Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Weighty Issues

Mumbai is an accommodating city. It is a city in which jam-packed train compartments can always make room for one more. It is a place where landlords will graciously accommodate 5 people in the space meant for one, where narrow roads clogged with cars will still make way for that BEST bus (which should not be allowed in those lanes in the first place).
Where after being stuck at a traffic signal for 45 mins the taxi driver will wait even longer to allow the casual passerby, one who trundles along complacent in the belief that it is his right of way and glaring at the hapless car which comes too close or has the audacity to honk.
Mumbai is a resizing of expectations, one size smaller in everything.
So it is strange that in a city where the space constraint has made Mumbaikars evolve into slight, slim individuals, a survival of the trimmest, would be a city where, against all Darwanian edicts, I would manage to gain weight.
Now I have always been very tall and in a country where tall women are an aberration, it is more of a liability than anything else.
So right from kindergarten where tall equaled big, I have been made to feel guilty about taking up more than my rightful space in the terrain of life.
"Oh god Namrata, you are so BIG", would say a dainty 8 yr old, accusingly, my classmate then, who plainly thought I should be several forms higher coz of my "age" , while I would shuffle uncomfortably and try to look smaller.
Or in middle school when your friends come to about your waist, you would have to slump and slouch and generally contract in an effort to stay more grounded with real people.
You do have your usefulness to society. People identify your group quicker since you rise like a mast amongst a sea of other heads, you generally get pulled in for repair work and changing tube lights (yes I'm BIG if you insist but not necessarily stronger).
During shopping trips all your ready made garments have to go through a customization process and an incredulous salesperson.
Now it’s worse. You are tall as well as fat. That’s a new dimension to your problem.
You become aware that you are sporting those extra pounds, when waiters start showing you low fat options and automatically assume that you would have your coffee without sugar and your tea green, tactful colleagues start referring to you as "just right" instead of slim, you begin to think that jeans shrink a lot more during wash than commonly believed, and when your friends call and say that you look fat in your pictures.
So in a city where you are anyway taking more than your fair share of vertical space, throwing your weight around does not help much. Now you not only have to slouch your shoulders and bend your knees , you also have to suck in your stomach and such a 360 degree contraction is enough to make you curl up into your own ball of shame.
Shopping trips for more strategic clothing are also no fun.
Shopkeeper:"L madam?”
You, optimitic post your week long green tea stint and the lack of glucose making you light headed, fix him with a steely glare.
You: "No M will be fine".
Repair to the changing room where you grapple unsuccessfully with the garment, till your friends knock in concern. Emerge huffing and puffing and red faced your white outfit making you resemble a blushing penguin more than anything human, and assure them that obesity does not cause a heart attack immediately.
Now your mom advises you to go to the gym. "Doesn't help", you snap. "It will make you feel good about yourself", she counters.
"I still feel good about myself. And there is more of me to feel good about anyway. I feel so good I'm hysterical."
But then you watch London Dreams and realize that if Salman Khan does not apologize for his presence in Bollywood, you have no need to.
Well time to stop writing. The green tea is almost over.