Sunday, February 21, 2010

Being Fat in India

My dear readers, here is my one and only uploaded photo so far from India. I know it's only one, but it's a pretty cool picture, isn't it? I'll share more next week if you all promise to ignore the heinous clothing I'll be sporting in all of my photos.

Before I came to India my friend Ashwini warned me that "you'll be the fattest person they've ever seen." Now I have found this to be completely untrue - there are plenty of fat tourists and there are plenty of fat Indians, but I have had some amusing experiences that I thought I'd share. It's interesting to see how fat is viewed in other cultures and how people react and what they say. A bit of fat, cultural anthropology if you will.

There's been the staring and the laughter, which I honestly don't know if it has to do with my being fat or the clothes I wear, but I get a LOT of attention - much more so than my male traveling companions and the stares don't bother me too much, but the laughter is a bit odd. When we went to the Taj Mahal groups of people laughed at me. Not my friends, but me. It was bizarre and weird, but completely harmless.

But there are 3 instances that stick out in particular that I thought you'd all get a kick out of. It's a good thing I practice self-love and body acceptance, cause otherwise these people may have brought me down. Instead I just laughed and went on, un-bothered with my day. I think my traveling companions were often more bothered by it than I was.

1) My friend and I became obsessed with a day spa near our friends apartment where we were staying in Delhi. I think they thought we were crazy cause we came 3 days in a row and showed up to a fancy place in some very un-fancy clothing. I decided to get a special massage that involved 4 hands, lots of hot oil and a tented steam cover - it was pretty fucking fabulous I must say. So I'm undressed, lying on the table in nothing but a pair of disposable underwear they've given me when one of the women performing the massage says to me "so, have you tried our weight loss massage?"

So I'm naked, supposed to be relaxing and these women are about to touch me for the next hour when they've just insulted me, not to mention that a weight loss massage is among the dumber weight loss techniques I've heard mentioned to me. Had I been in the States I would have gotten dressed, talked to the manager and gotten my massage for free from 2 other masseuses. But I was in India and I realize that it's culturally acceptable for people to say these sort of things and it's not considered rude so I just laughed and said "no, I'm happy with my body just the way it is thank you. I like being fat." And then I had a 4 handed massage. Heaven I tell you.

2) I was on a boat in the Gangas River when our tour guide asked me if I had any children. I responded no, to which he replied "well you look like you have." He then continued on "do you practice yoga?" which is when I realized where this conversation was going and I again responded no. He continued on "you really must watch the butter and red meat" which was kind of hysterical because I don't eat much of either one. I mean I bake with a lot of butter, but most of that is brought to work and sent to my friends. Either way, it's completely irrelevant since my body is nobodies business but my own.

He then told me that I was fat like his brother and needed to be careful. At this point my friends and I were laughing hysterically at his rudeness and I told the guide "you're being rude, you need to stop" but he DIDN'T. He continued on about diabetes and my health and I wasn't about to start having a HAES conversation with the man so I calmed my giggles and told him firmly that I love my body just as it is and that he needed to be quiet. He eventually shut up and then had the gall to bring us to his house to try and sell us stuff. No thank you.

3) I was at a mall - where by the way my friend got a scoop of ice cream and found a piece of chewed gum in it, ugh - when we walked into a womens clothing store. I was in there for all of 30 seconds flipping through the shelves when a woman came up to me and told me "we don't carry your size." The first 2 experiences didn't upset me at all, but this one did for some reason. She was just so rude about it and she was making assumptions - she had no idea who I was shopping for. I said "I'm still allowed in the store aren't I?" and continued to browse until a minute later one of her colleagues came up to me and again very rudely told me "we don't have your size." I once again rhetorically asked "I'm still allowed in the store, right?"

I don't know why this simple comment more than the others bothered me so much, I think because it felt exclusionary - you're not allowed in here, fatty leave. The whole thing reminded me of that scene in Pretty Woman when Julia Roberts walks into the boutique on Rodeo Drive and is told that they don't have anything for her. I didn't walk out of the mall with much of anything but I did walk out of the store and not purchase a top I had been eying for my mother.

I thought of how great it was that I was able to laugh instead of get sad or really bothered by these comments - I don't know that I always would have been able to say that. These experiences only served to reinforce my body acceptance and self-love.

Anyways, those are just some of my adventures of being fat in India. And I have to stress that it's really just a teeny, tiny part of my larger, crazy adventure that I'm having. This morning my friends left to go back to the States and I'm traveling on my own for a week so I think more of my stories will have to do with men trying to flatter their way into my wallet than insulting my fat ass, but who knows. Either way I'll be sure to keep you updated.

