Body Shaming in India, for better or worse

It’s a common phenomenon amongst Indians, commenting on another person’s looks, especially when it comes to their weight. Some think this type of critique is generally reserved for close family or friends, serving as either a compliment or perhaps a cause of concern.

In India, it comes at you from all angles: aunties at a parties, uncles in the lobby, co-workers and friends, and most recently, a maid in the lift of my building. Mind you, aside from my coworkers, I BARELY know these people. I’ve probably had one at max two interactions with them and yet they still find it okay to comment on my body.

My co-workers saw me after 3 weeks and one of them immediately commented on how thin I looked.

“Look at her face,” she told our other co-worker, “it’s gotten so thin. What happened?”

I haven’t intentionally been trying to lose weight, just more conscious about how and when I consume food. I told her perhaps I had; I’ve been doing physiotherapy lately but nothing aggressive.

The next day while entering the lobby of my building, an uncle stopped me to say hello. I had a knee brace on and was walking with my cane so planned to keep our conversation to a minimum. We exchanged pleasantries for a good 5 seconds before he said I had ‘gained.’

“You’ve put on weight, has it? You look heavy.”

I didn’t have an immediate comeback at hand and I bristled at his rudeness.

“No, in fact uncle, I’ve lost.”(I wasn’t sure this was even true but I was riding off my co-workers comments the day prior).

“Oh no, you are looking so chubby. Those chubby, chubby cheeks.”

He made a gesture suggesting expansion had taken place and pulled at his own cheeks. He was convinced I had become nothing short of a cow.

“I’ve always had chubby cheeks. It’s my thing.”

I looked at him sideways, curious with a half-smile. This man sees me in a brace and doesn’t bother to ask what happened to my knee but instead goes for my weight? I walked towards the elevator as he continued on about nothing I cared to hear. There was no room for niceness at that point. I was done being nice for social purposes plus I needed to sit down. I didn’t care what he thought of me. He eventually got the hint and waved goodbye.

I didn’t let the uncle’s comment get to me much that day. In spite of having muscular dystrophy, I can still walk and remain active. I knew my body and I appreciated all that it has done for me. It has let me travel to Turkey, Thailand, and Dubai in the last few years. It’s supported my decisions in going out and staying in and lets me exercise it in a mild manner. I finally reached a place with my body where I’m not criticizing it but rather expressing it as much love and gratitude that I can towards it. But here it was, other people’s unsolicited thoughts over my body flying at me

Later that evening, I had gone out to run some errands and was again, headed towards the lobby lift. A nanny/maid from one of the other floors whom I see on occasion called out to me

“Madam, you’ve decreased no? Lost weight it seems.”

The lift had come at that moment and I was totally caught off guard. I blurted out a response, something to the effect of, “Um, what? I don’t know. Maybe? Yes? Ok Bye.”

I was livid. I know most women (myself included) like hearing people say they’ve lost weight, it feels nice. In my case though, my goal isn’t about weight loss — it’s about taking care of my health. Even if I did lose weight, I’m not looking for outside validation. I didn’t ask for a compliment or to tell me whether the number on my scale has gone up or down. My weight isn’t indicative of a strict diet, upcoming event, or new relationship. Whether I’ve lost of gained, my ultimate goal is remain strong and happy, knowing I’m doing the best I can to stay functional.

The manner in which I handle these scenarios is so mood-dependent. Perhaps because these comment were coming at me back-to-back it all felt too much. I’ve been on the receiving end of much worse when I was younger and chubby from family members in India. It all boils down to your emotional state of mind. After the nanny/maid comment, I was a raging ball of anger. I immediately got inside my apartment and called a friend to rant.

Why is this so normalized? Why do Indians feel the need to comment on my body? I didn’t open myself up to this type of scrutiny. I feel obliged to reply back when I truly don’t want to because then I’m participating in it. Why do we have to arm ourselves with ready responses when this wasn’t a topic I chose to engage in? I don’t want to discuss my body weight with someone I barely know.

For better or for worse, I’m simply choosing to love my body no matter what.

Abracadabra: How we Google to Validate

I’ve been wanting to speak on this topic for awhile. It’s been tucked away in an email draft with the subject: Things I Need To Write About #writerproblems. Some of these ideas never see the light of day/make it through my fingers, though most are good. There are without a doubt terrible ideas I’ve had for pieces that should never come into fruition. Still, I like to keep a record of them if not for making myself feel better that I tried but simply for my own personal amusement over their ridiculousness. #writerproblems.

I’ve written on my blog www.howstraitthegait.com about how technology has changed so many things for us–culturally, socially, emotionally/mentally/physically/, the list goes on. It has it’s enormously meaningful impact on the world but comes with dangerous side effects and drawbacks we’re only now starting to understand and accept.

I’m terribly curious by nature and also extremely anxious/strategic (part of the reason it’s taking me so long to get to this idea #overthinkerproblems). It works both for and against me, this very special trait of mine. I breeze through research, knowing the right questions to ask to get the information I need/don’t (good for journalism). I talk to strangers, socialize often and keep chugging along.

