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Fatglam: Shuchi Singh Kalra on the move


Once, she wore a baby bump crooning a new tune on the cusp of her lip. It’s her swan song, singing nonchalantly,’ I Am Big So What?!’  to make dancing souls fall in love. Hey, she got the look, attitudes and drool over words with no interruption like the monsoon shower in a swashbuckling act. Never too cagey to speak, Shuchi Singh Kalra doesn’t mince word for she has a knack for spicy conversation like spluttering hot samosas.

It was a bright and windy Sunday. Excited and thrilled I was! I gotta a Facebook interview date with her. The first ever interview we had on social media post the email conversation we had way back in 2014, a tongue-in-cheek interview on my space.

Nah! I am Not Done With her. What happens when you have a wacky interviewer like me meeting the uber talented, graceful, charming, word-savvy and glamorous writer! Words and words as if the world gonna crash. No! Ladies! I am Big So What?! (IBSW) Shuchi Singh Kalra tells you why you shouldn’t be ashamed of your bodies, never mind pervs making a beeline to make you feel terrible.

Shuchi Singh Kalra at the book launch of 'I Am Big So What?!
Shuchi Singh Kalra at the book launch of ‘I Am Big So What?!

Appearance can be misleading. If you think I Am Big So What?! will take you on disguised self-help journey on how to quash the fatty acid, think again!! It’s all about being comfortable in who and what you are in an age where Size zero is the norm of the day in the eyes of wisdom dispensers, ever ready to spit unwanted advice to the world.

Shuchi Singh Kalra who won and wooed hearts with ‘Done with Men’ spills the beans, “IBSW is also a rom-com but I wanted to write about a unique and distinct character, something nobody thought of putting to paper.” Like a tale of spiffy pop and style in town, Shuchi garnishes her words with unbridled passion leashing out.  “I believe plus-sized girls are severely under presented in India and that you can add much more depth and layers to a story if you explore the mind and life of someone who isn’t your regular girl next door,” she says.

The author whips out: “I wasn’t out to explore a particular theme or make a point when I started writing the book-it was weaved on its own. In fact, I didn’t realize a theme existed until the editors and readers drew the curtain. From my end, I was writing a rom-com centred on a fat heroine.”

Her earlier venture ‘Done with Men’ (DWM) was one tickling the readers’ funny bones to no end with riotous one-liners. Shuchi promises lots of fun with IBSW and her fans can expect mega banger quotient in this fantastic journey in the life of her character, Roli. She promises: “Yes, there will be humor, one-liners, sarcasm and comic situation. But, at the same time, there will be moments of pain, anger, hurt and self-discovery. DWM was meant to be a fun weekend read, while this one has more layers and depth.”

Film and Television celebrity at a book reading session.
Film and Television celebrity, Delnaaz Irani at a book reading session.

We live in a spectre of human prejudice where fat is regarded as evil and unbeautiful, making us feel shitty about existence. Shuchi Singh Kalra has sketched Roli, a girl comfortable in her skin and at the same time, she addresses the gutsy topic of body shaming.

She explains: “People are ashamed for a variety of reasons-being fat is just one of them. Anybody who doesn’t fit into the stereotypical standards of beauty set by society is often made to feel under confident or inadequate.”

It can be anything, Shuchi says. The skin color, height or size of the breasts, she makes the point. “Roli is a large girl and she is not that way because of laziness or glutton. It’s just the way she is, right from the beginning.” A relatable character ensconced in her skin, Shuchi says: “A reader can understand the whole challenge through Roli what it means to be in her shoes to maintain confidence and self-esteem.”

“I’ve also tried to explore how her physicality defines her identity as a whole and how it affects her relationships with family, friends, dabbling with career and love life,” she chirps.

Being fat in society makes someone feel like an outcast in our own myopic view of women subjected to perverted and vulgar glances. For one, a fat woman or even men, for that matter is smothered to death by body-shamers, where we are expected to conform to established norms set by dimwits. Shuchi agrees, “Women are certainly under more pressure to look a certain way but men aren’t exempt from it in this age of social media.” She draws parallel to actor Fardeen Khan, who took on the trolls in a hard-hitting letter he wrote where he slammed haters on Facebook after he was ridiculed.

Author Shuchi Singh Kalra.
Author Shuchi Singh Kalra.

“The case of Fardeen Khan is the tale of a guy who was once swooned over by women and has now become a butt of cruel internet jokes and memes just because he gained a few kilos. There are female celebrities to the likes of Vidya Balan, Huma Qureshi and Sonakshi Sinha who face this kind of ridicule all the time. Imagine how bad things must be for the rest of us,” Shuchi asks.

“And yes, body shaming can get really crass and vulgar at times, especially when it comes to women. Does a person’s worth depend only on the way he or she looks? Why does appearance have to overshadow a person’s talent and other personal attributes?” she insists.