34 comments:

  1. Wow, you're a lot stronger than I am. I would have fallen apart after receiving three comments like that! But you're looking at the situation with a very smart perspective. Can't let some ignorance ruin your time in India!

    (Hi, I'm new here, and enjoying your blog very much!)

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  2. Also, I think it's interesting that you are getting this sort of reaction. I was always under the impression that Indians praised and respected fat?

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    1. Erm, no. I am Indian, I am Fat, and I can safely assure you that for the most part, no, Indians are not fat friendly. Far from it in fact. :P To the author of this blog; Kudos on your spirit and apologies on behalf of my countrymen. We're not all jerks. :) Also, I'd love to share my blog with you; "The Ignominy of Being Fat" and would love to hear back from you. Cheers!

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  3. WOOOWWW.. those are really crazy stories. I too thought that India was more "fat friendly" But I guess in the tourist areas or anywhere, there is a stereotype that Americans are all skinny, who knows. a positive self body image is the biggest armour you can carry!

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  4. You have a really great sense of perspective and confidence -- I admire your dignity in all of these situations. Hope you have a great time on the rest of your trip. :)

    - JoAnn, Sidewalk Chalk

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  5. I think the Indians, they have thicker skin and being rude is something that they do subconsciously. But you are so great just being positive. can't wait to read about the rest of your traveling adventures!

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  6. Great post and I adore your self confidence and your lack of retaliation for the effin rudeness. I am anxiously awaiting more posts from India! :)

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  7. When I was in Paris the first time I walked in a small clothing store that displayed a dress I thought my mom would love. I started looking at sizes and couldn't understand french sizes so I was about to ask the saleswoman and without letting me finish my sentence told me very rudely "we don't carry your size". I told her very nicely it was a gift for my beloved and "slimmer" mother. She instantly changed her attitude but I told her I would purchase the gift in a store where they respected the customers and walked out.

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  8. Sorry to hear that. Unfortunately, Indians are more concerned with being skinny and finding a mate that is light skin than being kind and respectful to people. The easiest way to shock them when they are being rude is simple, smile and flip them the bird!!!! I can say this because I am married to and Indian man and he does this all the time to them. They get embarrassed and turn the other way. They have to be one of the most judgmental people out there and no, India is definitely not fat friendly. I say strut your stuff and be confident; you are beautiful. Express your individuality and trust me, they are jealous because individuality is not celebrated in India. Have fun and enjoy the country!!!

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  9. Thanks for all the supportive comments!

    I've been traveling alone since I last posted and funnily enough no one has made any comment to me about my weight - instead, as I predicted it has been a lot of sweet talking.

    Every day I flash my fake wedding ring and come up with a completely different husband, it's a lot of fun.

    I'll be back again at my friend in Delhi tonight so I should be able to post tomorrow without being charged for it. xx

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  10. I am assuming all your comments have been by NON-INDIANS, if you will and let me start by saying I am an Indian. I am also assuming that you were shopping for Western clothes and not traditional Indian ones. We have this myth even now of slim fair and bold whites who dressing in daring clothes, we have yet to get over this mindset. Hence the comments, for in India Western clothes are mostly for the upper middle class and rich who by far are figure conscious. The average middle class Indian woman from where I come from is overweight, mainly after kids as she doesn't have the motivation to lose weight - only your husband sees your real body so who cares.
    And health spas too cater mostly to the afore mentioned upper and middle classes...........
    I must congratulate you on your mindset and you cheer - living in the US as I have been for the past 4 years - I do know how a typical American would react to such "rudeness". We Indians are well meaning and interfering but that is what we do best !!!!

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  11. Hey Bloomie,
    I live in the Caribbean and thats how people are here as well, they think it's ok to comment on my weight, I now find it funny. Good for you in keeping your cool.
    Can you give me advise? I want to buy boots from Torrid (the Bazaar Western ones) and I normally wear a 9.5, but Torrid only does full sizes. So you think a 9 or a 10?

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  12. It's good to hear about others of you who suffer rude comments as well and are learning to take them in stride or laugh them off.

    Kitti, I've never really bought boots from Torrid cause they're known to be pretty poor quality. Knowing Torrid though I'm guessing they run big. Try http://community.livejournal.com/fatshionista/, I bet there's info on Torrid boot sizing there. Hope that helps!

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  13. Yeah, your observations are right and people can be real rude at times.

    Like your positive attitude and the way you look at life.

