Window shopping at the Mall, last weekend, I made a very happy discovery. A special section of a lifestyle store selling clothes labelled ” Plus”, “More” , Double-Sundae” etc. How wonderful to be acknowledged as a valid, legal entity at last ! Tees, Kurtis, Ponchos, jackets, trousers, even tank-tops and footwear – just the idea of such loot being made available for generously built women today made me want to dance and throw roses at the market researchers.
At birth, I was standard issue. But within a year I had grown too big for my booties. I don’t know what herbs my doting grandma poured into my gullet, but by the time I was in class 3, I was sentenced to The Back Bench for life. Last seat in the classroom. Last row in assembly and PT Drills. The drummer bringing up the rear of the school band. Poor parents tiredly repeating “No she didn’t fail “. Sudden smiles from strangers. All because I stood apart. A good head taller than my classmates.
During Xmas, the nuns got up the most lovely, greeting-card perfect productions based on the Nativity theme. I longed to be Mother Mary or a Fairy . But no ! Wasn’t petite enough. Always had to be one of the Three Kings, itching under a woolly beard or a hooded shepherd glued to the background scenery.
Only NCC respected my height. On the Parade Ground, I could straighten my unconscious stoop, stand tall(er) in heeled boots, ahead of my Squad. In the front for once!
NCC was one thing. Pavadai-Thavanied mingling in a wedding was another. Let me put it this way. At social dos, people looked up to me ! Proud ? Naah ! Felt like a freak ? No, no. Nothing so melodramatic. But I know what it is like to be made to feel “unusual”. Unusual , not as in a long “ooh!”, but as in a short “oh!”
The only thing dainty about me was my Father’s name for me: Manjukutty ! If paternal love was selectively blind, Maternal exasperation used magnifying glasses. When aggravated, Mother used wonderfully picturesque similies: Kokku, Ottadaikucchi, Nayakar-Mahal Thoon.
In a family whose members were decent enough to attain just the gender averages in height, why one aberration? The gene probably came from a great grand Aunt always refered to as Tallerthanhusbandgowri. Married at 8 to a gangly youth of 15, Gowri, upon puberty, had shot up like the proverbial Peerku while the boy, unfortunately, registered no upward mobility at all. All said and done, they did have a long and happy married life in the early 1900s, never seen positioned together , in public, ever.
I fared better than Gowri. At 5 feet 11 inches, my husband is three inches taller than me, but it hardly shows .He being tall and trim , looked like “The Average Man”. I being tall and slim looked like “The Average Flagpost”.
My slim look did not last long. Within a year, marital bliss started showing up as cellulite on my XL bone frame. Alarmed, I went gymming. Being too tall is ok, but I wasn’t too keen on a “Big-Fat” tag. But gymming had to be abandoned when the trainer, instead of giving me a regimen designed for Sripriya, put me through a Sharon Stone workout. Result : Instead of flab melting, the mass “toned”. For 2500 rupees I had got myself biceps and broader shoulders. Big, bobbed and biceped. I really looked like “John Abraham in drag”, as Vidya would say!
Which drags me into the matter of suitable attire. As a child I always wore frocks made for girls two years older than me. As an adult, I had to make do with severely limited choice in readymades. A tailor in a cubbyhole became my chief dress supplier ,though there were only this many design ideas the dear Sattar Sahib could cope with.
I have always wanted to build a temple to the inventor of Sarees, my saviour!
The less recalled about footwear woes the better. By class 9 I needeed size 8.5 and had to abandon all dreams of becoming Imelda Marcos Jr. Kolhapuris, Hawaiis and the Flat-Black-V strap slipper were all I could own. High heels? what’s that ?
Back to window shopping at the mall and XXL clothes.I don’t stick out in the crowd now. There are at least 5 (younger) women at my eye level. Girls today are generally tall, erect and not all are slim and svelte either. No one stoops , because people seem to have stopped using my mother’s similies. Our Miss Indias make good height a desirable goal . Garment Retailers are stocking on sizes beyond L . Fancy feminine footwear are available upto size 10! Mothers are seen furiously feeding Complan, Horlicks, Boost etc to all their kids, so that the daughters too grow taller, stronger, smarter.
How lovely ! “Tall”, “Big” and “XL” are no longer “Unusual”! Emang, Omang, Jabang to that!