She makes a very valid point and one wonders whether we have become racist in another sense, beyond skin color.  It makes one squeamish wondering what makes us such self-appointed moralists, not flinching in our unbridled thought and judgement. The author reflects, “It comes from the way we are conditioned and the narrative we are fed every day. We live in a society that is so obsessed with being thin, fair and what not. Look at the magazines, the advertisements, matrimonial columns and the general image of how a man or woman should look like, as propagated by the glamour industry. Everything around is constantly telling us that we are not good enough the way we are.”

She doesn’t mince her words or thoughts: “Naturally, this bias dictates how we perceive and judge other people, who are often solely based on their appearance. Haven’t we come across enough instances where girls were rejected for marriage only because they were too dark or too fat? They could have been fabulous people with successful careers, intelligence or a great sense of humour, but did anyone care to check for that?”

There are instances where film celebrities have boldly refused to endorse Fair & Lovely products. The character Roli in IBSW and nuances surrounding her physicality can’t stop us to compare to the fashion and film industry where being thin is second to none. Isn’t it time for our celebrities to refuse the patronage of weight reducing products?

The author pitches a strong argument: “Celebrities are influential people and they can truly make a statement if they choose to endorse products more responsibly, and I am glad some of them do.”

A reminder of the statement made in the book on the whole clangour about thin bodies or, for that matter, size zero. “About actors and models having to maintain thin bodies – that’s precisely the point I was trying to make. Why should it be that way? Why can’t we have diversity in terms of body shape, size and colour?” she valiantly asks.

Being someone who is never in short of the right words, Shuchi reflects, “It is important to be fit and healthy but that does not necessarily equate to being thin. Body positivity isn’t about propagating an unhealthy lifestyle – It’s about being accepting and appreciative of the different forms that human beings come in. It’s time to drop the cookie-cutter idea of beauty.”

There is a razor thin line between being healthy and going the skeleton way in the face of disguised vituperative-cum brash words spelt out. Has Shuchi ever gone through that phase in life where naysayers make no bones of their displeasure on shedding kilo? She says, “I don’t know about being fat, but I have never been thin ever since I was fully grown. I’m not plus-sized and yet I keep getting unsolicited advice from people on how to lose weight and how I’d look prettier if I was a little bit thinner.”

The fiery lady bellows, “The most annoying phase was when I just had a baby. Here I am, breastfeeding an infant and recovering from a C-section and everyone around me was piling me with tips on how to get back in shape – FAST! If I had a gun, I would’ve surely shot them in the head.”

For sure, the readers and friends of Shuchi would be slack-jawed at her brand new avatar of training her guns but swiftly gets back to her original chill space. She stops and pauses to dole out sensible advice, “But, please note that’s not my recommended method of dealing with it. The idea is to learn to accept and love yourself with all the flaws, and not let any criticism (or even compliment) get to your head. I honestly don’t see anything wrong with the way I look – people do so it has to be their problem to deal with.”

The funny lady is back in her element, tickling your funny bones with this delicious advice. “Also, get really good at rolling your eyes. That helps.” Ladies and gentlemen, are you listening?!

The whole debate about fat vs non-fat can get real ugly and uncalled for where not everyone is accepted the way they are. Size does matter but not in the way the world doggedly see it. Isn’t it time for things to change where we stop wearing blinkers? Shuchi says: “I hope it does and soon. There are so many voices speaking against body shaming now and the body positive movement is catching on fast, even in India. Any kind of social or cultural change takes time but people are now being more vocal about stereotyping and discrimination of this kind.”

There is also the name calling like the parrots squawking in the bid to shame. The author firmly argues, “Like I said, it’s not just about fat vs non-fat. It is about measuring a person’s worth solely based on their appearance. Even skinny people are often called names like “hanger”, “scarecrow” etc. Basically, everyone needs to learn to mind their own business and be more sensitive towards others. There, that doesn’t sound too difficult to do, does it?” As good as she gets.

There were instances where trolls made fun of celebrities like Aishwarya Rai Bachchan after she delivered a baby girl, mocking her on weight gain post baby bump. Being a mother herself, Shuchi abhors this body shaming that goes around, “I think that kind of attitude is really pathetic. I mean, the woman just had a baby and maybe, just maybe, getting a flat tummy isn’t on the top of her priority list right now because she’s too busy enjoying being a new mom. Everyone knows what the female body goes through during pregnancy, childbirth and breastfeeding, and yet all they can bother about is getting back in shape the very next day. In my opinion, that’s body shaming of the worst kind.”

It’s no surprise that there is sky rocketing expectations with IBSW hitting the marquee, looking at the buzz and rave reviews that her earlier venture, ‘Done with Men’ generated. Shuchi Singh Kalra is touted to be a trendsetter where more books on being big will hit the market to cash on the moolah. Shuchi Singh Kalra, the new brand ambassador of The New Flatglam.

She is unfazed by the epithets, “I graciously accept the ego massage. It was much needed. Fatglam-I kinda like that!”

Your favorite author has a surprise for you. “But jokes aside, I’d love to work on a sequel if the book is well received by readers.” Brace yourself for more as she is ready to serve you hot on the platter. Shuchi signs off: “I am working on a couple of other books-let’s see how that pans out.  I hope people enjoy reading it and are able to relate to Roli.”