Ira woke up to the deafening alarm on her smartphone only to switch it off and go back to slumber. She was in no mood to wake up to the ugly world yet another day. Her dreams fulfilled all her fantasies – the tame and wild alike with equal aplomb. She was tired of putting on a brave front masking her true feelings of grief, disillusionment, extreme fear and anxiety of what the future holds.
It was close to noon and Ira couldn´t sleep any longer however much she tried. There was no point defying Mother Nature anymore as she had her own silent way of getting anyone back on track and obeying her commands.
But today was different. She was different. She didn´t know what it was and how it would all turn out. But, she instinctively knew that life wasn´t going to be the same again.
Depression had reached its lowest ebbs and couldn´t go any further down. Ira came frighteningly close to suicide twice but the sweet images of her parents stopped her.
After breakfast, she pondered in quiet reflection and decided to go ahead with her new plan. She quickly typed her resignation letter, checked it for any errors before hitting the ´Send´ button. She felt the first noose of rope loosen around her neck and she was already breathing easy. This was something that she had been contemplating for a long time. Her recent promotion and salary raise gave her the much needed impetus to break free from the corporate mould and allow herself the joy of nothingness for a while.
Her next target was her dreaded weighing scales as she kissed it goodbye by trashing it into the dustbin. She was no longer going to let these numbers control her life anymore.
Next, she logged into all her matrimonial site profiles and hit the ´Delete´ button mercilessly. ´Their freaking loss!´, she muttered. She was not done yet. Finally, she did what she should have done a long time ago.
She joined Tinder.
´Poor Ira! She has everything that a guy would want in a girl. Flawless white porcelain skin, gorgeous smile, highly educated, intelligent, great family background and wonderful personality. Except if she weren´t so obese!´, lamented Sashi aunty.
While Ira was everyone´s darling from little children to the old folks, she was reminded of her obesity right from the early days of high school. Constantly put on diets by an anxious mother and ridiculed at home by her younger brother, Ira´s childhood was forever marred with feelings of inadequacy, shame and ugliness.She was the fat ugly sheep in a family that was genetically blessed with Indian god and goddess like members.
Adolescence was a traumatic experience for Ira. While girls her age were busy losing their virginity, Ira´s mom was constantly worrying about protecting her daughter´s hymen and getting her to shed her ever piling pounds.
Ira´s frantic mother had taken her to countless dieticians and nutritionists over the years. But, it only pushed her confidence levels further down and made her feel even more worthless than before. While the doctors doled out advice and prescription, it was also true that they lacked any perceptual insight and empathy about the lone struggle that she was going through. No one seemed to understand her. Not even her well-meaning parents, family and closest friends!
´Try the Atkins diet, na! You will lose weight, pakka! I swear! It worked on me like magic´, said Rukhsana cupping her firmly toned apple bottom bootie with great pride.
´Why does she eat so much? Doesn´t she look at herself in the mirror every morning? Disgusting, yaar! How can anyone be so careless about one´s own health?’ remarked Pooja, her catty former ´Miss. Gurgaon´ colleague.
´Oh my god! What did I just see? I stand scarred for life. How can your friend be dancing LIKE THAT to ´Babydoll´? Does she not see how vulgar she looks with all that fat jiggling around? Totally shameless!’, said her BFF´s mother.
Assumptions…assumptions…everywhere Ira went! When would the judgements stop? Did´nt any of these so-called educated people understand that she only had to breathe in air and she would puff up like a whale? Her dietary habits had nothing to do with her obesity. She was obese because of her medical conditions. She was on four heavy medications that she had to consume daily to battle obesity and to make matters worse, she had to also gulp people´s morbid stupidity. Were they blind to all her attempts to a healthy lifestyle? Ira´s battle with obesity was strenuous not just on her mind but even more particularly on her body as she groaned every night in pain with aches. For the longest time, people´s stares at the gym hurt her more than all her body aches combined. She realized that her battles were her own and she was the lone warrior.
She almost made a colossal blunder once before better sense prevailed her. There was this match which came out of nowhere for her. Their horoscopes perfectly matched as did the caste and family backgrounds. The guy was decent looking but earned much lesser than her. From his talk, he didn´t seem to match up to her grey matter as well. Ira was ready to look past all that and settle down with him as advised by the elders of her family. Until he remarked,
´I am not attracted to your body. But, my parents are happy with this match and their happiness is mine.´, he quietly murmured, the words almost disappearing into thin air.
She was done with him. She told her parents who were livid with her for calling off such a good match and blamed her arrogance.
