It is indeed painful and disheartening. Take my word for it. Till date, I am unable to figure out how am I responsible for being the way I am.

To begin at the beginning, I was born half a century ago in a missionary hospital in Guwahati, Assam. In medical terms, I was a postmature baby – having stayed in my mother’s womb an entire month beyond the normal gestation period. Secondly, since my mother had certain obstetrics issues, the attending physician opted for forceps delivery. A Caesarean section would have been safer, but unfortunately, the specialist who handled such surgeries was unavailable at that point of time.

Last but not the least I had developed hypothyroidism (though it was medically detected many decades later) since childhood. The long and short of it was that I began to look different from my peers. I have a big head, besides large hands and large broad feet. Add to these a husky voice, above average height (171.5cms/5 7”), not forgetting a broad skeletal framework. I recall how during my childhood, off and on neighbourhood women, relatives and acquaintances would remark “What a big head she has…the body is normal but the head is big…blah blah.”

Buying footwear was another ordeal. Getting the right size proved an uphill task. Either the pair was too large or too small. This would often elicit snide comments from the sales boys. However during the 1970s when we moved to Delhi and I joined Holy Child school, things were under control. I excelled in academics and brimmed with self-confidence.

A few years later, as I stood on the verge of adolescence, and our family located to Ludhiana, Punjab, things began to go downslide. Though Sacred Heart was a posh and most prestigious school in town yet had many harrowing experiences until I finally passed out. One, my large head and broad face instantly evoked mirth and sarcasm among my classmates. When I happened to walk down the corridors, pupils in twos and threes would deliberately push or bump into me, remarking “Enna vadda muh” (Punjabi for “such a huge face”) giggle and run away as fast as their legs could carry them.

Little did I imagine that body-shaming would continue to dog me even in adult life.

In maths class while the teacher elaborated on the formula ‘length x breadth x height’, many would guffaw and glibly point out to me. Once during a free period, I presented a comical song-cum-poem. The entire class burst into laughter. I felt so low! From then on the students continued to ridicule me by naming me ‘the best singer of our class’. I nearly died of shame. For my hatke looks, I was nicknamed ‘idiot’.

As matter of fact, one day when our English teacher asked us to make a sentence with the word ‘idiot’, a few of the girls blurted out “Ruchira is an idiot,” oblivious of the fact in all important exams I found a place among the top five pupils. What an irony! This went on and on, day in and day out. My confidence snapped. I grew so dejected and downcast that I avoided interactions with my classmates, opting to spend my recess in the library after grabbing a quick bite.

However, little did I imagine that body-shaming would continue to dog me even in adult life. I am fond of music, but owing to my unfeminine voice I never tried my hand at vocals or something along those lines. Ours is a musical family. Most of my cousins, uncles and aunts are talented singers of repute. During vacations/family get-togethers in our Kolkata home, I would obviously be the odd man out – devoid of musical talents. Once I was casually toying with a harmonium, when who should walk in but one of my uncles? A tad surprised, he cackled, “Hey what do you think you are doing? Trying to sing? The entire neighbourhood’s donkeys will join you in a chorus.” His words stung me. I was angry, hurt. With tears blinding my eyes, I ran out of the room, mumbling to myself, “Dear God…if there is a God…why me? Even a favourite aunt of mine had this habit of mimicking my voice and then burst into laughter. That was her brand of humour.

Also read: How South Asian Women With Vitiligo Have It Harder

In college, at the University, and still later at diverse workplaces, till date I get bombarded with a plethora of questions regarding my ‘abnormal’ physical appearance. Some gape, while others laugh. Having trod on the path of life for so long I managed to pick an array of nicknames owing (like I said) to my broad flat face coupled with my not-so-ordinary voice. During a brief teaching stint at a residential school, the students transformed into Mogambo –the arch villain played by Amrish Puri in the Bollywood blockbuster Mr India.

In college, at the University, and still later at diverse workplaces, till date I get bombarded with a plethora of questions regarding my “abnormal” physical appearance

Without blowing my trumpet, let me emphasise that I am many shades prettier than the late Amrish Puri any day (chuckles). At the next school where I taught, my students hailed me as Gama Pehlwan the legendary wrestler. I was also known as ‘Badaa’ maam. What on earth does that mean? I still have no clue. All this was meant to be taken in good humour. Trust me, I was not amused. Rather I felt like screaming and reading out my medical details . However I am sure that would have cut no ice either. Being a food lover since childhood, I was a bit on the heavier side. Neither my folks had any problem with it and nor did I. However my classmates did. They tagged me as mottie (flabby) till the last day of school. Glowing example of fat-shaming, this!

I was subjected to body-shaming even during the early years of my married life. Tough to believe, huh? Well, the females of my spouse’s family were diminutive and wiry. Since I towered above them. They took to calling me haathi (elephant), ‘huge giant’, and so on. My blessed mother in law (PBUH) nicknamed me Yeti (probably my large hands and feet reminded her of the mythical creature?). The family mocked my slow shuffling gait as bear-like instead of lady-like. A minus point for a bahu of the house! After a series of complaints to my spouse – which caused a lot of bad blood – this horrendous practice finally stopped.

I thank all those who do refrain from in this nefarious, nay, insensitive practice. I want to ask those who do. Why makes you behave thus? Are you picture perfect? Flawless specimens of Renaissances art? And do the womenfolk possess hourglass figures, chiselled features and cascading tresses? I’m sure not. In that case, your audacity is laudable!

Also read: Five Lessons I Learned After Being Body Shamed

Cross your heart. Ask yourselves. Does body-shaming benefit you in any way? Then why take the trouble? Instead follow this maxim: Peaceful coexistence.


Featured Image Source: Buro 24/7 Malaysia

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