“I love my body and wouldn’t want to change a thing about it said no Indian women ever or perhaps just no women ever and if anyone ever felt good about their body and confident without much or more clothes then it is our sincere duty to slut shame them? Right?” said Riya to her friend Sana while their movie time was interrupted with a fairness cream advertisement followed by a weight reduction pill advertisement. Sana just nodded her head because its been 5 years since she’s been Friends with Riya and she knew watching television with her meant listening to a lot of stuff on morality, feminism and unnecessary blabbering which wouldn’t stop even during or after the movie but this is the thing Sana liked about Riya that she doesn’t do anything just to please people.
‘Okay now I got to go, I have to finish painting my majestic stallion ‘said Riya.
‘Jeez, you’re a final year fine arts students and still keep doing cliché and easy things for your assignment’, said Sana.
‘Honey!, Its art and easy? Remember when you tried to just draw a horse and its face ended up looking like your boyfriend’s d..’
‘Shut up’, said Sana by interrupting Riya and both began laughing.
Riya then got up and bouncily walked towards the door gathering her stuff and opened the doorknob with her long slender fingers. She paused and said “ Okay, ciao, sayonara and goodbye, See you tomorrow evening”.
Riya was a fine arts student. She was like one of those girls who you usually watch walk on the runways, Tall, slender, dark brown hair and a straight face and definitely kept people at bay. While Sana was absolutely different to look she was of medium stature and body, wheat’ish complexion and wore nothing other than her black tights and crop tops. And just like their appearance they were different at thinking and as to how a ‘Rebel’ like Riya and ‘tomboy yet obedient’ like Sana became friends nobody knew.
It was lunchtime in the college and Riya was sitting alone in the cafeteria(as usual) scrolling through memes and listening to music. The people around her stared at her like she wasn’t a homo sapiens at all but Riya was least bothered. The waiter brought her order which was a plate of momos and fruit juice. Riya was drooling and instantly dove in the momos. She had to eat well before working because it was going to be a long session today. While she was eating listening to her indie music her thoughts raced back to the time she could barely tolerate food.
Yes! there was a time when she looked at any food and instantly told how many calories it had in just seconds, she was like a calorie app in human form. Riya wasn’t lean like she is now, in fact, she was an average size woman like most of us and had a group of friends the ones that we call a ‘clique’. They all fantasized about the glamour world. During lunch breaks or free classes, they all discussed fashion trends, modeling opportunities, their new skin care routine etc it was all fun and entertaining until all 4 of them including Riya decided to participate in a Beauty Pageant. Well we all know how competitive Mumbai is and we also know that pageants are so unpredictable but these bunch of girls was really enthusiastic , they all worked out regularly and went on crash diets too but sadly it was only Riya who couldn’t qualify the initial round and she had a mixed state of emotions; she was happy her friends could make it through but was disheartened and wondered why she couldn’t make it. That evening when the girls were having a small party for their victory at the club, Riya was there too. She was just sitting there pretentiously smiling and tried hard to blend in the happy go lucky atmosphere but it she couldn’t do it very well and it was kind of obvious that the qualifying round had somewhere affected her. Akanksha, who was on the other end of the room felt really sorry for Riya and decided to talk to her and make her feel better.
“I know you’re not happy, you don’t have to act like you are … just for us”, said Akanksha as she placed a drink in Riya’s hand.
“I’m obviously happy for you guys, it’s just that I don’t get…. I mean why couldn’t I get through?”
“You know how beauty pageants work, the decisions are sometimes hard to comprehend but I kind of think its because of body type and all, you know what I mean”. Said Akanksha in a hesitant tone while watching others get on the dance floor.
“Umm, what do you mean”? Riya exclaimed in confusion.She knew where it was going but just wasn’t ready to take it.
“I mean I’m not shaming and stuff but it must be because you’re a size six or 8 but in today’s world the industry only wants size two or zero and you also have slightly heavy butt so maybe…… if you work on it you definitely will qualify next year or in some other pageant, for sure. Now come on! let’s dance”, said Akanksha hurriedly completing her sentence so that she could join the rest on the dance floor while not realizing that what she just said had had actually worsened the situation for Riya.
“Yeah you are right I guess, you go ahead I will catch you In a while”, Riya said while choking on her own words. She immediately rushed towards the washroom and her tears couldn’t stay back anymore. Her vision was blurry when she looked at herself in the mirror and it ruined her eyeliner.Yet she stood there looking at how fat she was and how the food was her real enemy. Riya felt guilty about everything right now, for being what they call ‘fat’, for eating a pizza slice and drinking a glass of alcohol, or for just being herself. She instantly wanted every food substance out of her system so that it wouldn’t make her fat. Sobbing uncontrollably she rushed into the nearest stall in the washroom and bent on facing the floor, she put in two fingers in her mouth to try to get that food out of her through vomit. After repeated trials and several death like coughs, she finally managed to vomit it out. Strangely this act made her feel guilt free and better, she felt good to get that toxic substance which people say ‘gives energy’ out of her system. After a while when she had calmed herself a little Riya came out with a firm mind to get rid of all that fat that she had which stopped her from qualifying.
