At 5ft 3 inches, or 160 cm, telling tall stories is the nearest I can get to a heightened experience. In fact, on my maiden visit to Amsterdam, I never once managed to catch sight of myself in any mirror. I couldn’t. They were all placed well above my head. I did get to scrutinize a host of midriffs though: they being almost at my eye level. When I came back home and told people my experiences, they laughed and said I was exaggerating. I subsequently read (in a novel, I must admit) that Dutch men and women are the tallest people in the world, with the average height for both sexes topping 6 ft, and felt vindicated.
It now seems that the details were exaggerated, but it’s true that the denizen of the Netherlands actually occupy the Upperlands. A study led by scientists from Imperial College London, which tracked the average height of 18-year-olds in 200 countries between 1914 and 2014, recently confirmed that the average Dutchman, at 183 cm, looms over the world while the women, at 169 cm, are the second tallest. Latvian women come first, at 170 cm. (Note to self: carry a portable stool on any visit to Riga, so as not to repeat the Amsterdam experience.)
Compare this with us Indians. In 2014, the average woman was found to stand at 152 cm, up from 147 cm a century ago (South Korean women grew by 20.2 cm in the same period). But what gives room for pause is the fact that Indian men have grown even less in that time—from 161 cm to 164 cm. Why we Indians are stagnating (unlike fellow Asians, the South Koreans, Iranians and the Chinese) is a question that needs much deliberation, but let’s focus on the male-female angle for now: If Indian women continue growing at a faster clip than the men, will there come a time when they are taller?
They are already significantly better looking, on average. At any middle class gathering, look across to where the men are huddled, and you’ll encounter a sea of pot bellies, hemmed in by thin arms and legs and a sense of style that’s best described as non-existent. Now check out the women. Not only will most of them be reasonably attractive, you’ll be hard-pressed to find one that hasn’t made at least an effort to look good.
Doctors say the urban Indian woman frets about fitness pretty much her entire life. The young were always into grooming; now even older women are careful with what they eat and drink and embrace the idea of exercise. Of course, there are many men who work out regularly and go to the salon for more than a haircut, but the majority still view wellness as a girly pursuit. Yes, they feel a twinge of envy, and perhaps a few pangs of regret, when they watch Salman Khan cavorting with Katrina or Kareena, but the feeling passes faster than you can say samosa. Imagine a scenario where they have to look up to the women too.
Email Shampa Dhar-Kamath at firstname.lastname@example.org