Please read the full article on Women’s Web on the link above.
The cute child
“Bachche Chacha Nehru se pyaar karte the! Chacha Nehru khoobsurat the. Bachche har khoobsurat cheez se pyaar karte hain!”
I listened, admiring my beautiful Hindi teacher reading out a chapter on Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru. The teacher was very fond of me. “You look like a doll!” She would say. I would blush.
An attractive teacher talking about a charismatic personality. A reasonably cute looking child listening intently. The beautiful atmosphere was interrupted as a girl in shabby clothes and slippers walked in along with our class teacher. Her hair was brown, with knots, lacking any kind of nourishment. Her complexion was dull. She looked dazed as if she woke up on another planet. Her skirt looked more like a lehenga reaching her calf, matched with a miserable, baggy, shirt. It must be her father’s, I thought.
“This is Champa. She would be joining your class today.” The teacher said hurriedly. “Let her sit next to the class monitor for few weeks till we assign her another place. Meghna, you sit next to Komal for now. Tanvi, Champa will be sitting next to you. Please help her with the books, uniform etc.”
I was horrified! Champa’s admission was part of a reach out program, wherein a child from a nearby slum would be selected for education free of cost. Some of us had heard about this proposal. We had no idea it would be implemented. I had no idea it would affect me. Directly!
The next few days were difficult for me. But how difficult was it for Champa to fit in? Kids made fun of her brutally. They asked her if she ever showered. There was an outbreak of lice soon after she joined. She was alleged to be the origin. Guilty until proven innocent. She bought chapati or chuda for lunch. She ate alone. She was different.
I was conscious of my behavior at school. I was never mean to her. But deep down I found her repulsive. I hated sitting next to her.
One day, after lunch I was playing with friends. Tag. Then on the Merry Go Around. The first bell rang as an indication to us to go back to our classrooms. As I was running, I felt a weird sensation. Within a few seconds even before I realized, I had vomited. In front of everyone.
There was some vomit on my perfectly ironed white shirt. And probably some drool on my face.
One teacher commented, “Such a big girl! Cannot even control herself!! Don’t you know there is a toilet?”
Some kids laughed. Others said “Ewww” and moved away in disgust.
I had tears in my eyes. As I made the walk of shame towards the washroom, someone held my hand. I turned in surprise.
There she was. Champa. As expressionless as ever. But holding me tight and safe. She held my hand and helped me clean up. She did not say a word. But stayed with me throughout.
Few days later, she stopped coming to school. She disappeared as abruptly as she had appeared. Some people said that parents had complained about the reach out program. Others said the management felt it was not working out. Some said her parents had decided that studies would not do her any good. Nobody knew for sure. I never saw her again.
The ugly duckling
Few years later, my father got transferred to the United States. I was a teenager by now studying in a junior high school at New York City. One of the poshest cities in the world. With people from all over the world. All races. There were blonde beauties. And Hispanic beauties. And Asian beauties. Girls my age had voluptuous bodies. My breasts had refused to show up. My buttocks were also equally flat. I wore glasses. And braces. I had round chipmunk cheeks. I was one of the shortest people in the class.
Kids were at the age where they bully. My school was no exception. Some desi kids like me who did not fit in were told ‘You stink’ to our faces. Some would express reluctance to sit next to us. While walking home, there was this once particularly big guy from a senior grade who would scream at me every day, ‘You are UGLY!!!’ just in case I had forgotten.
For the first time in life I felt what it feels like to feel inferior. In every way. I felt like I was at the absolute lowest strata of society. Being popular, being liked by the opposite sex, getting proposals on Valentine’s Day could only be a dream. I would be grateful if the day passed without any major humiliation.
Is this how Champa felt..?
I became quiet. I was still a very good student. Being intelligent was my pride. The few people who got to know me said I was a ‘very nice girl’. I had few friends. But they would all vouch for me.
Another few years passed. I was back in India. I blossomed late. But I finally blossomed. I looked much better in college and in my 20’s. I was now on the better-looking side. This ‘above average’ spectrum had its own set of issues. Women felt jealous and made mean comments, totally unwarranted. Random people thought that if a girl is into her looks and puts on makeup it means she is dumb and shallow. I got attention from boys who were not at all serious and I had to deal with their obnoxious attitude at feeling rejected. Some people found me arrogant when it fact I was just an introvert.
