My body weight has always ranged from the pleasantly plump to the morbidly obese.
I, of course, always market it as buxom. It was my English teacher in school who first called me buxom and since I like the sound of that, I have continued to do so.
My weight hasn’t really affected my life. Except during the dark days of my previous break-up.
That means I don’t do crash diets, I don’t swallow pills, and I don’t care what I eat or don’t eat. And when I could, I used to attempt exercising fairly often. And that was that.
Of course, there have been low-lives with their jokes and lewd comments, whom I always ignored or pasted on the wall depending on the whim and fancy of the day.
The worst was when I was studying in college and working part-time in my friend M’s office. I’d joined her father’s company, ironically enough, in a bid to earn money so I could join a high-end gym in Koramangala that charged a cool 6K back in those days. My friend M was also a member at that gym.
In her dad’s office, they had this tradition of celebrating all the employee birthdays of the month on one particular day. As a ‘documentation executive for the six sigma project’ I had to interact with all sorts of people in the company and within a month I knew nearly everyone. And cared for very few.
So on this particular day of the birthday celebration, we were supposed to go to the ground-floor and watch people cut a huge birthday cake. For some reason, my friend declined to join us immediately. I remember finding it strange at the time but I don’t normally react to strange behaviour. So I went alone.
As soon as I reached the floor, her dad, who was a perfect gentleman in most ways, suddenly hailed me and said something disparaging about my weight extremely loudly. It was such a complete shock I could only stand and stare with bug eyes. Now, I don’t even remember what it was he said, which is rather unfortunate.
But you know how the story goes, when the owner of a company decides to take potshots at someone, everyone else and their brother feels duty-bound to do the same if not better the insult. And they went on to do that. I was still in shock and thoroughly humiliated. I do remember now that the ‘cake’ featured very heavily in it. One asshole pulled me aside and in a stage whisper said (and this I remember because that’s what got me out of that mute shock), ‘Why don’t you join a gym instead of eating cake here?’ And everyone laughed so uproariously as if it was the best joke on the planet. My friend had also come down by then.
Party over, I went up to the floor where the boss and my friend sat. In my friend’s cabin, I stared at her and kept repeating with tears streaming down my face, ‘I just don’t believe that happened.’ She’s a beautiful person. Her eyes were drenched in compassion and empathy – she’s a large-sized woman herself. She kept saying, ‘I’m sorry, Bhumi, I’m so sorry.’ But then she added, ‘I had a feeling something like this would happen. That’s why I didn’t come down immediately.’
That was it. I decided enough was enough and I stormed into her dad’s office while he was in the middle of a board meeting.
Without preamble, I said, ‘You have humiliated me beyond relief and I don’t care that you own this company, I need you to come down to the ground floor now and give me a public apology. I demand a public apology.’
Everyone sat in stunned silence. Some sleaze-bags tried to talk to me about cultivating a sense of humour. ‘Look at XYZ, he’s fat and he’s the first one who makes fun of how fat he is!’
It enraged me even more. I told them that it was XYZ’s call if he wanted to humiliate himself, but I wouldn’t do that and I wouldn’t forgive anyone who did that to me, either. So how about that damn apology? I also added for equal measure that not one person sitting in that room was even remotely in shape, forget good-looking, so how dare they make disparaging comments about my appearance.
Boss-man apologised profusely. But not on the ground-floor in front of everyone. His board members, however, did see him apologise and I had to be content with that. His explanation was that there were many in the office making fun of M behind her back and he wanted to bring it out in the open. To which I scathingly replied that he ought to have used M for that purpose then. He apologised and said that he’d seen the error of his ways. It didn’t calm me. I was writhing in indignation and humiliation. But as it tends to in offices, the grapevine carried the story and no one in the office ever troubled me or even met my eyes or tried to pull any stunts with me ever again.
Later that day he sent me a message on my mobile saying that in all his life he had never met a more brave or bold girl than me and that I was to keep it up.
