Fatphobia runs deep in the veins of the Indian population. From neighbourhood aunties commenting on your body as you strut down your own alley to family members taunting your weight loss/gain, it is safe to say that every second person in the country is a trigger for body dysmorphia. The worst offenders? Those who pretend to care about your health and well being, when in reality they're uncomfortable with anybody who challenges their societal confine of ideal beauty. It’s not about you, it’s about them.
Recently Miss Universe Harnaaz Kaur Sandhu was a victim of this phenomenon. As she returned to the country after a historic win to walk the ramps of Lakme Fashion Week, citizens were quick to belittle her triumph and point out her weight gain.
During an event, Sandhu revealed that she is suffering from Celiac disease, an autoimmune disorder, in which a person's immune system works against the body. Celiac disease can lead to both weight gain as well as weight loss and is also associated with long-term, detrimental digestive problems.
The incessant body shaming the model and actor fell prey to is indicative of a much larger problem in our society, one that many of us undergo in our mundane lives. Sandhu is arguably gorgeous. She won the crown in a groundbreaking victory! She received wide applause from people nationwide, quite possibly the same ones who are trolling her now. As soon as she gained weight she was quickly dethroned from the pedestal of beauty our country put her on due to the larger socio-cultural problem that plagues our population. In our society, the words "fat" and "pretty" are not mutually exclusive - and that's where the problem lies. The word has a negative connotation attached to it that often translates to "unattractive" and "unhealthy." A conventionally "thin" person wouldn't bear half the wrath of unsolicited advice their "fat" counterparts would.The societal fat-shaming rests on deceptive grounds and manipulated data that leads to the unwarranted seclusion of diverse bodies, discrimination and mental trauma. This needs to change.
In our society, the words "fat" and "pretty" are not mutually exclusive - and that's where the problem lies.
As the world continues to move in a positive direction, embracing ideas of body positivity and self-acceptance, India falls behind. However, icons like Harnaaz Kaur Sandhu and the unapologetic affirmation of their individual bodies and lack of desire to change according to a mainstream standard, give us hope and inspiration. Refusing to bow down to her trolls, in an interview with Etimes she said, "It's important to remember how we treat people on a daily basis on the way they look. We don't need to feel sorry for them, and no one needs to feel sorry for me, because I am strong enough to take those opinions and ignore them. But there are so many people who are sensitive to such things and they can end up feeling bullied. It doesn't matter if they are Miss Universe or not. You need to respect everyone for who they are. Your name and your soul are attached to each other and you should be happy and eternally grateful to God for giving you an incredible body. So just love yourself."
However, icons like Harnaaz Kaur Sandhu and the unapologetic affirmation of their individual bodies and lack of desire to change according to a mainstream standard, give us hope and inspiration.
I want to end this article by saying, all bodies are beautiful bodies, no matter what society tells you!