Was this still better than being on the other side of beauty…?
I have been on different sides of ‘beauty’ at different phases of life. Here are my thoughts:
Beauty is never isolated. It is not just about the shape of your eyes or the symmetry of your face. It is about what is considered acceptable. It is a combination of other related factors such as social, financial, racial privileges. Someone who has features from another part of the world may be different therefore considered not good looking. People who have more money have access to fashion and cosmetology and end up looking the best possible versions of themselves.
When you HATE what you see in the mirror, nothing else matters much. Most of the times you do not see what is truly there, but what others have told you about yourself. You see your insecurities. For someone it is a big nose. For someone it could a dark skin-tone. For someone it is the weight. And it takes years, and years to become comfortable with it. I used to pray regularly as a child, having studied in a convent school. The last wish in my prayers (after well-being and health of parents and sibling) was ‘God, please make me pretty!’ Like most kids, my prayer was memorized. Even today, at 31, when I am distressed and start praying, this ‘wish’ repeats in my mind involuntarily in the sequence.
When a lot of people find many different ways of telling you that you do not look good, you give up on your looks completely. You deliberately decide not to put in any effort. Loose clothes, pony tail, no make-up- Beauty becomes a game one that we choose not to play. You cannot lose when you are not playing, can you?
Champa’s face haunts me still
We may have been treated badly. But that is no excuse for how we treat others. A lesson I learnt from Champa. A lesson I would like to convey to young people. Hang in there. There are people who will see you for your inner beauty. But first you need to see it. Be kind to others. And yourself. The people we like to talk to, hold on to ultimately are the ones who are pleasant and positive. We also need to become that person first.
A happy face looks beautiful and is a culmination of peace with self and others.
This article has been written for a contest organized by Women’s Web for the Naturals Salon.
I believe every woman has TRUE BEAUTY within her in all the roles she plays. For over 18 years across 650 plus salons across the country, Naturals has been helping the Beautiful Indian Woman get more Beautiful.
Today Naturals Salutes the Beautiful Indian Woman.
Presenting Naturals TRUE BEAUTY… http://bit.ly/naturalsOF
Attended an event by ‘We The Women’ yesterday where Tanushree Dutta spoke about what happened to her. She was in conversation with Barkha Dutt and Sandhya Menon, the journalist who started a movement similar to MeToo in India where women are being encouraged to write about sexual harassment they have faced at workplace. Here is what Tanushree Dutta said:
- She was shooting for a movie wherein she had a solo song. Allegedly Nana Patekar manufactured a scene in that song where he was supposed to feel her. She refused. She was told she does not have a choice. She was bullied. We have all seen the view of her in the car getting attacked. She faced the consequences of saying ‘No’.
- Her other allegation was that Vivek Agnihotri said to her “Jao, Kapde utar kar nacho” in the context of giving cues to Irrfan Khan for another song in another movie. Irrfan Khan supported her by saying, “Mujhe acting aati hai”. Sunil Shetty also added, “Main aaun kya cues dene?”
Some key points to note.
Was it sexual harassment?
Yes. In the first instance, at the workplace she was asked to do something without her consent and she faced consequences for refusing. The second remark was extremely demeaning and offensive. For women wondering if it was not a big deal, imagine how YOU would feel if someone told you “kapde utar ke nacho”.For men, if someone said that to your wife, would you like it? To all the people saying she did so much more in Aashiq Banaya Apne, well, that was consent! What people don’t understand is that just because a woman agrees for something one time, it does not grant a license to anyone to do it again. Consent is required each and every time. What happen to her is as bad as getting molested or raped? No. But does that mean it is not wrong? Should women only speak up when they get bruised and beaten? Why should we women continue to normalize obnoxious and crass behavior? Why can’t men start learning how to behave and talk instead? Is human decency really that difficult?
Why do you believe her?
Whatever she said sounded quite believable. For people who are saying she wanted publicity, Tanushree replied that she could have done the item song, made money, stayed in everyone’s good books and continued her career. Also, she is not coming back after 10 years. She had complained and raised her voice then too. But nobody really cared enough.
