Below is a short write up by Kiran Manral, about her journey on Body image issues and how she weaves this reality of life to the characters she births in her books. Time and again, I have mentioend that all of us at some point in time have body image issues, its the true strentgh to recognise that and move ahead coming our victorious. #IAMMORETHANBODY
At the outset, let me confess up front, that my relationship with my body is a fraught one. It began perhaps, in my childhood itself, when I was always pleasantly chubby, but constantly mocked for the being the fat one. Well meaning aunties from the colony would constantly tell me I had to become thin, else no one would marry me, one even standing her really skinny daughter in front of me and telling me to look at her and starve myself to reach her proportions. The poor girl was skeletal. I remember being all of nine at that time, and feisty to boot. ‘She looks like a famine refugee,” I remember retorting back, at the time. Now, in hindsight, I feel terrible for the poor girl who had probably been browbeaten by her hectoring mother as to keep her body weight down, and had been starving herself to do so.
When I was in college, I was proportionate, but rather, errm, full. I hated it. It didn’t help that my lack of height meant that I didn’t rock the statuesque curvaceous by a long shot but had to settle for a honorific cuddly. And so it happened that I decided to get thin. I was around 16, I think. I ate nothing. For months. I dropped weight yes, I also lost my periods, grew facial hair and developed PCOD. I was thin, yes, but I was unwell, and it set into a motion a lifetime of issues with my reproductive system, one that I am still battling at age 47. Do I recommend such drastic weight loss? No. Would I do it again? Never.
Why I am talking about body dysmorphia here? In my latest book, Missing, Presumed Dead, my protagonist, Aisha, wrestles with body image issues, a battle that begins post partum after her second child is born. This is something most new mothers can relate to, how the body suddenly becomes a stranger, and the image staring back at you from the mirror is repulsive. The first time one looks at one’s post partum body comes as a shock that one must be warned about. Thankfully, caring for a newborn then takes up so much of mindspace that more often than not one doesn’t really have much bandwidth left over to think about how one looks. But Post Partum Depression is a real demon, as are body image issues, and dealing with both can take rather a toll on a woman’s sense of self. Sadly, our awareness about these issues and the need for professional counselling is often negligible and most women don’t really get the help they deserve and need at this crucial phase in their lives.
Coupled with the unseemly pressure to get back into shape post partum, acerbated by popular tabloid journalism which elevates women who are back to rake thin within hours of delivery, and scoffing women celebrities who take their time to get back to pre-pregnancy fitness levels, women have to deal with a lot of issues. All I say, is let us be gentler as people. Women birth a human being, that is a miracle enough. Expecting them to look like they had the baby velcroed off them is ridiculous. Let’s allow women the grace of learning to mother at their own pace and look after themselves, body and soul, for the first few months of being a new mother. Let us be nurturing and supportive of them. The body can get back to perfection, the mind, if shredded by judgemental comments on weight gained, will forever see the reflection in the mirror differently, if we don’t. And finally, we need to accept that a woman’s body will change post pregnancy. Her uterus has expanded, her skin has stretched, her breasts will feed. She is not the same woman who conceived the baby. Let us celebrate the beauty of a body that has borne a child for nine months and given birth. After all, is that not a miracle in itself?
(A TEDx speaker, columnist, mentor with Vital Voices Global Mentoring Walk 2017 and festival curator, Kiran Manral published her first book, The Reluctant Detective, in 2011. Since then, she has published eight books across genres till date. Her books include romance and chicklit with Once Upon A Crush, All Aboard, Saving Maya; horror with The Face at the Window and nonfiction with Karmic Kids, A Boy’s Guide to Growing Up and True Love Stories. Her short stories have been published on Juggernaut, in magazines like Verve and Cosmopolitan, and have been part of anthologies like Chicken Soup for the Soul, Have a Safe Journey and Boo.
She was shortlisted for the Femina Women Awards 2017 for Literary Contribution. The Indian Council of UN Relations (ICUNR) supported by the Ministry for Women and Child Development, Government of India, awarded her the International Women’s Day Award 2018 for excellence in the field of writing. Her novella, Saving Maya, was long listed for the Saboteur Awards 2018, UK, supported by the Arts Council England. Two of her books, The Face at the Window and Missing, Presumed Dead, were long listed for the JIO MAMI Word to Screen.
Her latest book Missing, Presumed Dead, can be ordered on Amazon here.)