerful hoon". Those are the messages sent out to us every second of every day. We don't even realize it. I've had friends talk about their ideal woman and size was always a consideration. When did we as a society get so obsessed with how a person looks? To the point that its become one of the highest causes of depression and eating disorders. Where we have multi-million dollar industries to help us change how we look in every conceivable way.

Every day I see an article helping me define my body shape, pear, apple etc etc. Or one telling me how to get a bikini body. Or what kind of pants I should wear to minimize the debilitating effects of my shortness and wide waistline. And then I saw a line that said How to get a bikini body - Take your body, put a bikini on it. A switch flicked in my head. I was done with the bullshit.

I went on a holiday and I tried my best to wear what I WANTED to wear. Not what I should or what looked better. It was terrifying and liberating. It is time that people get over who's fat, short, dark, ugly. Really. I'm sure you have something better to worry about.

Here's Saif Ali Khan telling us his fascinating take on "ugly" actors. Saif, I'm ready to see a film about real people, however fat or ugly they are!

So, your wife told you that looking beautiful in Bollywood is more important than acting.
That’s a joke. She can afford to say that because she is beautiful and a good actor. Actually, I do think that it is equally important if not more. Because everyone is so fit, It is a visual medium. And I don’t think anyone wants to see a film about an ugly guy who is giving a great performance. We are not so mature as an industry yet. We are still trying to make beautiful films about beautiful people, unless it’s a niche film.

Wednesday, 4 December 2013

The voters who couldn't vote

I wanted to vote today. I started out at 9:30 am, found my election booth and stood in line. For the next hour I was shunted from one person to the other who told me my name is not on the list. I'd gotten a new card made last year at my new residential address. Yet my name was not on the list. I was asked if I had gone online and checked if my name was on the list. I hadn't, and that I admit was my mistake. I had voted several times before and didn't think my name could have gone off the list. But it had.

"Jahan pehle rehte the wahan ke booth par naam hoga aapka, transfer nahin hua hoga". So off I went to the booth I had always voted at. Found my mum, dad and sister. But my name was nowhere to be found. I had filled up my form, submitted it, picked up my election card. My name had been removed from the previous address but not been put on the list for my current address. I was not on the voters list.

I came back to my current poll booth and asked what can be done. How can we address this issue so that I may be allowed to vote? It had been 3.5 hours of running around and I was really frustrated. I really wanted to vote. I was given numbers of the SDM, sector officer and a bunch of other people. I called them. None of them could help me. No one had the discretionary powers to issue a letter allowing me to vote. One person asked me to come to him after 15th December.

By now I was at my wits end. In the last few hours I had seen innumerable cases of peoples names not being on the voter's list. Someone people had valid election cards and were standing there but their records had mysteriously been deleted, without any intimation or action undertaken by them. One old man had been voting for the last 40 years but was told his name was not on the list this time. He had stayed in the same house and voted in the same place. There was no reason his name wasn't on the list.

The only explanation repeatedly given to me was that someone must have come to your house to confirm you address. I said they hadn't. I was told I must have been out of the house. Is that valid reason to strike my name off a voters list? Even Flipkart and courier delivery guys call and come or come back again. Shouldn't I have been given a call, or had someone return or even leave a note telling me how to take it forward? I should have gone online and checked, but what about the scores of people in our country who don't have access to the internet? Don't they deserve to be on a voters list?

I saw so many people being turned away today, rich, poor, old, young, all out to exercise their right to vote. All people with valid election cards in their hands. Shouldn't there be some authority that can consider these cases and allow them to vote?

How do names mysteriously go off the list or get deleted? I got my card a year ago, why doesn't that ensure my place on the list? There were reporters from a prominent daily newspaper at the polling station who came to ask me what happened. Apparently it's happening across the city they said. They'd seen the same situation at all the booths they had visited. If I saw over a hundred such cases happen in front of me over a few hours at two polling stations I can't imagine the total number across the city.

There are so many campaigns urging us to vote. Yet here were hundreds of voters being turned away due to errors in the functioning of the electoral offices. Is that then a fair election? Is it not possible to make this system easier?

I spent a total of 5 hours doing this. Not everyone would. I really wanted to vote.

Monday, 2 December 2013

Nighttime ruminations

I've been tossing and turning for the last three hours trying to sleep. The harder I try the more elusive it is. In the meantime I've indulged in a little pity party. Maybe it's the fact that I spent all of yesterday making love to my toilet ( if you can call a stomach infection that). Maybe it's the copious amounts of white bread and butter I've consumed as an aftermath of the toilet love affair, which my body is not at all used to anymore. Or maybe it's the fact that I'm severely pms-ing ( honestly I think women should be given a five day holiday from life every month! And for any one who doesn't 'get' it, please try a crazy-ass hormone injection and you'll know). Either ways I have in the last three hours dug up every single insecurity and convinced myself its true.

So yes I :
1. Suck in bed
2. Don't know how to write
3. Am a horrible, negligent mother
4. Will never find love
And of course
5. None of my friends actually "like" me. They just put up with me

I figured instead of wasting more time I should just write it all down and make a counter list of things that may keep me from going over the edge.

1. I hauled my ass out of a shitty marriage
2. Good, bad or ugly I am taking care of my son and he's a kick-ass kid so I must be doing something right
3. People are paying me to write so it can't be that bad
4. I travelled to NYC, Vietnam and Thailand. I did it on my own money. I didn't let my fears and evil thoughts hold me back. I had an awesome time doing it.
5. That's it. In this moment it's all I can think of.

Right now, just for tonight, life sucks. Tomorrow I will try to redefine it, to find a way around it. But tonight I will hope that this blog purges me enough to get some shut eye.