People in power dominate and abuse their power. It is the truth. It is not even a woman vs man thing. But yes, men have been more powerful than women in most cultures. A woman who may be very weak herself becomes a different person when she becomes a mother-in-law. Why? Power!
Another thing. Most of the harassment happens alone between two people. There is not much proof. Unless you get raped and go to the hospital immediately. In cases of verbal harassment, groping, touching, feeling, rubbing, getting flashed in the face, there is no proof for the most part. It is the word of the victim against the perpetrator. Or the perpetrator’s word against the victim. I cannot convince anyone to believe her. Neither do I wish to.
But here is my two cents:
To all the women reading this:
Yesterday Barkha Dutt asked women from the audience to come up and share their me too story. One lady, with all due respect went on stage and narrated an incident with much conviction about bullying she faced at workplace. It had NOTHING to do with sexual harassment. Please do not confuse the movement with getting back at employers who have not treated you right. Please go ahead and complain to your HR regarding your work-related issues. The metoo movement is for sexual harassment at the workpace. Let us stay focused.
To all the men reading this:
Instead of reacting because of your inflated egos, and crying that not all men are bad, and that poor men are being humiliated in public, please channelize your energy to something constructive. When your male friends crack sexist jokes, forward demeaning videos of women on that all boys group, comment on the legs of that new intern, do you even make any sound? If the answer is NO, then please continue that for our movement too. You do not speak up when you should so better keep silent now also. Not all men are rapists but many men cover up for each other, protect each other, adding to the damage.
Would you be interested in moderating a panel discussion? We would be discussing how women are enjoying outdoor spaces.
I felt a slight fluttering in my stomach. I drank some water.
At the age of 5 – Somewhere in a convent school in Patna
Mother looks at her daughter’s quiz answer sheet. 8/10. Match the following.
Question – Something to keep you dry in the rain
Answer written by the little girl: Ren cot.
It is marked wrong.
Mother: Beta, here you had to match the description in the left side with the options on the right side. Rain coat was not in the options. It was umbrella.
Little girl: Ma’am forgot to put ren cot. That is why I wrote it.
Mother: This was not Fill in the blanks. This was matching. Read the question properly.
Little girl: Maybe Ma’am does not have ren cot. Now she knows.
At the age of 9 – Same school in Patna
And the winner is Tanvi Sinha….
The mother and the father are beaming, clicking pictures.
At the age of 11 – Same school in Patna
Teacher: Tanvi, we are recommending your name for representing our school at the Interschool Quiz competition, Manthan. It will be aired on local television after two weeks.
Girl: Ma’am! On TV! If I don’t do well, everyone will make fun of me!
Teacher: Opportunity is knocking at your door. And you are saying no? You think we are asking all the students? We are asking only the toppers. You must go Tanvi. Prepare well. Give it your best shot.
The girl was terrified at the thought of failing on television. She backed out.
At the age of 13 – Junior high school in New York City
The teenager raises her hand to answer a question. She has just started talking. There is a giggle. Someone mocks her accent.
Teacher: Let her talk. Than Vee, go ahead.
The teenager becomes quiet.
It was not worth going through this humiliation. She decided never to raise her hand again.
At the age of 15- PTA Meeting. Creative writing class. High school in New York city
The father is dressed in a black suit and tie. Mother is wearing trousers and a blazer. They are at their formal best. They enter with their gawky teenage daughter.
Teacher: Oh Tanvi is a gift! She is awesome. She has great story telling skills. She is logical with her thoughts, and articulates her thoughts very well. Her grammar is perfect. I just have one area of improvement for her.
Teenager replies meekly with a smile: Class participation!
Teacher: Yes! I would like you to participate more in the class discussions. You never say a word! And when I read your assignments, I am mesmerized. Imagine if you would say all of that in class!
Teenager: Yes. I know. I can write very well. But when I talk I feel conscious.
Teacher: Don’t be. With your intelligence, you cannot say anything wrong.
At the age of 23 – Mumbai at home
Click here to see the CA Final Results. Enter Registration number.
As tears streamed down her cheeks, she wondered.
I was never the beautiful one.
I was never the popular one.
All I was ever, was the intelligent one.