It all began with that one vomit and one decision.
Riya just couldn’t tolerate food anymore she started using calorie apps to know how many calories each food had and decided to just avoid food but she couldn’t do this at home so she ate little of whatever her mom made and then used laxatives to puke it out or lose motion pills. In less than a week the difference in weight started to show but it also resulted in her loosing her confidence and stamina. She was no more the strong opinionated woman instead she was now a self-conscious person who thought everyone talked behind her back and called her fat. It’s strange how or society associates fat with ugly.
Riya also reduced hanging out with her friends mostly because she didn’t have much of stamina to do activities and every moment of social interaction was taking a toll on her insecurity and inferiority complexion. This went on for two and a half months and now Riya after plenty of laxatives and after enough of starving had achieved her ‘size two’ goal but even then she wasn’t happy and instead still felt miserable for some reason. There were times when she looked in the mirror and did not feel herself and she couldn’t stand food these days, it made her feel extremely claustrophobic and nauseated.
Meanwhile, Riya’s parents were worried and did not exactly know how to deal with this. They tried everything they could to figure out the reason for her withdrawal from social life and often eating too. Initially, they thought their daughter is probably going through some personal problems, By now Sana was worried too but had no idea why and how Riya suddenly lost so much weight.
It was Eid and Sana, like every year, invited Riya to her house for ‘Eid ki Biryani’ because Riya loved her mom’s biryani so much that she ate like she’d been hungry for years. Riya obviously couldn’t refuse the offer as Sana had insisted her so much this time. That afternoon It was Sana , Riya and Sana’s little sister on the table. Riya was very anxious and tapped her feet a lot because she had no idea how to escape this. In her mind she had already calculated a number of calories It had and though she wanted to eat she just couldn’t, Riya just couldn’t really stand the site of food and so much of it was so close to her , literally on her plate.
“Sana , there is this movie on Star world that I left in between can we sit in your room and watch it while eating ?”,Riya whispered in Sana’s ear.
“Yeah, no problem , I’ll tell ammi till then you can go ahead “ replied Sana.
“Also, can you please get me some tissues ?”, Riya said while leaving the table taking their plates.
Riya thought maybe as Sana was her best friend she would understand her weight loss technique and it would be okay. So as they both settled to watch the movie, Riya started doing something very unusual she took a spoonful of Biryani, chew it and then instead of swallowing, she spit it in the tissue . Initially, Sana thought she did it because she accidentally ate a cardamom or a clove but then she noticed that Riya was doing this with every bite. Sana was shook and she knew exactly what was happening because she had read about eating disorders in a magazine and now she could understand how Riya had probably lost so much weight. Sana had tears in her eyes watching her friend go through such a dilemma. She just couldn’t take it anymore and decided to confront.
“Riya, what are you doing?”Sana said in a firm voice while muting the television.
“Umm eating I guess, Oh this is a technique to lose weight by eating your favorite food”, said Riya in a hesitant way.
Sana was shocked to the core when she realized Riya wasn’t even aware that this all was actually harming her. She kept her plate down and faced her. She took Riya’s palms in hers and asked her
“Is there something that’s bothering you? You know, this isn’t right? Tell me what is it?”.
Riya as usual denied several time but after a lot of persuasions she just hugged Sana and began crying. It was hard for her to open up but today it was a breakdown moment for her as she had reached the peak of her tolerance. Riya was having self-conflict but she knew she was miserable and today she knew she had reached a stage where she was size zero after terrible two and half months now even though she wanted to eat, her mind and body wasn’t letting her because she trained them to look at food like nothing but enemy. Riya slowly began telling and opening up to Sana and had mental peace after talking to Sana. After listening to Riya , Sana realized that her friend needed something beyond her help, she needed to talk to a counselor.
The very next day Sana spoke to Riya’s parents who were luckily of progressive mentality and didn’t consider counseling a mad man’s game like the rest did. Riya’s parents were supportive enough as they really wanted their daughter to be fine again and look like a human being rather than a walking skeleton.
No matter how hard and complex the situation Riya’s life was, Like any other human being she wasn’t ready to accept that she needed a psychiatrist to deal with this problem. And denied going to one.Finally, Sana promised her that she would accompany her until she was comfortable to go alone.