´I cannot marry a man who doesn’t accept me the way I am. I am ready to accept him. How is it arrogance to expect the same in return?´, she reasoned to no avail.
It was also the day that she decided to move out of her parent´s home and find her own accommodation. She was in her mid 30s and all her friends were married with children which made her situation even more depressing. She couldn´t find peace at work either as her inner world was crumbling.
She logged into Tinder, created her profile and uploaded a few photos. It was a slow start of course! Who would want to date an obese woman when they could have a bikini frame 20 something? But, to her surprise, she had takers. More than she had ever imagined!
The men that she dated were handsome and successful. They were either married or divorced with no intention of getting married ever again. Ira was relieved for this ´no strings attached´ arrangement because she was not mentally stable to make any lifetime commitment decisions of her own. At least not as yet! Emotionally, she was happy and felt lighter. Listening to the men that she dated on Tinder bare their hearts open about their failed marriage made her gain a whole new perspective on men, love and relationships. She found herself questioning what was right and wrong anymore.
She remembered her first sexual encounter on Tinder. Sanjay was quite aggressive in his flirtations. He came onto her quite strongly one night on their cab back home but she pulled away from him. He was confused and wondered what was her problem. She said she needed more time. After a couple of weeks, Ira sheepishly admitted to Sanjay that she was a virgin and scared. Sanjay was shocked to learn that Ira was still a virgin and was only pleased to show her the gateways to Heaven that night and the nights after. Ira had the best orgasm ever thanks to Sanjay who made love to her like she were his Queen. She wondered why she waited so long to experience something that was so Nirvana-like beautiful.
She dated four guys in a year via Tinder. Of course, these relationships had no future whatsoever but this was the therapy that she exactly needed at that point of time. She knew what she was getting into and all her relationships were honest and authentic. There was no image to protect and no body to hide from the stark judgement of the world. She was surprised that men loved her body.
´What´s wrong with your body? You´re perfect like everyone else. Don´t change for anyone. If you are cool with yourself, that´s all matters. F/&% the world!´, said Dhruv as lighted up his cigar.
These men doubled up as her shrinks as well in a twisted irony of fate. Ira laughed and agreed with him.
Yes, she fell in love with some of these men that she dated and she detested some of them as well. But on the whole, she was grateful for every experience. Because in the midst of all these Tinder sexapades, she had learnt to love herself.
That Eureka moment happened when she was lying in bed with Jitin. After a lazy afternoon of lovemaking, Jitin told her:
´I love fat women like you. Can´t stand these skinny bitches.´
That´s when it hit her. Everyone is body shamed. Not just particularly her. She found his remark regressive. It wasn´t just about fat or skinny bitches anymore. It was about people´s inability to look beyond the body in general. The fact that Jitin loved her only because she had a fat body was demeaning. She was way more than her body. And so are those skinny bitches that he referred to.
´Didn´t Jitin, like the rest of them see her mind, heart and soul too?´
She remembered Pinky, her Marwari colleague in her last organisation. Pinky was older to her and immensely skinny. Pinky was thin shamed all her life and like her, was still a spinster. Pinky and she were at the two extreme ends of the same boat, waging the same war against body shaming.
Had it not been for Tinder, she would have never found her physical as well as spiritual G-Spot. There was nothing wrong with her in the first place. It was the people around her who had no sense or empathy. She was not going to let them affect her peace or change for anyone anymore. She was still going to exercise and eat right but only for her good health. Not to please a man!
´What if I lose weight now and gain it all back after marriage for some reason? Would the man still accept and love my fat version?´, she reasoned with her mother.
That year saw Ira travel like there was no tomorrow. With no tight work schedules, she explored all her dream destinations around the world, tried new cuisines, met new people and grew in perspective.
Subsequently, Ira closed her Tinder account. She didn´t need the therapy anymore. She was healed forever. Besides, she was confident now to find her own match offline.
But what she did need was a daily dose of inspiring blogs by Maria Odugba, Ashley Graham, girlwithcurves.com and the likes. Not to forget, her daily fun ritual comprising silly selfies.
Some of her Tinder contacts were still in touch with her but there were no longer in a relationship. Last heard, Sanjay was dating a Britisher. ´Good for them´, she thought.
Ira was now back on the job market looking for an exciting opportunity. It was not just a good break but also a much-needed one. At least, she started living….On the edge perhaps! Nonetheless, living it up! She was no longer the zombie, the walking dead that she had been all these years! Plus, she was relieved that her nightmares of dying of a virgin were not going to come true.
So, Would Ira succumb to depression again on facing the world and its ugly comments again?