Thursday, April 05, 2007

"Heights" Of Frustration.

I was looking at my school pictures, the ones that almost belonged to a different era. Once a year, we came to school prim and proper, looking our best and our shoes shining, when we would be queued up and a pot-bellied man from Sharda Studios would take our class pics. I noticed that in all these pictures, I always stood somewhere at the back, my smiling face making every effort to pop out somewhere in between other faces. Why was it that in every pic, I was either lurking at the back with my face barely visible, or crouched low on the ground in front of the others as if I did not matter?

I guess you get my drift of thoughts. I have always been among the top 3 tall girls in class. In college, I was actually in the top 2. And let me tell you that though many girls I know would gladly exchange their high-heeled shoes to get my height, being tall is not always that cool. Okay, now I don't have the gigantic height the “Susmitas” and the “Bipashas” can boast of, but I guess standing roughly 165 cm tall is not so bad in my part of the world. Or maybe it is.

In school, I never belonged to the group of elite or petite girls who acted all coy while the boys dreamed of them and wooed them. Till middle school, most boys in my class were shorter than me, barring the ones who took gymnastic lessons or older boys who failed and repeated classes. I guess most guys considered me "one of them", since they never showed any interest in me except when pairing up for science quizzes. 

Being tall ensured that I was always pushed to the hinterlands of the group because it is the privileged short girls who were allowed to stand at the center. In most pics, my head would be popping out of nowhere or I'd be sitting on my knees with a dozen hands making a V behind my head. While working in labs, I would help get the reagent bottles off the top shelves, put them back again, and climbed stools if need be. If you had a fantasy for dating tall men, almost 70% of the men you met would be eliminated off your list immediately, unless you were in Scandinavia.

I am not just tall, but large-footed too. Until puberty, and sometime even after that, I outgrew my shoes every six months. Bata soon stopped stocking my size of footwear. Even today, barring flip slops and running shoes, most shoes for girls do not fit me. Nor does all those tank tops and tube tops marked S, M, or even L. Anyone could mistake my feet for a man's feet, sans the hair. My palms are larger than most girls', and no amount of manicure or nail polish would make them look pretty.

I wore my dad's shoes and tee-shirts through most of my teens (also because those hormonal changes were making me go through some identity crises). I am the tallest woman in my family, and nothing they buy for themselves (except saris) fits me. Three more inches, and I'd be my dad's height.

Things weren't this way always. But when in my teens, my mom bought me a skipping rope, and I had to jump everyday. Jump, jump, jump, and soon, I was growing by inches every month. There is a "Wall of Fame" at home where everyone's height is marked and dates every few months. Dad would hold a scale by my head and note down my height with a pencil. 

I have heard weird questions like, “Don't you find the ground far away when you look down?” Or, “How will you find a Bengali guy?”, and “Did you ever plan to join the armed forces?” 

How can I forget my misery during dancing/cultural events when I would always have to dress and act the part of a boy? While the shorter girls would look pretty in their frilly frocks and lipstick and rouge, I was always wearing shirts and trousers and ties in dance events. While the girls wore colorful sarees as they danced to Marathi songs, I tried to look happy in my dhoti and gamcha on my head. The taller ones were always paired as men with the shorter ones, and soon, I gave up participating in dance events just because I was tired of dressing and dancing and acting like a guy. I was tired of the black painted mustaches and beards. I wanted to dance wearing flowers and garlands and lipstick.

Of course I always got the upper berth in trains. And got to lead my group in the Independence Day parades, holding the flag. I got to be the confidante of guys in school who considered me closer to them than the other girls. All said and done, I'd rather be tall than short. 

Things changed when I moved to the US. Suddenly, most people were taller than I am. No more did I stand in a class group photo as the tallest girl. There have been times when I've stared at a girl a little longer than necessary, trying to debate if she was 5'10” or more. And the last time I went to buy a pair of track pants, no more did I have to grope for the XXL, XL, or L. The M fitted me fine, and with a little bit of effort, who knows, I might even be able to go for the S. 

No matter what, frilly frocks or no frocks, high-heeled shoes or no shoes, petite looks or no looks, and tall boy friends or no boy friends, I am proud to be who I am. I am not sure I would feel the same way though if I was born as Rani Mukherjee.

sunshine.

14 comments:

Anonymous said...

ur hands r like man...ur ugly

Rahul said...

hi didi,
nice post... not that i needed to mention.... even your casual musings are worth the delightful anxiety with which I begin every day hoping to be informed of a new post by my google homepage... and , my dad had the exact same habit of marking the heights of everyone in the family on a wall and putting the date beside it....:)

Stone said...

hmm..yeh kuch boring post nahi hogayee? No?

NC said...

I am a regular reader of your blog, but today I HAD TO COmment. I am 5.7 so I can totally relate with you. HOwever after coming to US the comments are still coming for me, things like "YOu are the tallest Indian girl I have ever met"
"You are the only non-engineer indian I know in Silicon Valley" and so on.BUt its ok, I am fine :)

justme said...

lucky you! Hope you reach new heights everyday :) (pun unintended intended !)

Anonymous said...

there was a time when I enjoyed reading you. the letters were fused with dreams, aspirations, pride for achievements and sense of loss too- very much human; that can touch any soul which still know how to care. I enjoyed simply reading the story of a girl and actually not getting involved by posting comments. why i am getting the feeling that your post are recently becoming more like a products of need- a need to write like a regular columnist who gets paid for every sunday edition. I miss the humor that is distinctive to you. I hope I a not putting a rein on your creativity.

-blissfullysmug

Anonymous said...

I agree with the above statement sunshine !

I hope you do not write just because of the "need" to write to a large audience.

That aside - I went through some posts in your archives and they are just brilliant !

sunshine said...

For people who didn't enjoy this post- I keep experimenting with all kinds of writing. And just like cooking where you might put the same ingredients everyday and yet the food might not be that good somedays, I guess what I write always doesn't have the same flavors for everyone. However, I'll try doing better in future. And thanx everyone for your valuable feedback.

sunshine said...

first anonymous comment- how about learning some good manners for a change, especially in a public domain?

Invincible said...

i was observin de link of ths blog in almost every nxt blog...so i thot to 'av a look... nice description...

abhinav said...

hey i can understand ur situation pretty well..

till around class 7/8 i was the shortest (or among the 5 shortest) guys in my class. As a result, most of the class fotos would be having me sitting right next to the teacher! and we would rightfully fight to stand in the front for the assembly!

The Priestess said...

5'8" and in the northern part of the country. still no luck! and i am my dad's height. could identify with all u said :)

Anonymous said...

lol ... that was indeed a cool topic ...
i had this batchmate 6'5" tall looking even taller with his turban on ... autorikshaw's stopped on their way to ask his height ... the funniest scene for audience was when he had to wear shorts for the volley ball matches ...
btw i think u can either be 165 cm or 5'6" ...

ME !!! ...

manjari said...

Hi, had to comment on this one...I am almost 5'7 and could so relate to things you have mentioned, once I joined Salsa classes and left in the middle as i was tired of doing guy's steps because I was always paired against girls, and comments like..."oh my god!you are so tall", as if I don't know that I am tall...and worse of the things I have ever heard is U don't look 23..why??? oh you are so tall na, u look older than that as if age and height are directly proportional......hehehe I can go on and on about it!!!