By Nishtha Relan:
The other day one of my cousins pointed out how my thighs had gained a layer of flab, and I told her I had just had a surgery, and the medications and motionless rest required after that had, maybe, resulted in weight-gain. She later made a snide remark on how I was ‘fitter’ when I used to diet. In hindsight, I realize that the little detail about an immaterial weight gain has sunk in so deep in my mind that I am trying to eat less. I am looking at myself through the glasses of stereotypes.
As it happens, what we often do before we upload a picture on Facebook or any other cyber social network is to ‘edit’ our pictures with the help of easily available editing software. It isn’t just the cool effects we add, but also the blemishes, pimples and flab that we carefully erase. And then we nod at the jokes comparing our pretty profile pictures and the horrendous images on the driving licenses. How have we turned habitual of self criticism and dissatisfaction, so much so that we are ready to alter how we look just to prove that we are acceptably good-looking? Why do we need to appear good anyway?
The general answers to these questions would be an inherent need to feel good about ourselves, that fitter is healthier, for our own benefit, and that it is easier to succeed in life when you have confidence, which aims to justify the ‘look good, feel good‘ factor. Not that any of it is wrong, or that I advocate shabbiness and careless gulping down of carbohydrates, but there happens to be a deeper understanding for why we are so hell bent on making our skin fairer with the best wrinkle cream and giving up awesome food to lose those kilos. We, without meaning to, conform to the established socio-gender stereotypes when we see and judge people, including ourselves, on the basis of height and weight measurements. The matrimonial section of newspapers blatantly tells all about the popular demand of fair, slim, beautiful, domesticated brides and the rich prospective husbands. Let us not turn into the very products of physical perfection and outward appearances which the modern society thus endorses. The mental capability to recognize talent and intelligence is important too.
Again, it is the freedom from certain set notions of body than a critique of physical well-being and maintenance which I advocate. The difference between ‘slim‘ and ‘fit’ should be kept in mind before we let it overtake our senses and leave us at a loss. When the bullies picked on us in school, we had no answers to give in defense of our bushy hair, plump waistlines and hairy legs. But now, surely, we have gathered that they matter only as long as we let them. We are, certainly, more than all the models of physical beauty that patriarchy has ingrained in our minds for hundreds of years. We have the mental capability to change the corrupt, stagnant world of injustice and fraudulent. We have the amazing qualities of friendship, success, the opportunity of living life with all its colours, flavours, and proportions. Why reduce it to how we look like to the people who hardly do anything for us, other than criticizing us at the smallest opportunity? The groups of friends are as diverse as humanity, why don’t we become a part of that too?
We could simply aim for an accomplished, satisfactory day rather than one pent acting puppets to the dictated rules. We could eat our fill and work it out, we could get tanned and live a little, we could tell an under-confident chap that he is awesome despite being lanky, and we could maybe accept ourselves enough to not become suicidal if we cannot match up to somebody else’s expectations. We can define our own selves. And then, wouldn’t our wit prove worthier than all the requirements of fairness, slimness, firmness and all the muscle?