The other day I was watching the Bollywood movie Shaandaar. Now, this is not a critique of the movie and I’ll be mentioning minor plot details. The movie itself wasn’t all too emotional, pretty lighthearted, but there was one part where I actually felt myself tearing up. One of the characters, Isha, is overweight and in an arranged marriage with Robin, this body-builder type macho man. Typical Bollywood, I know. The thing is, when Robin starts referring to Isha as not only a laddoo, but an entire sweet store, I started getting just as emotional as Isha overhearing in the back. In those few moments, it was like I was reliving my entire childhood and adulthood. Basically, my life.
First let me give some background. I grew up in a culture where “beauty” is defined by two factors: how skinny you are and how light-skinned you are. Seriously, you could look like a horse, but if a size zero dress was loose on you and your skin color was transparent, well weren’t you lucky. I happened to fall on the lighter side of the color spectrum, but I was always described as shastho bhalo. Roughly translated, the phrase means the health is well, or very healthy. Healthy in this case refers to weight. For as long as I can remember, the comments about me ran along the lines of, “She’s very sweet, but she would be so much prettier if she could lose a little weight.” And ever since I was a child, the two adjectives I’d use to describe my appearance were tall and fat. Unfortunately, I never really grew out of that.