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  14. I just found your blog and love it. These reactions made a smile, a few years ago - I was a bridesmaid in wedding - the groom is Indian, and we all wore Saris. Well, the grooms mother came to help us put them on. And she was putting it on me sooo tight, and telling me to suck it in and there was too much fat. I was like ummm there are SEVEN YARDS of fabric here, I think we can squeeze me in LOL. I still laugh about that to this day. :-)

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  15. I suppose it depends on where you were shopping. High end Indian stores like high end British and American stores consider any woman over a UK size 12 (equiv to a US 14) as a plus size. For 'western' clothes at least. This is because most of the western stores don't have in-house tailors or are not allowed to make them available for your everyday shopper.

    Go for Indian clothes however and even the most expensive stores in India (Seasons, Friendship etc where a single outfit could set you back up to £5,000) will make most of their designs fit you. In these stores however proportion and figure is everything-and girls with big hips but tiny waists like me get laughed at during the tailoring process.

    As for the rudeness well you can't really expect Indians to conform to American cultural standards in their own country. Come to the UK/France/Spain and people would still consider you fat but they would snigger about it behind your back and murmur stuff about 'obese Americans' while praising you for your confidence to your face.

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  16. Hi, I do appreciate and admire Bloomie's boldness in the face of many rude, sligthing remarks on her figure.
    I am a fatty Indian woman and I am suprised by the pervasive Indian attitude towards oversized women. I have got remarks of me being 'big' but fortunately I never have been slighted the way you were. I wouldnt be able to withstand it.
    I am saddened at the Indian attitude, especially the one experience you had at the clothestore.
    If only people knew, understood what were the other reasons to being oversized.. its just not by overeating..but due to many medical conditions too..thyroid dysfunction, steroid-cortisone medications and many other...

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  17. Hi i get tired at listening to peoples'comments about me being obese especially when these comments come from your close ones. I struggle everyday of my life to do all types of diets, exercises but in vain.After my pregnancy, despite all my attempts to lose weight, i simply cannot lose it.Most shops in my country do not do large sizes. Its hard to shop, and just like you, as soon as you step in the shop the salesgirl tells you, i am afraid we do not carry your size. please anyone give me some advice. I am relly getting depressed. My clothes do not fit me aanymore...Help

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  18. Hi,
    I like your self confidence. I really feel bad when people give importance to looks and not to the person you are. Even at work people with good looks are given more credit no matter how brainy you are. Since childhood i have been at the healthier side. I went to gym and lost 25kgs..but after pregnancy i weigh more than 100 kgs..you can think, what i am going through. None of my old dresses fit me. I really feel frustrated not by my self but by the looks and comments i get. No worries, i have decided to join back gym and gain my confidence back what i have lost.

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  19. Hi,
    i like your positive attitude..its really refreshing.
    I am a fat Indian..so i get how it is when we go out.Shopping is impossible since there aren't any clothing stores which have plus sizes.Going shopping is like the most dreadful experience.
    The thing that hurts most is when i see my slim friends having such a great time shopping and when they are constantly talking about what they are gonna where. I feel absolutely disconnected from them.
    People in India, especially in today's times consider being fat a disease and fat people are always looked down upon.
    However, reading your blog really gave me new perspective and i think i am gonna be able to accept my body.
    thank u

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  20. Any tourist must respect the culture of the country he/she visits. As an Indian I find publicly kissing or PDA shamefull but am aware that in USA or UK this is socially accepted! Similarly you should also be aware that in India it is considered friendly to worry about someones weight and health.

    By the way, I am also very fat. And whether someone tells me or not I know that normal stores do not keep cloth for me! :)

    So cheer up. Non of them meant to offend you.

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  21. Indians suck!!! seriously this is no way to talk to anyone. I'd never go there :/

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  22. Hi..I am an Indian..I m also fat n have experience all the things tht u did but thats quite common in any part of the world tht ppl staring at fat ppl like us...please dnt disrespect any country for that...I can also say tht u have passed bad comments abt India and so ur country also sucks but i will not becoz as an Indian i know and repect every nation's culture..

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  23. Im indian ..i know the difficulty. im 25 year old im damn obese . india is hell for fat people .they treat u like animal in d zoo . men women kids and even steet dogs stare my boobs..they laugh and they even poke fellow members show them and laugh...then they will see their body which is not miss america size and feel proud...i love western clothes..but ladies who dont wear a stole to cover their upper part mean boobs are withch ..