I am not even that anymore?
Who am I?
She passed the exam a year later.
At the age of 24.. At an official training. Banquet hall of a 5 star hotel
She is sitting in the last round table. She is not making any eye contact with the trainer, afraid he may ask a question. At the same time she is nodding, pretending to listen.
This is so boring. He mugged up all this stuff! What if I had to be the trainer? Nah.. they would never ask me. Imagine if the training was about something I knew. Or something I was good at. Then I would be the star. But what am I good at…… There has got to be something… Think…think. Yeah. Bollywood! If there was a Bollywood training I could totally take it… One session could be on songs. With a quiz. Guess the movie from the song. I could also do a session on Bollywood relationships. Guess – Who was Riya Sen’s grandmother…
Name three sister duos from Bollywood. Yeah… I would totally rock it.
Same age. A random office lunch
Someone made a joke. Everybody laughed. The woman barely listened. She is lost in her thoughts as always.
“Tanvi did not laugh.” – Guy 1.
“She did not understand the joke.” – Someone else
“Don’t talk like that. She will get angry.” – Someone else.
“Is she angry? I can’t tell! She is so expressionless!!! Tanvi make an angry face!”
He has a hearty laugh.
At the age of 26. She qualified as a CA 2 years ago. Working in a reputed firm. Year-end appraisal.
Four people are looking at her like hawks in a conference room. One by one they start talking. About how she has not achieved the goals. How she is good for nothing. How she is a big, miserable failure.
She listens. In the beginning she tries to defend herself. But then she gives up. She wants them to stop talking. But no. They want to make sure it is CLEAR to her, point by point. Every word is a dagger. It pierces through her heart, her soul and her being.
Don’t start crying here. Be dignified. At least control yourself till you reach the washroom.
Who took away her confidence?
Was it those bullying kids?
Was it failure in a professional exam which is known to be so difficult?
Was it people from work?
From a little girl who was confident even when she was wrong, she had grown up to be a nervous woman who felt she was wrong even when she was right. Who gave the right to every person to take away her confidence. Who trusted others’ belief of who she was, more than who she knew she was.
She read the email again.
Would you be interested in moderating a panel discussion? We would be discussing how women are enjoying outdoor spaces
Opportunity is knocking at your door. She remembered her elementary school teacher’s words.
With your intelligence, you would never say anything wrong. She remembered her high school teacher’s words.
Yes. She typed. Send.
Beyond the doors. Bangalore. March 9th, 2018
I reached the venue. A little nervous. A little unsure of myself. But super excited.
A woman with the sweetest face and the most contagious smile was talking. She was not trying to inspire anyone. She was talking logically. She was talking about herself and her experiences. Smooth, natural flow of thought. She was just being herself. But the audience was mesmerized. And so was I.
Somebody asked her how come she is so positive all the time? Does she think about dark clouds?
“Why should I think of the dark clouds when I can think about the light clouds. This is me!” – She said flashing that beautiful, confident, ravishing smile matter-of-factly.
She was Dhanya Ravi.
I was overwhelmed with emotion. That one line uplifted my spirits.
This is me…..
I am Tanvi. I get nervous when I have to speak in public. My stomach hurts. My palms get sweaty. I tremble. This is me!
I say Umm and You know after every word. This is me!
I will roll my tongue over my teeth, while I am still talking to you to check if my lipstick has spread over my teeth. This is me!
I may mess up this discussion. But it is okay. This is me!
I had a great session. Enjoyed every moment of it. Loved talking to such accomplished women. The smiles, the nods, and the claps from the audience gave me a high.
Who gave me back my confidence?
Dhanya Ma’am, you have written in your profile, ‘All good things come in a small package.”
But let me tell you this Ma’am. You are not small.
You are bigger that our insecurities and our egos.
You are bigger than our inner demons and inner battles that we struggle with every day.
You are bigger than our shallow concerns and problems which actually do not matter, but we are too full of ourselves to believe it.
You are bigger than all of us who love feeling like victims, the moment the smallest thing goes wrong in life.
You are bigger than the people who try to make others feel small just so that they can feel big.
You are bigger than any person I have ever met in my life.
I love you Ma’am. You have made me wiser. In one day! I have gained my confidence back after years. I promise myself that I will never let anybody take away my confidence again.
