02/11/2015 12:28 PM IST | Updated 15/07/2016 8:25 AM IST

'You Don't Have To Disappear To Prove You Were There': Celebrating The 'F' Word

Metaphor for anorexia or bulimia eating disorder, apple in front of a mirror
BrianAJackson via Getty Images
Metaphor for anorexia or bulimia eating disorder, apple in front of a mirror

Too many women I know today measure their self-worth by the space between their thighs. "Oh I want to be thin... I need a man, yaar."

I don't really think this is about men. It's about other women. Generally, post 40, the face starts looking haggard with severe fat deprivation -- the woman's soul wants to be in another woman's body. What follows is depression, diets and banal discussion. Some work out, some just suck it out. But either way, the thighs start to get thin, so the dresses get shorter. And the lady thinks she is "in". Soon enough, the face job follows suite and she starts looking like a gargoyle. Society laughs, but she can't hear it. The mirror balks but she can't see it. She has forgotten how to be her own woman. And she is therefore not even half as good as another.

"Silly girl,

How could you believe that less of you somehow meant more?

Started to feel like the rest of you could be left on the floor

Cut away like cloth that began to cling too tight to skin

Each extra inch a sin, each meal dipped in guilt

Silly girl, don't run..."

Meet Sanam Sheriff. Not yet 20, not yet a woman, but far wiser than one. These are words from her now famous poem -- "Two 'F' Words" -- of August 2015. She walked in with her aunt by sheer chance to the Los Angles Poetry Slam and walked away from a gasping seasoned audience with the top honours. I am not surprised. The maturity of her words is astounding and so necessary in this world of low self-esteem and fat farms. This is a young lady so beautiful inside and out, she "sparkles before she speaks." Her words will never leave you once you truly absorb them.

"Beautiful, bellowing, brimming girl

Come however you are

How much ever you are

Your story is not your body..."

Its time for us to listen to our young. Maybe there's a cry in their voices we haven't heard.

When I was Sanam's age, clothes were made for women my size, to make me feel good in them. I wonder why the fashion world has gone through this heartless phase of producing a medium size that fits only someone as thin as a ramp model and the ambitious small size has become an anorexic reality. The desperation to be "model thin" has killed immune systems and made appetite-killing recreational drugs the top sport. We have sick kids today in more ways than one.

I actually knew of a woman who constantly called her daughter "fat" and made her weep her way every day to a work out. So many like her today are sorely ashamed of their well-rounded daughters while they themselves look severely hag-like in their age-inappopriate party frocks. A sari would look a lot better on these women. Our Indian bodies were sculpted for it. I have yet to meet an Indian woman who didn't look beautiful in one. Unfortunately, I have yet to meet a high-society Indian mother today who has encouraged her daughter to wear a sari and look elegant on her 21st birthday. She'd rather get the child to all but kill herself by squeezing into a skinny dress and look "fashionable". Tragic.

Never mind. Fashion is a personal choice and very often has nothing to do with personal style. With non-Indian luxury brands and international shopping binges being the thing now, most women today look like they borrow each other's wardrobes. No individuality. "Less is more" is a term these wannabe fashionistas have seriously misunderstood.

Sanam is a child of a genetically skinny mom. But she's a confident, curvaceous, dimpled young woman, with a sharp mind, highly cultivated sensibilities and a superb sense of humour. Her parents did something very right. Perhaps a young woman just needs the reassurance of knowing that people love her, for being just herself. It might give her more headroom to broaden her aspirations from just being size zero to becoming a hero.

I'd rather have a fat daughter with an EQ than a thin one with a complex.

"Please read the next sentence with care:

You don't have to disappear

To prove you were there".

That's Sanam parting shot. It will ring true in her voice forever.


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