Tuesday, May 28, 2013

The Thin Line Between Fat and Fit

I used to be fat. Not the pudgy, cute kind. More of the hefty, weirdly over-developed kind of fat. It was a long time ago, maybe when I was thirteen or so. But I went to the kind of school where looks were important. Some of the other girls were growing up to look like models and here I was, going down the hippopotamus lane. Unfortunately, I don't have any pictures of that time, but you can go ask any of my friends! Then- even though it had nothing to do with me wanting to lose weight- I started working out. Running, yoga, jump rope- I tried a lot of things. it became a discipline and after a while, I lost weight.

But here's the thing- when I say 'after a while', it means ABOUT SIX YEARS. Yes, it really can take that long to get down to a healthy weight. And it's not like I'm stick thin now, either, so you know how long somebody's weight loss can take.

Here's another thing- even though I'm healthy now, somewhere inside me, the fat kid lives on.

So there are some things that I have observed regarding people's perceptions towards weight (or the loss of it) and looks. Let me tell you one thing- former fat girls are the best advocates in terms of weight. We know what it's like to be at all kinds of weight. So here are some things I know-

1. First of all, thin people are very happy being thin. If you comment on their weight or tell them they're too skinny, they pretend to be offended because that's the expected reaction. They even pretend that they want to put on weight. Don't fall for any of this. Have you noticed how skinny people are first to comment about fat people (and yes, this is especially true for girls).

Let me explain this to you with an anecdote. I know a girl who's extremely beautiful but also very thin. A lot of people keep telling her that. She has her share of Endura Mass and skims the fat from our milk glasses so she can eat it. Then, a slightly overweight girl joined our group. Guess what? Our Miss Skinny & Pretty was the first to make jokes about her. For example, when Miss Overweight-but-Cute joined a weight-loss program to lose five kilos, Miss Skinny-&-Pretty was the first to joke, "She's just going to lose, like, an inch off her leg or something. How's that even going to make a difference?" There were a lot of such jokes and comments, which is a little surprising because Miss Pretty-&-Skinny is always considered a very sweet girl and nobody expects her to go Mean Girls on anyone.

2. People think that just because someone's fat, you get to have an opinion on their body. Admit it. It's true for anybody. As long as you look okay, nobody gives you a nickname like 'Water Tank' or 'Rhino'. But the moment you're round, it's like every everybody has the right to talk about you and your looks.

3. People love giving advice to their overweight friends. Go to the gym. Eat healthy food. Sleep fewer hours.

Now this one can get a bit dangerous sometimes. I used to know a girl in my old school who (once agai) very beautiful and also quite slim. She had a friend (okay, so it was less 'friend' and more 'minion') who was beginning to put on a bit of weight because she was growing up. So this girl started giving all sorts of really disturbing advice to her friend. She advised her to stop eating lunch! How can you even do that to somebody you call your friend? You're not only risking her health but also making her feel really bad about herself by implying that her weight is a 'problem' that can only be 'solved' by taking extreme measures like skipping lunch.

It can also work the opposite way. Remember Miss Overweight-but-Cute I mentioned before. Her weight loss program included a diet chart which dictated her daily food consumption and also required her to consume only 250g of rice per meal. It was a good diet chart which didn't reduce her daily intake of food as much as it diversified the kinds of food she's consume. The strange thing is that all our typically Bengali friends were accustomed to having buckets of rice for every meal, so they discouraged our pudgy friend and kept telling her to eat more or she'd faint. Okay, first of all, having heaps of rice is unnecessary. You need to have other things (like fruits) in your diet. The surprising part is that I've spent my life ating 250g of rice per meal, and I'm the tallest in the group, so obviously it hasn't affected my growth.

Now listen to me all you Agony Aunts! Nobody has the right to give advice on weight. TO know why, read point 4.

4. People who're thin aren't necessarily living the healthiest lifestyles. It's true. Just because you're thing, doesn't mean the credit for that goes to you. A lot of people don't even know what a healthy lifestyle is and they're still thin. So next time you're giving health advice to anyone, just make sure you know your facts.

