I am aware of the fact that commenting on someone’s physique is a standard statement for Indians as part of pleasantries – although it might not be all that pleasant for the one at the receiving end. This is so ingrained into our culture, that people become blind to the insult that results from their statements. I guess for anyone ranging from 35kg to a 105kg, the commonly used statement in a pathetic effort to start a conversation is, “God! You have lost weight!” This is looked at as a show off of affection from even those who you have met just once before in your life.
In my case specifically, I never understand how people measure this loss of weight. From the time I can remember, I have been fleeting back and forth from 37kg to 40kg. I have never gone above or below that. I have never faced any health-related issues because of this either. And the gain or loss of weight, for that matter, I guess is in grams, not kilograms, which in what way is visible to naked eye, I am not sure. To add to that, my Dad, my brother, my Dad’s sister and kids are all of the same “make”. So obviously there is nothing much to be shocked about in my appearance. In fact, it is in a way a visible statement of how I am more or less a carbon copy of my Dad – which for me is a matter of pride.
I have a neighbour, who from the time I was a kid, welcomes me every time with the comment “Yuck! You look worse than last time, all bones.” Such statements from people used to affect me a lot during my school and college days. I used to cry in bed every night thinking why I have turned out to be an ugly duckling. By the time I finished college, I was in a position to get over such immature inferiority complex and take such comments in a humorous way.
However, humour turned to irritation when I realized people across social strata and qualification levels are the same when it comes to this. I had always thought that those who are from the so-called new generation, well qualified and who are supposed to have more common sense would be different. Around four years into corporate life, I now realize everyone is in the same way, oblivious to the hurt caused to others by their unnecessary meddling and comments. It is very easy to say, “Ignore such comments”. But sometimes it gets so much on your nerves and you feel like lashing out at people who have no consideration for others’ feelings. I have a number of my colleagues who constantly keep commenting on how ‘unhumanly’ under-weight I am – which in no way is true. I try to get out of the uncomfortable conversation by stating the fact that I am by all means extremely healthy and energetic, especially when compared to a lot of the perfect beings who keep complaining about how tired they are. But this does not seem to stop them. They go on blabbering about how I was plumper when they first met me (I cannot remember a time after I was 3 years old, when I could be termed plump). Even when I explicitly state that I am not comfortable with such comments, they pay no attention and go on with their verbal diarrhoea. To such an extent, that they do not even let me have my food in peace – with their “How to make Radhika eat more” campaign. I do not think that even my Mom has given so much attention to the amount of food I have or I do not have.
Yesterday I went to a beauty clinic in my hometown for a regular visit. I ended up sitting and listening to the two girls assigned to me, passing comments and laughing at my less-than-regular looks and paying 650 bucks for this embarrassment. :-/
I have decided that enough is enough. If people do not have the basic sense to understand that at least some who are not super-confident of themselves would be hurt by their “unintentionally wicked” comments, they deserve to get it back. So now I have a tit for tat rule. Someone says “How much more can you lose weight?” I ask them, “How much more can you gain weight? You look bulkier than last time”. It is high time that people stopped blaming culture for their inconsiderate actions. If they do not know how to behave and how to talk, they had better learn how to. To hell with courtesy and professionalism!