What is it about women laughing that makes men angry?
This was the headline of one of the many rubbish articles that propaganda driven publications could not refrain from publishing. This is what I understood:
A woman mocking, disrespecting someone with a loud, non-stop laughter, almost interrupting his speech, making him inaudible on an honourable platform is okay.
But God forbid, if a man asks her to behave, or makes a sarcastic comment in response he is a misogynist!
This was not about gender. This was about basic respect.
Every day I read articles on how feminism has gone too far. I always jump in defense. Feminism is needed. Women do not get basic respect, I say. Our society is chauvinistic, and misogynist, I believe.
Some feminist writers have used this opportunity to write about how women are taught not to laugh and how the country in general is intolerant to women laughing! I found it quite ridiculous. It reminded me of a comedy scene from the movie, ‘Tanu weds Manu returns’. Tanu says something like “500 saalon se auraton pe atyachar ho raha hai.” Manu says “To mujh akele se badla logi kya?”
I do not know on what planet that kind of a laughter was acceptable in the context. I am not supporting the remark made. I just don’t like it when the “woman card” is used in a way where it completely defeats the purpose of equality. A woman can be disrespectful because for centuries, we have been suppressed?? But a man should not because she is a woman!!
Yes, women have been taught that laughing out loud is unfeminine. Our laughter should be a little sweet, a little soft, a little cute. A slight giggle probably. Pleasing to the ears. I agree it is sexist. It is unfair. However, this was not like that!!
If we cannot distinguish between laughing and laughing at someone with the intention of mocking and insulting, then I don’t think we should be talking about feminism. Maybe step 1 would be to talk about basic human behavior and interactions, and respect.
Yes. I know. Freedom of speech. Freedom of expression. Unfortunately, it is a double-edged sword.
All women probably received messages from unknown men on Facebook. I usually block the ones who send inappropriate messages. But off late I have noticed young boys sending messages. When I click on their pictures, they look so innocent. They look like they are easily 10 years younger than me! Maybe even more. Some of them are probably in school or college. Minors! They send the following kind of messages:
Why you are not replying!
I really like you!
Did I do something wrong!
One young man had sent a poem also. It was accompanied by a picture of a man literally taking out his heart on his hand. Jaan hatheli par le aaye? Please note that it was not a cute red heart shaped emoticon that we send on whatsapp. It was a picture of a heart – the organ oozing out of a body with blood!! The poem had rhymes. I thought at least I should give him credit for that. Until one of my friends who read it said it was copied from a regional movie.
Had they been older, I would have ignored and blocked. It is too late to educate the older ones! But I don’t think it is right to give up on the younger boys. Boys who probably do not even have the guts to talk to me in person, look me in the eye, or would probably call me Didi if at all they did talk to me in person, think it is okay to address me as darling!
I had a discussion with few male friends on this. They said that these boys are trying their luck. They probably send these messages to so many women every day and they may get a response too. They also said that these boys are perfectly aware that they should not be behaving this way. But they don’t care. They do it anyway.
One of the thoughts that stayed with me was ‘Did I do something wrong? Tell me please.’
The 17-18 year old probably does not know that it is NOT okay to address an unknown woman on the internet as ‘gorgeous’. He thinks it is a compliment. Something I would like. I would appreciate. Be flattered. He has not chosen a term like ‘sexy’ or ‘hot’. He has gone far in his vocabulary to choose a respectful term.
Can we blame him for asking me if he has done anything wrong?
I want to ask him had I approached me in person? Would he come to me in a public place or on the street and tried to talk to me with an opening line of ‘Hi beautiful’. I want to tell him that he should not speak to women on the internet in a way any different from how he would speak to them in person. But we all know that does not happen. Every one has a voice on the internet. Every one hides behind anonymity. And what do we teach this boy about approaching women in person anyway? It is not like he would be used to ‘asking women’ out. Dating is not part of our culture. His only benchmark would be Bollywood which would have taught him:
Hasi to phasi
Ladki ki naa mein haa hai
Lover boy will always win. As long as he keeps trying. The means do not matter. The end does. Whether he stalks. Or threatens. Or tries to commit suicide. At the end the woman will realize his ‘true love’.