5. A lot of people who look thin, aren't actually thin. This is probably the funniest one. People these days dress to look slim, so you never really know who's got a protruding tummy. Plus a lot of people who look great can't run up a flight of stairs, so beauty has nothing to do with fitness either.

7. A model's job is to make you feel bad about yourself. I follow a lot of modeling shows. It doesn't make sense because I'm all feminist and I don't believe in luxury brands or high fashion. But these shows are snappy and dramatic and appropriately un-intellectual. Perfect when you're tired and incapable of intelligent stuff. I'm following Australia's Next Top Model right now. But I'm never going to look the girls on these shows. Seriously, who in the real world looks like this-

See, I'm never going to be this pretty or this thin. A lot of people don't get this. They think it's possible to look like fashion models. The truth models are actually hired to make products look classy and expensive. it's like they're trying to send the message that if you don't look or act a certain way, you don't get to buy the product. This is especially true for luxury goods. So don't fee bad you don't have the body of a celebrity.

I know this comes across as a very girlie post, but a lot of people are actually struggling with their weights right now. So try to be nice to them. And it's not so much about looking great as it is about being fit. So be healthy even if you're not skinny.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Forgotten Little Old Things-1

Remember typewriters? If you're less than fifteen years old, you're probably not even sure about what typewriters look like. But people didn't always have laptops and iPads. There was a time when if you wanted to have a 'typed' document, you had to use a typewriter. Typing on a typewriter took considerably more time than on laptops, was cumbersome, didn't give a variety of fonts and even getting used to or even training. But it served the purpose. But now you rarely even see them anymore. It's like old things go away and new things come about, and nobody even pays attention to the change. Thinking about this made me think about a lot of things that were indispensable less than twenty years ago, but are pretty much forgotten about now. So, I started taking photographs of such things as a way of remembering them. Who knows? By the time I'm thirty, these things may not even be around to take pictures of.

Following are some photographs from my collection. All the pictures were taken by me and are not downloaded from any website. I really had to look for some of these things, because they are just so hard to find these days. I'll upload more pictures when I have more.

The Letterbox
Remember when we wrote on postcards to tell our grandparents we're fine? And then we'd walk to the closest letterbox and put our letter through the slot. And now? Letterboxes like these can still be seen, but nobody ever pays any attention to them because letter-writing is now a lost art (hey, even emails are losing out to Facebook, so what do you expect?) When I was a kid, I'd beg for permission to put the letter through the slot, kind of like a lot of kids beg for permission to push elevator buttons. It seemed like such a big deal at the time. I always got confused about the what the colors of the boxes stood for. These pictures were taken in front of Jadavpur Police Station (near Jadavpur University, Kolkata which I attend). Look at the picture on the right. The writing says 'Kolkata 700032, For All Letters In Kolkata City'. Can you imagine that? There was a time not too long ago when people used to write letters to send messages to people living within their own cities!

The picture below shows the four different colors of letterboxes in India:

Manually Pulled Rickshaws and Ambassadors
I took this picture in Maniktala, Kolkata. Manually pulled rickshaws are slowly disappearing from the city, despite being extensively common in the past. Some people support this decision as these rickshaws put a lot of strain on the puller's body and may cause lung problems to them. It's time to start documenting these rickshaws as they may soon disappear altogether.

The Ambassador (see the white car in background) is a car we've all seen. They're bulky, bulbous and exude an old world charm that is uniquely Indian despite the British origin of the car. I mean, when yopu think about Indian politics, you have to think about the Ambassador because it's the car in which all politicians drive around inThey're most common in and around Kolkata as they are manufactured in Uttarpara. This is one car that just won't die because it's been around since the 50s, but they are becoming a rarer sight day by day. In fact, Sale of Ambassador taxis had been banned since April 1, 2011. In an age where sleekness, noiseless interiors and dark colors are the 'in' things, Ambassadors are losing out to competition and I wonder if we're saying goodbye to the big white car that's fondly called 'The King of Indian Roads'.

