December 17, 2015. A date clearly etched in my mind along with 110 other students. The only difference in our memory of that day is that I remember it as the ugliest day of my life and they, as one of their best. As a kid, we all looked forward to the day of parting, the school farewell. I remember being told how overwhelmingly beautiful we will end up looking when we drape ourselves in a traditional never-ending piece of cloth. I wish I could go back to these people and tell them how I had felt exactly the opposite of beautiful. My school life had been successful in making me feel ugly, especially on a day when I thought that for once, the mirror would be appreciative of me.
My school life was not a pleasant experience. I remember how two of my seniors bullied me about my weight when I was just in second grade and how ugly my teachers made me feel by throwing me out of a dance performance, only because I failed to be perceived as ‘beautiful’ by them.
Then came summer, and there I was in LSR (Lady Shri Ram College for Women) – in a college that for me, was a response to the world that had been trying to be ‘anti-me’. A college which Google told me was diverse, one of the best and would give me an experience that would stay with me for the rest of my life.
And I indeed saw myself change. I turned out to be a person who suddenly began appreciating her own beauty. Getting rejected from societies purely on the basis of performance and not because one of the judges felt that I was heavier than the usual girls, made me feel proud about my rejections for once. For once, the world was fair. I met people, who told me on a specific Tuesday morning how nice I looked in that plain pink kurta, as opposed to my school mates who used to taunt me and ask me to give up wearing kurtas as they took it as proof that western shops were not producing clothes of my size.
For once, I had discussions with people in my college over the health related harmful effects of being overweight and not so that I could implement the findings to make a guy stay in my life. This was in stark contrast to my experience at school, where I was once told bluntly by people how my crush would not reciprocate to my feelings, because according to them, I was not beautiful. While some of my school friends made me believe that losing weight would mean becoming beautiful, it was because of my college friends that I finally became a regular gym goer.
While my school made me feel as if it was a social taboo to wear Indian clothes at such a young age and how the suffix ‘aunty’ would soon be added to my name. But in college, I came across people, just the opposite of me in size, wearing Indian clothes too. There were weeks when I would go on wearing Indian clothes at a stretch and it felt pleasant because almost after a period of 5 years, for the first time, I was wearing what I wanted to – and it was appreciated.
My college made me proud of my choices. I realised that my choice of clothes did not validate my age and wearing western clothes did not portray us to be any younger than we are. It was in college that I wore a dress for the first time. Back in school, the idea of a person who weighed 89kg wearing a dress was very conveniently mocked at.
Today, when I look back into the first year of my college, I do not feel unattractive anymore. I still weigh the same, but I do not feel the same anymore. I feel beautiful no matter what, and my college has played an important role in that.