I remember talking to a man who from the US. He must be around 55. His son who was about 15 had started dating. He was telling me that the son is very much ‘in love’ with his girlfriend. He used to invite her over to his place along with other school friends. He said he talks to his son about how to treat his girlfriend. That he should respect her. He said his son had written a poem for the girl. This man never knew his son was interested in writing. He was proud of his son. Father would tell his son about his girlfriend when he was that age and how he used to ask women out by inviting them to events that they were interested in so that they could not resist!
‘I have taught my boy right!’ he said proudly.
We have not taught our boys right. We have to accept it. Rather, this is something we have not taught at all!. No mature adult – teacher, parents, etc will talk to them about dating, approaching women etc. It is not because people don’t date in our country. They are on their own. At the mercy of Bollywoord and other immature friends. We don’t think it is appropriate to talk about it. We think if we talk about it we would encourage it. We don’t realize that they would do it anyway. As much as we would like to deny.
Coming back to the boy who sent me the message this one is for you:
A woman who you don’t know may choose not to speak to you. It does not mean she is arrogant. It does not mean you are ugly. She doesn’t even know you. You messaged. She ignored. Move on.
Even though it is a compliment addressing unknown women as ‘gorgeous’ may not be the best way to start a conversation. If you know her, and you are already friends with her you can probably compliment her. ‘Darling’ again should not be used for unknown women. Ever!
What you say, how much you say, depends on the response you receive. It is not rocket science to figure it out. No response. Stop. She responds in a friendly way. Continue. She doesn’t like something you say. Stop. Apologize.
There are women who have public profiles on social media. But it is mainly for their work to have a connect with their target audience. It does not necessarily mean that she has put her pictures for attention, and then when you give her that attention, she is being all arrogant!
Lastly, most importantly. Don’t keep trying. If someone is not responding to your messages, it means they are not interested. Respect the choice. She does not even owe you an explanation. It does not mean that you should feel insulted. Women have brains too. And thinking and decision-making capabilities. They have their own likes. It does not make you a loser. Please do not associate your self-worth with the responses you get from women – in the virtual world or in the real world!
A woman I know through blogging had lost her daughter who must be about 20. People were commenting on her post:
It is all destiny.
She is in a better place.
It is karma.
It is karma?? Whose karma? The young girl got hit by a speeding car who did not care to stop. He is roaming free. She is dead. She or her family has not done anything to deserve this. I guess the lady who commented meant that this had something to do with past life sins…
I hear some funny things about divorce too. A friend of mine is 28. She is in a relationship. She is not some child who cannot understand that sometimes things don’t work out. Whenever she hears about anyone’s divorce, she says:
Why did they get married if they wanted a divorce.
No, but what was the main reason?
Reason. Logic. Meaning. As humans we find it very difficult to comprehend tragedy and even more difficult to understand grief. We would like to think that there should be some reason. Haven’t we heard, Everything happens for a reason. We have also heard , Shit happens. But we do not like to believe it (for others). Because it defies our faith in the universe.
Another friend of mine and her boyfriend who is from another religion want to get married. They are facing objections from the boy’s family. She had asked the boy in the initial dating days if he intends to marry her. He had said yes. If some other woman gets dumped by a guy, she likes to say, ‘Told you so. You never asked him if he was serious.’ But when she is told that ‘You knew this was coming’, she says that since she had asked the man in the beginning, she was totally right about her choice.
Yes. Everybody’s grief is unique. It is therefore a painful and lonely journey. We refuse to accept that bad things simply happen… To people who did not deserve it!
A perfect couple who was together since college split.
We refuse to believe that one person outgrew the other. We put on our detective hats and try to analyze. Something else must have happened…. We do not want to lose our faith in ‘true love’
A nice caring girlfriend gets dumped without a warning.
We become therapists. She knew the signs coming. She should have known his intentions. She ignored. She was too foolish.
A young woman loses her life on the road.
We would like to think that there was some hidden meaning in it. We do not like to believe that something so cruel could happen just life that. If it could happen to them, it could happen to us.
And that is scary.
She was hardly seven years old. The audition for the school play was on. She wanted to be the princess. She rehearsed the lines again and again. She practiced. She spoke well. She was waiting for the results, praying hard to God.