The Black-and-White TV
We had a black-and-white TV when I was a kid. It was tiny and needed to be 'tuned' by rotating knobs placed just under the screen. There was no remote and since I was the youngest, I was often asked to get up and change the channel/ turn the volume up or down. We only got two channels- DD1 and DD2. Black-and-white TVs are symbolic of entertainment in the later half of the last century. It is extremely hard to find one today! That's why I was so surprised when I came across one in a small tea shop in Jadavpur, Kolkata. The owner was kind enough to let me take pictures (even though I ordered nothing and don't even drink tea). He even posed while 'tuning' the TV and said he only uses this TV to watch cricket matches and has a color TV at home.

Okay, so these are a bit before our time and that's exactly why they're such a novelty. I took this picture of my grandfather's record collection. There's just one song on each record. My grandfather's house even has a gramophone we could play these records on, be we lost the pin. See, one of the problems with keeping old things is that it's very hard to get parts for them, so if you lose or damage just one part, the whole device becomes useless.
Compare these records to the mp3 files we download to our phones and computers these days. We can have thousands of songs stored in a tiny chip. To think there was a time when you could have just one song on one record that was played on a huge gramophone!

There are still some things that I want to take pictures of, so I'll be back with a part 2 for this post. Meanwhile, if you have any interesting forgotten things to talk about, tell me about them in the comments.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Mumbai Architecture

A lot of people who read my blog don't know that I'm an architecture student. Being an architecture student changes your life, I think, because all of a sudden you start looking at things differently. For example, I've lived in Mumbai for five years but there were a lot of buildings and structures I never noticed before. So, this time (since I'm back home for summer vacation), I decided to take some pictures of some things I had seen before but never really noticed because I wasn't into architecture.

This picture was taken at Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus, one of the busiest stations in the country. It's an example of Indo-Saracenic architecture.

 This is the ceiling of the ticket counter of Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus. Most people don't know that this part of the station is called Star Chamber. If you notice, the ceiling has a pattern of stars on a blue background and hence the name. This picture shows the ribbed vault, which is actually a characteristic of Gothic Architecture, but is also seen in other forms of architecture.

 These photose were taken at a Parsi fire temple in Fort. The winged bull seen in these pictures is a characteristic of Mesopotamian architecture and is often seen guarding entrances of Parsi temples.


An Indo-Saracenic building in Colaba. Indo Saracenic architecture has the following characteristics-
most of which can be seen in the picture above. This building now serves as a supermarket (like Big Bazaar or Walmart).

Sunday, May 12, 2013

When Do We Know We're All Grown Up?

A girl I know is way into student politics. She's at all the rallies and protests. Her mom lets her stay alone in her apartment, but her mom has no idea about the parties she throws. I think it's commendable that she parties so hard and then shows up in college the next day looking, well, normal. You would think this girl is so grown up, right? I mean, she has political opinions, she lives alone and she knows how to cover up a good party. But recently, something happened that made me think maybe she's not all that grown up after all. She as late in submitting an assignment and had her dad call up our teacher. Now, you would expect a grown up girl to handle such a problem by herself without having her father intervene, but that wasn't the case.

The thing is we're all still young. We think we know so much about ourselves and the world, but we all still have a lot of growing up to do. We think how we feel at the moment is what we're going to feel for the rest of our lives, but as any middle-aged person and they'll tell you whatever they thought would happen never ended up happening. For example, the girl you loved when you were twenty turned out to be the wrong girl. The movies you liked at twenty-one started seeming silly at thirty. We rarely ever know what will be good for us in the long run. And that's how we know we're not yet grown up.

And how do we know when we are grown up? It's when we start seeing the bigger picture. It's when we start thinking what would be good for us in the long run instead of being reckless and making the wrog decisions impulsively. Now, when I say 'grown up', I don't mean 'old'. Growing up is never the same as 'aging', because it's good and I think it actually makes people happy. So stop trying to grow old and start trying to grow up. Who knows? Maybe it will help you stay young for a little bit longer.