As I complete the 30th crunch of this evening workout in the balcony of my corner house in Mumbai, the last twist brings forth some old memories.
I remember the 9 year-old me lying on the bed, sucking my loose-pouched belly (though it never really went in), holding my breath and constantly feeling the denim’s stretch suffocating at the waist.
“A bit more,” mom would tell directing a firmer pull of my well-rounded stomach.
Short of air and stamina both, jaded and irritated of the pull and push, I’d take one final gasp and hope for the tummy muscles to tighten. Sensing the opportunity, mum would smartly yank the sides and somehow make the ends of my jeans meet- the button in the loop, zip dragged up and the only pair of pants done right.
As I now turn sides to stretch my obliques , more recollections of childhood overpower my focus. I sit on my mauve crisscrossed yoga mat, take a few sips of luke warm water from the metallic blue sipper and look back at the old days of my square turned round face, the tomato color of my glowing cheeks, the invisible jawline and the loose flowing skin of my chin and neck.
“You look pretty in everything,” mum would say, seeing me unsatisfactorily changing clothes.
Neither did Pretty Girls have thick glasses nor did they have tanned skin. They had fine toned arms and didn’t get rashes at the touch of their thighs. Pretty girls were called pretty not only by their moms but also by the Convent school boys – boys who would chase them after school, some shy but courteous enough to ask for their Facebook IDs, others sufficiently crazy to stalk them with a bunch of rowdy friends. Pretty girls were those who would neatly twist an extra fold of their pleated skirt at their small waist and give the world a chance to have a glance of their long slender legs. They neither had those terrible stretch marks on the back of their knees, nor did their calf muscles jerk with the movement of their frail body.
Mum would talk about how I obviously would decently thin down once I made it to college. I’d ignore her, and peacefully relish the meat filled burger of the most famous bakery named Trishool , on those cool crimson evenings in my hometown, Shimla.
While mum dad later had a cup of tea at Baljees, I’d prefer a hot golden-brown Gulab Jamun dipped in the pale sugary syrup, it’s butter droplets shining in the dim rusty orange lights of the kiosk– standing on the Mall Road with a brown plate of two in hand, surrounded by people and Deodars; the only noise of spoons gently cutting the insides of the soft sponge, the rubbing of tongues against pallets and clenching of teeth, a must for the month of December.
Leaving the training in between, I next withdraw a bottle of organic coconut oil from my wardrobe and pour some of the liquid on my palms, gently rubbing against the soft flesh of my hands. I’m pleasantly reminded of mom’s fingertips massaging my head and her talking about the benefits of power yoga that she would have read in The Sunday Tribune.
I remember those struggles to find attires that could fit me well; perhaps the fact that I never looked like the model in the tag was quite agonising. Bewildered by how the girl in the next-door trial room managed to look appealing, the salesperson’s grin suggested the limited options in plus sizes. I’d come home heart broken and determined, “I’ll start exercising now,” I’d tell myself.
I began to dislike shopping, not only because I failed to buy what I wanted to, not only because I felt the salesperson mocking at my size, not only because mum’s dream of making me wear that peach skirt miserably failed but also because I’d continued to crash with my repetitive firm attempts of losing this atrocious body fat.
I underwent monthly blood tests for either Diabetes or Thyroid –for mum wanted to rule out some medical reason for me weighing about 75 kilos with the height of just 5 feet.
I also reminisce often being the gossip of my neighbourhood- “How did she gain so much? Didn’t she look better last Holi?”. Even going to a relative’s place was all about how much I had lost since we met last, in fact did I lose any?
I soon got admission in a decent college of Delhi University. Mum was all happy – not only for the next phase of my life but also because of her confidence on how it would change my physique.
All I now wanted was a heavy bust, flat stomach, curvy butts and a toned flab-less skin. I wanted to fit in those Zara dresses like young Delhi girls did, straighten my hair, show-off my waist and attract those college boys whom I always fell for.
I recall one of my boyfriends bursting in laughter, catching his breath and questioning how I managed to look like a bulky woman in the college farewell party? I went straight home, sat on my toilet seat, embarrassed and cried.
It was then I started an evening run, probably less with the intention of thinning down and more with the purpose of hiding from the suggestions of how-to-look-pretty, how-being-fat-is-bad.
My jogs became my hiding place; they also became a meeting point with myself.
It’s been almost three years since, regular with workouts and running, I lost 15 kgs, have a tighter and more distinct jawline, less flabs of the back, more stretch marks and a considerably reduced waist size. I do get compliments from my landlady on how she thinks I’ll make a beautiful bride; proud looks from my best friend who now weighs the same as me, messages from old college boys on how they always knew I was charming and a happy smile from mum when I fit into her favourite peach skirt.
Having lost so many kilos and cut off inches. Having said goodbye to my double chin and tightened up the loose skin of my thighs. Having looked miraculously different in mirror, and still, still, when I sip some ginger tea and go through old pictures of mine, I can’t feel the change.
I feel the same.
The same old me yearning for a mutton burger and a hot golden-brown Gulab Jamun.
And therefore, today, everyday, when I look at my reflection, I find no difference.
While I wanted to change my outer appearance, did I forget that the inner me would always be unchanged?
Being Fat was not only about how I looked but also about how I felt for majority of my life span. And this feeling has braided in me so intricately that it’s made me who I am, it’s an inseparable part of my existence.
Now that I think of it, maybe I’ve always been beautiful; maybe I could always make an elegant bride or it was okay if I didn’t fit in size small and even if I did look like a bulky woman, I truly felt like a fascinating young girl.
I write this today not because I’m proud of shredding this extra weight off my body, not because I’ve started to turn heads or feel lighter from within but because I’ve begun to realize that probably none of this should ever have mattered.
And so, while composing this essay, I notably sense more comfort in my own skin and have started to believe that being fat shouldn’t have been this significant an issue to be an immense a part of my joyful childhood memories.