A fair, slim, tall, girl with chiseled features who forgot the lines got selected.
“The princess should be beautiful. We will make her work hard and learn the lines.” Said the teacher. “That short girl, who recited the lines well , she could be the maid. In fact, another girl from section C also looks like her. Short and chubby. Those two could be the maids. Where did she go?”
The short girl had left….. She did not want to be the maid. She wanted to be the princess.
If only she knew, that it did not matter. She could have still participated and showed her talent…..
“What happened? This time seems you have played too much in the sun!! You have become so dark! Now stay indoors till you gain back some colour! Otherwise no one will marry you!”
It was a random comment by a random stranger. It should not have mattered. But that is the day she stopped playing volleyball.
If only she knew, it did not matter. She could have played.
“Eww! Your face looks so messed-up” said the class bully.
Everybody smiled for the year-book picture. She did not. She had braces. People had started saying she had an attitude. She was not able to make friends. She was arrogant! But she was not! She was just a girl very conscious of her smile!
If only she knew, it did not matter. She could have smiled…
She was a big girl now! She could now wear a proper suit with a dupatta. Short kurtas were in. She had selected her own style and got her suit stitched. She was all dressed up to visit the puja pandal.
“How do I look Maa!”
“Short! In Jeans, you don’t look so short. Wear heels!”
Few minutes later, the mother came back to check on her. The suit was wrapped and thrown in one corner. She was lying with her head down.
“What happened. We have to leave in 10 minutes!”
“I am having a stomach ache!”
If only she knew, it did not matter. She could have gone…
“Rohit really likes you. Yesterday also he was trying to invite you to his party after class.”
“Why would the most good-looking guy in college be interested in ME!!”
The next day she saw Rohit talking to the prettiest girl in college.
He is probably not interested in me. He just invited me because my friends are invited. She convinced herself and skipped the party.
If only she knew, it did not matter. She could have gone….
The team was planning a trip to Europe. She wanted to go. But she hardly had any friends. She would feel lonely. She would not fit in. There were all shopping. She did not want to buy so many clothes. Nothing would fit her well anyway. She would not look good in the pictures which they upload every few minutes. She decided to stay.
If only she knew, it did not matter. She could have gone.
She is 33 now. She has finally become comfortable with herself. She does not care how she looks. She does not care what people say. She does not care who wants to be with her who does not. She does what SHE wants to do. She is living her life…But can she go back in time? She could have been so much more, in school, in college, at work, in her relationships, in her social circles!
Had she taken part in the play, her performance would have impressed so many. She would have participated in so many more…
Had she smiled more in the pictures, she could have probably appeared friendlier. She would have made so many friends…
She could have gone to the pandal. You don’t have to be tall to go to places…
She could have attended Rohit’s party. If only she had given him a chance, maybe he would have got to know what a caring, sensible person she was…
She could have travelled the world. And she could have conquered it!
The little things we say to people about their looks in their childhood and teenage years, scars them. It affects their self-esteem, and confidence. It weakens their growth. It prevents them from attaining their full potential. It stops them from becoming someone.
Before we tell someone, they are dark, short, fat, thin, tall, remember it is not kind, it is not necessary and it may not even be true. Even if it is true, we have no business making a shallow remark. Nobody’s appearance is our business. And if someone is growing fat, we are not doing them a favour by letting them know so they can reduce weight! We can keep the concern to ourselves!
I have a nine-year-old niece. My sister recently told me that she along with other parents from school take their kids to a pediatrician who counsels them on the kids’ diet and nutrition. This Delhi based doctor addresses the 9-13 year old girls who put on weight as “Auntyji” so that they lose weight.
I also remember a time, when I was in school and I was leaving my house with my dad. I met a neighbor who greeted me as “Are badi kali ho gayi hai tu!” No hi, no hello, no how are you, what are you doing, simply kali ho gayi hai tu!!
We have such moronic people in our country. We may ignore them. But it will still hurt the child. Let us ask them to not make such remarks. Tell them it does not matter and that you would not like your child to hear such things. It is okay to say that. It is okay to react for the sake of your child.
If they are so keen to tell the “truth” you could too!