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  24. Oh i feel sorry, and thankful that you could smile about all of this. I think it is a culture shock for europeans and Americans to come to india and have people just ignore how you will feel, but they comment... Like an irish friend had tanned over a week of holiday at Goa and when she came back a couple of youngsters who we both knew asked her... "you look ill today, you dont look nice... do you want some medicines?" that, after she was feeling fabulous after the sunbathing near the sea... looking fresh and had put on make up in the morning.

    another American friend feels bad everytime my best friends keep making fat jokes about me. Its untrue that indian women are skinny, but they are obsessed about gettiing married, and young indian men dont want to marry fat women. They want skinny fair girls who can be trophies to their urban images. Ha! a daily battle... im sure it happens in other countries too... but i guess being subtle and politically correct is something that is yet to be learnt by indians. they dont mean to insult you... infact i think each one of us thinks we are doing you a favor by telling you how your nose is blunt, and lips are black, and hair is thin, and skin is grey... and provide solutions... we apparently have a remedy for everything but bad manners.

    Sarcasm apart, this country is beautiful and i hope you met some nice welcoming people along the way... By the way - fast women have their very own tailors who can make you a fantastic dresses at half the price of the malls.

    Body Image and body type and self esteem are major issues that a young adult fights daily with, apart from population, corruption and lack of equal opportunities. And i believe right now the country has bigger battles to fight. and the day is yet not in sight when people will be sensitive about these things...

    We have our niceties too... we have the friendliest mean neighbours... and so much color and variety of food...
    hope you enjoyed some of it...

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  25. Correction : Sarcasm apart,.... 'fat' women have their very own....

    I have faced the same situation in india.. where people have pointed and laughed... coz i am fat and love being so... i love to eat, i am full of energy and probably have more stamina than my health conscious friends. And thankfully yet have no disease otherthan cheerfullness.

    My Boyfriend and I both love shopping, so we buy clothes that fit us well, get the rest made... and shop for books and music and more food when the clothing brands run out of the usual boring "fat people clothes" they have as an excuse for plus size clothing...
    Will soon put a blog post up about this... inspired!!!
    :D

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  26. I am an indian too.. and i have got lots of such comments even by my family members and friends... it really hurts..as i study in a BE university one of my lecture came and asked me wear something decent (for a minute i was blank looking at her fucking face).. she asked to cover my fat arms and reminded me of the recent delhi rape case and said that she is just trying to protect me.. i felt like shitting in her mouth ... well its really hard to stay in india with fat filled in you.. but lots of india people are not the same.. they don't have any problem with the way you look... leaving a few dumb heads.. hence this does not bring us to a conclusion that india is rude os sucks its just few illiterates or people with no moral values behave so..

    I got a few casein in germany.. who came to india with some friends... they were staying at my uncles place.. i thought of giving them a surprise meeting them with my brother.. the moment i entered their room they were looking at me as if they have never seen a fat 18 year old girl... after i finished my conversation with them i just stepped out of their room and stood outside speaking to my uncle.. i heard one of them say that she's a elephant same like the one in dumbo(cartoon movie) and everyone laughed.. it was so humiliating for me to listen that when my uncle was right in front of me.. i wished i never had visited them..:( but anyway i shared this part of my life just to tell not just india its in every nation... so please don't create a image that india is rude and please do visit india once.. its filled with adventure and lots and wonderful experiences..

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  27. I am an 'fat' Indian living in India and yeah some of the people i have come across in my life have been very rude to me for me being FAT and yes at times rudely giving me suggestions on how to lose weight but on the other hand not everyone here is like that and actually they do like me just the way i am! which explains to me that only some self-acclaimed doctors and well wishers budge into my body business for no reason at all or maybe just to hurt my feelings and make me feel bad about myself! all the RUDE experiences i have had in my life due to my body have never really affected me anyway as it is my body and my choice and people just say stuff to you in order to make you respond on what they are saying!

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  28. swathi chandrasekarOctober 16, 2013 at 12:18 PM

    hi every body i am an indian and yes i am overweight.i am so sorry for your experiences and i too have had a few bitter ones.

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  29. Indians are hypocritical at times! i'm inspired by ur blog. I always felt GUILTY of being fat until i read the blog! And the whole of the comments around it!

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  30. Fashion is all about intelligent smart dressing. All dresses are not meant to be attired on all occasions. Every special occasion has its own needs and thus requires special clothing. Under current scenario fashionable women love western wear for comfortableness and modernity making them elegant and graceful. Western wear dresses makes you feel trendy and fashionable.

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  31. yeah, I too have faced similar insults

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