BENGALURU: She looked like a skeleton, no size of clothing fit her. She was all bones, no skin, with eyes popping out. She was even taking measured water. Blood became thick and one couldn’t put in a needle for a test, it wouldn’t go through the skin. It would take forty-five minutes to take out a few drops of blood.’ Tara’s transformation had been brutal, from a vivacious class topper to a girl who weighed barely more than the rustling leaves outside her hospital window.
At thirteen, Tara had been successful at academics and also played for her school’s football team. But jealous seniors in the squad picked on her due to her weight. Tara could have perhaps handled their constant comments were it not for the fact that girls around her were going out on dates, but no boy had asked her out yet. Barely a teen yet in the makebelieve world of adult games, Tara was completely out of her depth and it didn’t take long for her to be convinced that she was indeed plump and that was the reason no boy was interested in her.
The trigger for Tara was a school camp where she was bullied and body-shamed endlessly. She came back almost unrecognizable. Her smile was gone and she would cry for no apparent reason. Tara became a recluse, but even in her solitude the demons were chasing her; she started having frequent nightmares of schoolgirls beating her up. In severe depression, the teenager stopped eating completely and finally collapsed. By the time Tara was rushed to hospital, she had lost 13kg in five months.
A year after the ordeal, Tara’s mother still finds it hard to move on. Although she is back in school, she continues to be in therapy and on medication. But little by little, she has started smiling again.
Shaming as a form of insult and humiliation has done many calendar repeats, but there is something different in the air. For one, it was never this rampant and vicious.
Two, and more crucially, along with drugs and sexual bullying, body shaming too has crossed a line, crushing fledgling souls and their self-esteem. As a society we haven’t walked the middle-ground, and now many of our children don’t know what is ‘normal’. No one taught them to be kind to the boy who has acne, no one communicated that aesthetics is for the unfortunate who refuse to see the different shades of a rainbow. Today so many children are free only on paper, or on Snapchat. Behind the invisible manacles we still don’t do plus sizes, only minus is attractive. Re-defining the lines may not be easy. ‘While the issue of body shaming in the form of bullying was always there, it has become more of a problem today due to the overriding importance given to a slim body shape,’ says psychiatrist Dr Sanjay Chugh.