Wanted: People for Ethical Treatment of Skinny Folks

Illustration: Akshita Monga

Iam 5 feet 10 inches and weigh 46 kilos. If you are having trouble visualising that image, let me help you. When I apply a Prisma filter on my picture, the result I get is a tree or a pole. I’m so skinny that my girlfriend calls me Half Boyfriend.
Every time I log in to Facebook and read the millionth status update that month on fat-shaming, I have only one thought in mind: What about me? Or am I so skinny that you couldn’t even see me? Girls have been regularly shutting down fat-shaming bullies by posting photos in swimsuits and rightly getting a lot of support. But I once wore skinny jeans in 2007 and I still haven’t heard the end of it. Research after research backs the idea that schools should stop fat-shaming overweight children as it causes major psychological harm. Where were these folks when I was being labelled “patla papad”, “haddi”, and “sukda” during my school days!
Here is an average day in my life: I am hanging out with a bunch of friends at one of the most magnificent and picturesque places in Mumbai, Marine Drive. The month is August and there is a high tide warning by Mumbai Police. While we stroll on the walking path, there is a huge gust of wind. My fear, ingrained since childhood, comes back to haunt me. I know what is coming. A friend catches hold of me tightly and shouts “ArrĂ© yaar, koi pakdo isko varna yeh hawa se udd jayega!” Once we went to a restaurant and didn’t carry a selfie stick so friends lifted me horizontally and I clicked the picture. Okay, I’ll admit that was funny.
And that’s just my friends. When the tailor notes down my measurements, he declares an outfit – any outfit – is not “realistically possible”. Neighbours from three buildings down come to me with suggestions of how I can gain weight, right from “eat four bananas daily” to “protein supplements le yaar”. And relationships? They’re tough, when as a guy, you’re the one asking with eagerness in your voice, “Do I look fat in this dress?” With “toothpick” metaphors for my penis to a vivid trivialisation of my sexual life, my dating game has the confidence of a Rahul Gandhi before an election result.
If it wasn’t bad that I’m skinny, I also happen to be a Gujarati. The pressure is immense. If I don’t grow a belly and die of diabetes, I would have let our heritage down. Every time the Endura Mass advertisement plays on TV, I have to shamefully leave the room. The accusing looks are hard on me.
For all of this humiliation, I’ve decided that society at large doesn’t deserve our contribution. Am I not going to get any credit for automatically being the guy who will climb to the top of the pyramid during Janmashtami just on account of being skinny and light? For years, we have put our body on the line and fallen from 25-40 feet, so you can listen to “Govinda Aala Re” one more time. When I enter the second class of a Mumbai local, four of us can comfortably sit on one seat. It’s the little things that matter.
While Bollywood has shamed everyone from gay and lesbian people to women to fat people, I’m a bit offended by how they’ve left us out. It’s like we are not even worth their prejudice and bigotry. When am I going to see people take to the streets and raise slogans for us? I’m pretty sure our collective demography is greater than Raj Thackeray’s vote bank.
Vogue and Cosmopolitan can claim to have made huge strides by having plus-sized models on their magazine covers. But I am not going to be convinced about the Body Positive Movement until I see Patrakar Popatlal from Tarak Mehta Ka Ooltah Chashma on the cover of Vanity Fair.

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