Too often I succumb to the darker side of my anxiety/curiosity and I google the shit out of everything. When I came home from buying a new line of products from Clarins (and after evaluating the products in-store and online), I came home to google, “benefits of X product.” I even remember thinking to myself, ‘isn’t this the strangest behavior? Didn’t I just spend nearly an hour in the mall deciding which products I liked, even got a mini-facial in the process to test said products out? Why do I still need to check this out online?’ It was the first time I really took notice of what I was doing. And last month, I started including more vitamins and supplements in my diet. Most of them need to be taken after a meal. I chose them based on what my multi-vitamins were lacking plus whichever I found would help with muscle/bone strength. Even though I already purchased the vitamins and devised a plan for how I’d space them out throughout the week, I came back to my Macbook only to read about the benefits of each one of those pills.

What are we doing to ourselves? Have we become so dependent on technology for validation that we stop using our brains? I’ve become addicted to reading about the benefits of the choices I make, mainly when it comes to my health or body. I’m less concerned somehow about the risks but I pore over the good stuff–how drinking enough water can completely revolutionize my skin, what a good nights sleep can do for your body and mind, the goodness that comes from a dedicated exercise regimen, how thoughts can positively or negatively impact your behavior and body, and so many other meaningless searches. ALL information I’m aware exists and will continue doing regardless of those benefits yet continue down the bottomless pit of interneting away.

DISCLAIMER: This isn’t solely the result of having too much time on my hands. On days when I’m completely busy with writing, researching, scouring the internet for editors contact information, or just living in India (which requires lots of other types of busy work) I still find myself seeking out this information. I had to ask myself why is it that I keep coming back to this same, silly activity? Is it because I’ve written clickable listicles or articles on the benefits of x thing? Or, worse yet, do I actually care about those benefits?

After all the products have been purchased, the water drunk, the sleep slept, the pills swallowed, the body remains kind of a mystery and no one knows entirely what’s going on inside of it. I suppose its my own fascination with the mysteries of the body that keep me googling but it’s also my inherent desire to be validated–to know that I’m doing something ‘good’ for myself, that I’m treating my body the best I can and heading in the right direction. Its my own congratulatory pat on my back. As we get older there isn’t always someone around to say, ‘good job’ or ‘right on’ or whatever encouraging words people offer one another. We need to believe on our own accord that the choices we are making ARE for our betterment. We validate ourselves and keep moving forward, no matter what Google says.

Googling out our anxieties and fears is the modern version of Abracadabra. We instantly get answers to whatever thoughts/concerns/questions/fears/frustrations/elations we feel, anything we feel! Magic happens in front of our very eyes and before we know it, we’ve got our fix. We instantly feel better or worse, satisfied or left wanting more.

I’ve had to consciously stop myself from googling the benefits of anything these days. Live and let live, I say. I can’t remember googling to validate before the internet existed. It only started about 1–2 years ago. I wouldn’t sum it up to one particular reason but I do believe Google searching has made us so dependent that we forget we already possess a treasure trove of knowledge in our heads. We don’t need the internet to tell us things we already know but we like that it does. And when we start to need it in order to function, we’ve already become addicts.

I remember a book from my childhood (pre-internet) that lived in the study of our house. It was called, “The Big Book of Tell Me Why.” I can remember feeling like I was witnessing something special when I turned its thin pages, privy to information others didn’t have, gaining knowledge to things no one knew. Learning something new was exciting and that book held a magical power over me, something Ask Jeeves or Google never gave me.

Today I caught myself googling the benefits of a new protein supplement I’m taking for muscle growth. I knew I’d be taking the supplement even if I read something suspicious (perhaps I’m also looking for reasons to not partake in said activity or product) yet I still googled away. I guess I’ve reached the point of no return–I’m officially an information junkie, strictly speaking when it come to google searching about the body. Is there internet rehab ™? Someone make that happen. And also credit it to me. Help!

Abracadabra

a closer look @ googling

I’ve been wanting to speak on this topic for awhile. It’s been tucked away in an email draft with the subject: Things I Need To Write About #writerproblems. Some of these ideas never see the light of day/make it through my fingers, though most are good. There are without a doubt terrible ideas I’ve had for pieces that should never come into fruition. Still, I like to keep a record of them if not for making myself feel better that I tried but simply for my own personal amusement over their ridiculousness. #writerproblems.

I’ve written in previous posts about how technology has changed so many things for us–culturally, socially, emotionally/mentally/physically/, the list goes on. It has it’s enormously meaningful impact on the world  but comes with dangerous side effects and drawbacks we’re only now starting to understand and accept.

I’m terribly curious by nature and also extremely anxious/strategic (part of the reason it’s taking me so long to get to this idea #overthinkerproblems). It works both for and against me, this very special trait of mine. I breeze through research, knowing the right questions to ask to get the information I need/don’t (good for journalism). I talk to strangers, socialize often and keep chugging along.

