Dove is holding a contest for ‘real beauty’ at and this is my entry for the same!

Real beauty to me

No one can understand how unfair the new definition of beauty is, like a fat girl can.

Things were just fine till the mid 90’s. Sridevi had infamously thunder thighs which I easily adopted. Madhuri Dixit was told to have doodh-malai to put on weight and I complied. South Indian women danced with abandon, their wobbly cellulite still jiggling long after they stopped. And I jiggled with them.

Then Urmilla Matondkar happened. With Rangeela and her sexy white miniskirt (that seems so conventional now), she redefined undernourished beauty. Follow it up with the toned Karishma Kapoor’s aerobics that supposedly trumped curvy Ms Dixit’s graceful moves in Dil Toh Pagal Hai, and suddenly curves were taboo. Pleasantly plump was an oxymoron. And I was left with one question in my mind.

Why wasn’t I born 30 years before? Back then, people would say ‘ab toh shaadi ho gayi’ and pile gulab jamuns in your plate.

 Nowadays, the moment I step into a party, each chicken drumstick and chocolate I had gorged on in the previous week come back to me in horrific detail. Within minutes every female in the group (mind you, males are far more liberal) has already calculated my BMI and designated me to category of ‘the enviables’ (unlikely) or ‘the losers’ (home sweet home) in the manner of a sergeant in a Nazi concentration camp. And of course at some point, a picture perfect specimen shall approach me as I grab at the next tray on my way. And she will give me the LOOK. The how-can-you-still-eat-when-you-are-so-fat LOOK. And I freeze for the night.

‘It doesn’t matter what you look like, I will always love you,’ hubby says frequently. I’m still working out what he means by that.

The fat gene is like a scarlet letter. If you have it, you are taboo. Give people anything-dengue, bird flu, even AIDS, they will sympathize, even glamorize. But if you have the fat gene, they run away from you like rats on a sinking ship. And you are left crying after them in vain, ‘But yeh bimari chune se nahin phaylti (I’m not contagious)!’  

 It’s the media’s fault of course.  Every day we are bombarded with razor-sharp, pencil-thin images that make fat people like me feel like wearing Burkhas for work. Ahh….if I was a Saudi Arabian woman, I could eat all the chocolate mousse in the world!

Just look at this ad in Singapore’s Straits Times. A typical before and after weight loss program ad with words such as ‘painless! permanent!’ thrown in for good measure. Except the ‘before’ girl. Excuse me, but she is NOT FAT! She doesn’t even have a muffin-top! Her weight is shown to be 55.3 kgs which would be normal for most women, yet she looks so depressed and lonely because (gasp) she has a curve! And lo and behold, some weeks later she has lost 27 inches.  And is bikini perfect.  

Ok, I’m glad that thanks to the media, dusky is in (actually I’m not because the one thing I had was fair), but why such blatant sizeism? Does she have to be so so thin? Not-even-one-measly-chocolate- éclair-a- week thin? It’s just too depressing….oooh I feel like having Gooey Chocolate Brownies!

 And where have all the fat women gone? Poor Manisha Koirala and Pooja Bhatt had their careers stripped away thanks to some extra kilos. The same fate loomed in the horizon for Kareena Kapoor but now she’s size zero and Saif’s Bebo. The few times that media dares to portray fat characters are bubbled-up,  sideys strictly in the ‘before’ story angle. And then magically, the ugly body suit is off and the metamorphosis is complete! When 30 ROCK, one of my favourite sitcoms, got a fat Jenna, I thought this was going to be interesting. But within a few weeks she was back to her ‘normal’ size; fat is not even good enough for comedy. Mr. Perfectionist, Aamir Khan robo-copped himself for Ghajini, but he refused to put on a few kilos for a role in Delhi Belly. Apparently 8-hour stress work-outs are a cinch, but eating a few mayo sandwiches? Not on your life!

It’s all a scam of course. No marketer wants you to eat less. Everywhere you go, there are 5-star buffets , instant noodles and fast food. Chiseled models forbid dieting. The message is clear. Eat. Spend. Binge. Spend. And then take premium gym memberships to burn it all off. Eat. Spend. Binge. Spend. Gym. Spend. And marketing jackpot!!!!

There are some voices of sanity in the jungle of madness, I suppose. Like the Dove real beauty campaign (and I’m not just saying this because it’s the Dove contest-ok maybe just a little). An instant hit-it reverberated with millions of women who were fed up with the barrage of stick-thin under-nourished images every day. The soap, ‘Mad men’ also shows off curvy American women of the 60’s and they are all unquestionably sexy.

But the show that touched me the most was BBC’s ‘How to look good naked’ by British fashion consultant Gok Wan. He photographs ordinary women with the objective of showing how ridiculous their idea of body image is. He aims to shock; displaying naked images in public places, getting women’s hockey teams to do a nude shoot, but the message is clear.

Whoever you are, you are beautiful, only if you allow yourself to think that you are. It’s really as simple (and as difficult) as that.

With that message firmly in my mind, I relaxed, forgot the gym and indulged in cheesy pasta. For once the scale was ignored and yet I didn’t feel inadequate or like a loser.

Until my sister saw me 2 weeks later. ‘OH MY GOD! What’s wrong with you? You’ve put on so much weight! Are you pregnant? So what? You’re being stupid. Do you want to be an Amma?’

Right, back on the binge-spend-gym cycle.