I don’t think ‘woteva’ was part of my vocabulary in those days, but I remember reading it and saying something very similar.
After about two weeks of this incident, I was told I was no longer required to continue. Which was perfectly fine by me, because I’d decided to quit that bloody gym anyway. But for a long time, I never got over the trauma. I spoke to the HOD of English who was also my gender studies teacher in college about the incident and she assured me that in time I’d have enough maturity to deal with such things more calmly. I told her that I was like Draupadi in the court cussing and crying and raging impotently at everyone. She laughed. And she told me that with maturity, I’d have pulled him aside and then told him off rather than ticking him off in front of his Board as I did in tears and anger and indignation. But she was the only one, besides my best friend Anu, who was supportive of what I did. Even my parents thought I’d gone too far this time. And that I ought to apologise to him. Especially because he was my friend M’s father. Which, of course, I never did.
I didn’t meet him ever after that. He passed away a year ago. I felt sorry for my friend M, but that’s about all I felt.
Which is why I’m very proud of the way I handle disparaging comments about my weight these days. Thanks to the illness, constant hormonal imbalances, and medication which I won’t bore you about, my weight fluctuates like crazy. I can never plan what outfit to wear on any given day, because who knows what my body shape and weight will be then!
And of course, a lot of people find it their bounded duty to talk to me about my weight and how to get it in control. I always ask them (irrespective of age, gender, orientation, relationship to self) if they plan to sleep with me. Since there is no right answer to that, they tend to stay mute. And then I calmly continue that unless they want to sleep with me, my weight does not concern them in the least. Which, as anyone with even a modicum of sense will tell you, is true.
And yes, I even know what to say in case they say they do want to sleep with me. And that’s not pretty either, so be warned.
Last evening was wonderful. My best man from Germany and I met up with a new friend from London in Hard Rock Cafe. All three of us hit it off immediately and we were really having the time of our lives. Or something pretty darn close.
We had a charming waiter who was very helpful and attentive. He brought us the merchandise catalogue and asked us if we would like to buy anything. I pointed to the outfit Steven Tyler from Aerosmith wore that was displayed in the showcase and said that I wanted that.
He smiled and said, ‘No Ma’am, that you cannot wear.’
I replied, ‘Don’t worry about that. I have an excellent tailor.’
And he said, ‘Ma’am, when you become real slim and come here next year, I’ll let you buy it.’ And he walked away.
I didn’t knock him down because I was in a kick-ass mood.
But I did notice that my German and our new London friend were sitting still and in absolute shock. The London chap could stand it no longer and he said, ‘How can Indian men be so disgusting and get so personal with perfect strangers?’ My German who has been in India for longer had recovered by then and shrugged. I told Mr. London how I usually deal with this sort of thing. And we laughed.
But hell, it’s me. I decided that I should not let the waiter get away with that just because I was in a good mood. So I hailed him. It was a low seat and I signalled him to kneel next to me.
‘Sweetie,’ I said, ‘I’m actually terribly pissed with you. And did you know that today is your lucky day and that’s why you are walking still?’
He looked visibly shaken. He stammered, ‘Ma’am…’
I interrupted, ‘Sweetie, you simply cannot speak to any woman the way you just did. My weight or lack of it is no concern of yours, darling. Have I made that clear now?’
He stuttered, ‘Yyyes Ma’am.’
‘Good. Now I want you to remember that you can never ever speak to a lady like that. Because it’s possible ladies won’t always be in a good mood and you might come to great harm, darling, and I don’t want that happening. Is that understood?’
‘Ma’am, I’m terribly sorry, I will never do that again. I promise.’
I positively beamed at him, ‘That’s excellent, darling, now please get me another beer. That will be all. Thank you.’
The men just shook their heads at me and we continued to have fun.
So, yes, looks like, I have come a stout way. My teacher would be proud of me.
And now, please enjoy this song that gave my German and me goosebumps yesterday. Because.