It was hard in the beginning because the first check-ups include weight measuring. Riya weighed herself every day but never did she dare to look at herself in the mirror because it made her hate herself and feel utterly disoriented. The nurse asked Riya to take her outer clothes off and told her she could turn around if she didn’t want to see herself in the mirror but today Riya refused to look away, she wanted to see herself even if it made her feel insecure or terrible. She stood right there looking at her self, her jaw bones and cheekbones were popping out. Her Ribs were so clear that she could literally count them and her back, arms, legs barely had any flesh left. Tears filled in and began rolling down the cheeks with self-hatred after looking at what she had done; meek and thin like a skeleton. The weighing scale read 37.6kgs. Riya stepped down , wore her clothes and walked out where Sana was there and she simply hugged her. Mrs Patil, Riya’s counselor knew about Riya was going through Anorexia Nervosa but she explained to her in a soothing and motivating way rather than scaring her by saying she has a disorder.
Riya stepped down, wore her clothes and walked out where Sana was there and she simply hugged her. Mrs. Patil, Riya’s counselor, knew about what Riya was going through, Anorexia Nervosa. But she decided to break it down to her in bits and pieces and soothingly placed her hand on Riya’s fingers trying to explain her rather than scaring her away by saying she has a disorder.
Sana and Riya were walking towards the exit after the session when Sana sensed Riya’s tension.
“Don’t worry, We will get through this as quickly as farts exit from your asshole” said Sana patting Riya’s back as she hugged her back.
They both laughed shyly breaking the silence.
The sessions went on for more than 3 months and though it was really hard Riya was slowly recovering and had begun eating a little day by day. Riya’s parents were very happy to see their daughter recover inch by inch, watching her smile made their day and they could understand how hard it was for their darling daughter. Sana, on the other hand, didn’t have to accompany Riya anymore to sessions because now Riya said she felt better when she was with Mrs. Patil, her counselor. Last 5 sessions were left and they were all about loving yourself and making Riya feel confident in her own skin.
One day Mrs.Patil decided to do this in a unique way by arranging a field visit with Riya. She took Riya to her own college. Well, now the word had spread that Riya was seeking the counselor and everyone had been talking and assuming things. The whole scenario was just like Chinese whisper and by now her friends had abandoned her.
‘How long have you been into modeling Riya”, asked Mrs. Patil
‘ Since last year, I participated in few events but I don’t think I wanna do it again”, said Riya in a low voice. This whole Anorexia disorder had made Riya feel like she can’t get into modeling again, Because she was scared of getting on diets again or not caring or becoming fat again. Either way, she had begun to think she just doesn’t have the charm to get back into modeling anymore.
‘Of course, you will, You know you are a piece of Art Riya, you need to see yourself the way an artist does”, said Mrs. Patil as she halted midway before stepping into the classroom. “And now I’m gonna show you how everybody is a piece of art and like they say in Japanese ‘Wabi Sabi-Imperfection is an art’ and a piece of art is nothing but beautiful, dear”.
They both entered a classroom which had round about 5 rows of students, 3 in each, seated with their canvases and art supplies. And right in the in front, the exact center was a curvy woman who was sitting naked looking sideways with her legs sideways folded towards the right while she rested the body on her left arm keeping it straight flaunting her left profile. All the students were painting this lady on their canvases and making sure they don’t miss part of hers and make her look as lively and beautiful as she really was.
This was it. This is where she felt powerful and magnificent like never before. Riya suddenly felt a sudden lifelike energy gush in every vein of hers. She never felt so good about herself or her body and today it felt like not wanting to change a thing about it.
Riya was so overwhelmed that she suddenly had tears in her eyes, she felt horrible for making her body go through so much of pain just because she couldn’t match the society’s standard. Today she truly understood art and the meaning of that proverb which says ’Beauty lies in the eye of the beholder’.
Mrs. Patil gently tapped Riya’s back as she saw her message was reached.
‘Modelling isn’t a bad field, it’s just how you take it. Every person has their own body type and the industry has all kinds of models these days if you’ve observed. You don’t have to try to fit in by starving rather get fitter and try harder. You’ll find the pleasure that you’ve been seeking for.So it is your choice ahead whether you want to get into it again or not.
Riya felt a lot motivated and didn’t want to abandon that field , because that would mean letting the disorder win over her. She decided to pursue it again but along with that she also wanted to spend more time in the nude art figure class.
That evening Sana and Riya met again. And Sana could sense that Riya was finally herself and her long lost friend had returned. They both sat and ate Chinese together, Riya still couldn’t eat a lot but she was eating and that was an achievement for both of them. Riya told Sana and her parents about returning to modeling and pursuing it as a career and both of them were concerned but after a while supportive too.
Riya’s thoughts were interrupted by her cell phone’s message tone and it was time for her to leave for her session. Today was going to be a long day as immediately after this session she had a photo shoot for a magazine too. Riya gathered all her stuff and hurried, she entered the classroom.
All the students were seated in front of their respective canvases and were just preparing to begin.
Riya came out of the dressing room, removed her robe and sat on the dais with legs twisted towards left and chin held high like a fearless phoenix born out of its own ashes.