She was a lonely kid. Her classmates did not live near her house and there were not many kids her age to play with in the neighbourhood.
Not that she minded. She turned to books and they kept her good company.
She was also sensitive about her looks. She thought her dark complexion set her back a little, when compared to her “fairer” family. The Indian society she was born into placed a lot of value on being fair skinned.
But then, she was just a kid. She did not know her best years were ahead of her.
When she moved to a new school when she was 10, the world started teasing her for being fat. Her fifth class grade teacher asked the class to nominate a student to be the sports captain and when the entire class shouted her name in chorus, the teacher laughed it off and said, “Give me the name of someone who can move on the sports field”. Mrs. V, another teacher, who was in charge of seating kids in the school bus would remark, “Oh, if she is sitting here we can accommodate only one more in this seat. Find some other place to sit”. Her favourite uncle would smack her and say, “You have to reduce those buns”. While all her classmates wore a collared shirt and long skirt uniform to school, she was forced to wear the torturous half-saree as she was considered to be bigger than the others.
All, except her Mom who always maintained that she was just “chubby” and never really fat.
All this left a deep impact and she vowed that she would not remain fat through the rest of her years. She had a tough battle to fight, against her genes; against her sweet tooth and against her preference to reading as an activity as opposed to playing sports. But she took the fight quite seriously. Quite unexpectedly, it set her on a course to discover health and the relationship between the mind, the spirit and the body. She not only emerged successful in the fight but also a more balanced human being who understood the real place of food in life and the secret that energy is not dependent only on food intake.
Fast forward 25 years and she goes to her school reunion, completely unaware that she is now a “zipped” version what people would imagine to see her as. In spite of all the effort her inner self image was still quite fat and capable of occupying more than her share of the school bus seat. When people comment that they cannot recognise because she has lost weight, she stares in disbelief, not even having the manners to thank for the compliment.
Person after person fails to recognise her. While it is deeply satisfying, the bigger lesson comes from a totally different direction. When she sees the teachers whose remarks impacted her so much that it became her life’s mission to seek “thin-ness”, she realises it didn’t matter so much to them as it did to her. If she went to them, turned her nose up and proclaimed that, “You teased me when I was a kid; look where I am now”, they will have no recollection whatsoever of passing those remarks. What the heck was she carrying all the burden for all that time, then?
She feels a lightness she had never before felt in her life. She is grateful that it had been more of a journey of self awareness than weight loss. All those comments she grew up suddenly seem to disappear. The fat lady inside her melts away.
Couple of weeks later her mother calls and narrates her chance encounter with one of her school teachers. She describes how the teacher went on and on about how she could not recognise the girl because she had grown so thin. Her mother is not able to remember the name of the teacher and starts to describe the teacher’s physique and she instantly recognises Mrs. V! Mrs. V whose words were more caustic than others and whose words she had remembered painfully all these years.
Life had come a full circle. And it did not taste as sweet as she had thought.