I was a scrawny child. This adjective truly described me even as I turned into an adult. I was often called Miss Somalia, Kaadi (Marathi for stick), skeleton, carrom board (flat-chested) and football ground among other things. In the little sex education that was available to me, I knew that with puberty, boys became leaner. Girls were to develop ample bosom, rounded bums and small waists. I only had that waist — no hips or no breasts; I felt inadequate. I thought I didn’t have the *one* thing every man wants in a woman.
Around the time there was a song that was out by Coronership, “Everyone wants a bosom for a pillow.” It was thus established that I could never be a pillow. There were nasty comments of varying degrees that I had to put with. Was it just the men who were dismissing my body like I was not even a person? Of course not. My friends weren’t far behind. I remember this rickshaw ride around Pali Hill where one of my friends said, “My nipples are hard! Thank God you won’t have this problem.” I didn’t know how to respond to that. I have had a well meaning relative say, “What will you give your husband? You
don’t have fat in both places.” Silence again.
I thought I was never going to get my periods during my teens. I finally started menstruating at 14. But even after I did, I had the boobage of a 10-year-old boy. And that’s how it was for the most of my life. When I was younger, there were no padded bras or I had not heard of them. But when I learnt about it, I felt like I was cheating if I were to wear one. I could so imagine taking it off, and some smart ass thinking, “Jasa dista tasa nasta.(It’s nothing as they seem!)” The absence of fat on my body made me miserable and insecure and I looked up exercises and diets to grow them boobs but nothing worked. When I got physical with boys, I slept on my sides and never on my back because it meant I wouldn’t appear completely flat. When I bought bras I also checked if they would make me look flat/flattering. I looked at colours that made my breasts look bigger than they were.
Oh I knew I was not a real person! And if I ever had children I would never be able to breastfeed them. How the world viewed me and my body bothered me to no end. I had no accomplishments and my beauty had not even won me the love of a significant other. I felt like quite a failure.
At 35, I finally started to put on weight. I also went abroad and saw that men were walking out of wood work, wanting to compliment me. Every day I went to work, someone would come and tell me, “Schön (beautiful! in German). My flatmate said I was turning Northern Europeans into Mediterranean and Asian men. She said, “These men are not supposed to run after you and they are.” I loved the attention.
Feeling desirable at 35 felt great, I had never known this kind of sexual power. On some days when I felt very glum, I would wear one of my favourite I-will-have-you dress and get out of my house and the compliments never stopped flowing. In Europe a photographer I dated asked if I’d do artistic nudes with him. I agreed. Those are my trump cards, when I want a potential to stand in attention.
When I came back to India after three months, my relationship with my body started to change. I was no more looking at romantic love to come save me.
In the last couple of years, I have a fair amount of body fat on my waist but it doesn’t bother me. Every time I undress in front of a man, I feel very, very powerful. Often I am thinking, “Hey this is what you are getting, what’s your best move?”
I love clothes that have buttons in the front, I love the look in the eyes when they first see my perky breasts. If anyone asked me, how would you like me to draw you, I’d say, “Draw me like your Raja Ravi Varma girls with a little side boob.”