This pandemic gave everyone new realities and ideas to deal with. We constantly watched someone finally seek therapy in the lockdown, or become an influencer or try that new fitness regime or read 100 books. It was a challenging time and different people got engaged with different things. With me though, I struggled with my body for the most part.
Being stuck observing your own self for such a long time had an intense impact on me. I remember not eating and working out enough that I constantly had blackouts for a whole month. I remember my parents yelling that I look “dead” and that I need to stop. I remember looking at myself in the mirror and finally feeling acceptable in a really long time.
The pandemic was a struggle. Coming to terms with the labels of ugly and beautiful, with constantly judging and criticizing the body that kept me safe and alive when I felt the most dead and broken, was heartening. So when we were asked to pick up a social action project for my YnD fellowship, all I could think about was how people with different body types, navigated their relationships with themselves. So I and a friend started something called the ‘Andekha’ Project.
The project was based on participatory research, so my work was to involve and provide necessary insight to my participants to help them discover the relationship they hold. The most interesting facet of this research was to study the body maps of my participants. Body maps are a deeply personal form of storytelling. These maps are life-size or a normal-size outline of our bodies onto which we mark each body part with how we see it, how we navigate it.
Not one body map had a similar construction, everybody saw themselves differently, felt differently about different organs, and was most critical about a structure that keeps them alive for the most part. It’s unjustified that the notion of imperfect bodies exists and more often than not, we are taught that notion from the beginning.
We get influenced by our own ancestral upbringing, our friends, advertisements, we are constantly given data on how not to have a certain kind of body when popular body shapes keep changing every decade. In 2000, flat asses were in fashion, in 2020 big curvy asses are invincible. Fashion doesn’t stay consistent, but our bodies do. Instead of wanting to get rid of them, I want to get rid of these ideas for myself.