I was always an awkward skinny kid. Couple that with my height (I'm tall by Indian standards) and there were more than enough jokes by well meaning uncles and aunts on how they can use me as a stick (thotti- a long think stick/bamboo pole) to pluck fruits from high branches.
I was (still am) a fairly hairy child. I had thick hair not just on my head, but on my face too. My classmates would call me 'mucchad' (mustachioed man?) to tease me and I'd pretend it didn't hurt me. Then I'd come home and put besan (gram flour) paste on my face and wait for it to dry and then rub it off vigorously because I'd heard besan can pull of facial hair from the root. It didn't really work. But I did have soft skin for some time.
In 6th grade, when my hairiness was becoming more prominent, my mom made me get a boy cut because she thought it's a good idea to make the awkward me look ever more awkward (kidding, but I did look horrible). My height ensured that I was always the last person in school assembly line. Once as a random teacher was standing in front of our line I tried to stretch and peak at her. From the front she could see only my head. And she goes 'hey why are you standing in the girls line?'. Everyone giggled as I wished I could melt into the soil under my feet.
Then came the glorious college years. So much fun, so much freedom, so much food. In 4 years I gained more than a couple of kilos. Now I was fat. Like even my fingers were fat, fat. And all everyone would say to me at weddings and funerals was how I'd gained so much weight. There was this one annoying beauty parlour waali aunty that was hell bent on making me buy a shady 'slimming suit' from her. I just had to step into her parlour and she'd go 'you should try this suit it will make you look really slim.' Guess what this suit was called. Blue whale. I am not kidding. They thought the best name for a slimming suit was the name of the largest mammal on earth. I salute whoever came up with the name.
I eventually lost most of that weight naturally through exercise and diet. Now marriage and the comfort that comes with it has made me gain a kilo or two, but guess what, I am happy. On most days. I have stretch marks from the years of weight gain and loss, I have a chin which needs plucking every now and then, I have smile lines around my eyes that I gathered through the years as I laughed and smiled, and I have caterpillars instead of eyebrows (there's a funny eyebrow story I have that I don't know if I should share). I am a collage of scars and blemishes and warts. But most days when I look into the mirror I smile at the person I am. At this woman looking at me. This me I see in the mirror has seen so much, has experienced so much, has turned into a unique person. And I love this me with all her flaws and scars and pesky chin hair. It's hard to explain, but loving yourself and accepting yourself is one of the most exhilarating and liberating thing you can do. It's not easy always, but the more you do it, the more mental space and energy you have to do what you are really meant to do- make a mark on the world.
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