Too often I succumb to the darker side of my anxiety/curiosity and I google the shit out of everything. When I came home from buying a new line of products from Clarins (and after evaluating the products in-store and online), I came home to google, “benefits of X product.” I even remember thinking to myself, ‘isn’t this the strangest behavior? Didn’t I just spend nearly an hour in the mall deciding which products I liked, even got a mini-facial in the process to test said products out? Why do I still need to check this out online?’ It was the first time I really took notice of what I was doing. And last month,  I started including more vitamins and supplements in my diet. Most of them need to be taken after a meal. I chose them based on what my multi-vitamins were lacking plus whichever I found would help with muscle/bone strength. Even though I already purchased the vitamins and devised a plan for how I’d space them out throughout the week,  I came back to my Macbook only to read about the benefits of each one of those pills.

What are we doing to ourselves? Have we become so dependent on technology for validation that we stop using our brains? I’ve become addicted to reading about the benefits of the choices I make, mainly when it comes to my health or body. I’m less concerned somehow about the risks but I pore over the good stuff–how drinking enough water can completely revolutionize my skin, what a good nights sleep can do for your body and mind, the goodness that comes from a dedicated exercise regimen, how thoughts can positively or negatively impact your behavior and body, and so many other meaningless searches. ALL information I’m aware exists and will continue doing regardless of those benefits yet continue down the bottomless pit of interneting away.

DISCLAIMER: This isn’t just because I have too much time on my hands.  On days when I’m completely busy with writing, researching, scouring the internet for editors contact information, or just living in India (which requires lots of other types  of busy work) I still find myself seeking this information. I had to ask myself why is it that I keep coming back to this same, silly activity? Is it because I’ve written those listicles or articles on the benefits of x thing? Or, worse yet, do I actually care about those benefits?

After all the products have been purchased, the water drunk, the sleep slept, the pills swallowed, the body remains kind of a mystery and no one knows entirely what’s going on inside of it. I suppose its my own fascination with the mysteries of the body that keep me googling but it’s also my inherent desire to be validated–to know that I’m doing something ‘good’ for myself, that I’m treating my body the best I can and heading in the right direction. Its my own congratulatory pat on my back. As we get older there isn’t always someone around to say, ‘good job’ or ‘right on’ or whatever encouraging words people offer one another. We need to believe on our own accord that the choices we are making ARE for our betterment. We validate ourselves and keep moving forward, no matter what Google says.

Googling out our anxieties and fears is the modern version of Abracadabra. We instantly get answers to whatever thoughts/concerns/questions/fears/frustrations/elations we feel, anything we feel! Magic happens in front of our very eyes and before we know it, we’ve got our fix. We instantly feel better or worse, satisfied or left wanting more.

I’ve had to consciously stop myself from googling the benefits of anything these days. Live and let live, I say. I can’t remember googling to validate before the internet existed. It only started about 1-2 years ago. I wouldn’t sum it up to one particular reason but I do believe Google searching has made us so dependent that we forget we already possess a treasure trove of knowledge in our heads. We don’t need the internet to tell us things we already know but we like that it does. And when we start to need it in order to function, we’ve already become addicts.

I remember a book from my childhood (pre-internet) that lived in the study of our house. It was called, “The Big Book of Tell Me Why.” I can remember feeling like I was witnessing something special when I turned its thin pages, being privy to information others didn’t have, gaining knowledge to things no one knew. Learning something new felt exciting and that book held a power over me, before Ask Jeeves or Google ever existed.

Today I caught myself googling the benefits of a new protein powder I’ve been taking for muscle growth. I knew I’d be taking the supplement even if I read something suspicious (perhaps I’m also looking for reasons to not partake in whatever activity or product I’m searching about) yet I still googled away. I guess I’ve reached the point of no return–I’m officially an information junkie, strictly speaking when it come to google searching about the body. Is there internet rehab ™? Someone make that happen. And also credit it to me. Help!

Cleanliness is next to Godliness

Today was the follow up for the Art of Living Course I completed two weeks ago. It was a 6 day 3 hour intensive course, involving everything from yoga, Ayurveda, pranayama techniques, meditation and basic discourse. It was so interesting and really fun to do something like this in India. The Kriya (breathing technique) takes about 25 minutes and leaves you feeling super energized. We did the follow  up at a small schoolhouse down the road from my building in Chembur. It was so nice doing kriya again,  I wish I was regular about.  I get caught up in the rules and regulations, giving myself as many excuses as possible not to do it. But I totally get the pranayama thing, MAJOR oxygenation of the muscles. Wahoo!

To top off my super invigorating-exercise-health-filled day, I went swimming at the Golf Club. I didn’t plan on going since the weather cooled down after 6PM but I just couldn’t resist that pool. I haven’t swam much since I got to India so the water felt great. We ate dinner at the GC and (barely) tolerated the slow service. It’s sad how slow that restaurant is! I also think it has something to do with M and I being two females and zero male. The service, attitude, EVERYTHING changes when there is a male presence around and it sets me off. I hate raising my voice at people but here in India its the only way to get things done efficiently and to be taken seriously. I hate the double standard and I wish it would just disappear like Sapna (our hilarious housekeeper) does when there is a lot of work to do around the apartment. Often times I see her sneak away and recite to myself, ‘And away…she…goes!’

I wrote my speech for the SGI meeting tomorrow morning and now it is time to sleep!