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In Defense of Solitude

Mrinalini Khattar explains the difficult yet positive aspects of privateness

I grew up in a typical Punjabi household.  'Loud' was an emotion in itself and there was no such thing as too many people. This one time when, in the middle of a fight, I told my grandmother that I needed some privacy, some space and time on my own, she looked at me as though I were speaking in parseltongue.

You may laugh at this but there is a good chance you also don't think too well of those who want to be alone. A man on a bench in the park, a woman eating lunch by herself in choc-a-bloc restaurant, a boy walking idly on the sidewalk make your heart ache with pity. It's not your fault though. We've grown up in a society where being alone is never understood to be a choice. 

We don't understand that there is a difference between loneliness and solitude and we often use them interchangeably. When the chatter of the world is put on mute, a lonely person is driven mad by the hum of his own voice. However, one who has learnt to embrace solitude finds peace in just that. Someone who can truly be alone knows that the world and the people in it are things in themselves and not parts that complete your person.

As you read this, you can picture me typing away as I sit cross-legged on the top of the mountain, while sipping on a tall, cold glass of Zen. Well, truth is far from it! I cannot stay away from my phone. I often annoy the people I love just to get their attention. I seek validation both online and offline and feed to an image that I have created for myself. That makes me like any other person of the new age. That makes me like you. The only difference between you and me then is that I stop myself short when I find myself doing things or reaching out to people only to escape myself.

 As a kid, I had always felt trapped in my home. I thought freedom meant all that was away from it and so I did everything in my power to run away. I went to a new city to study, fell head over heals in love with someone and started living with him. It was a near-perfect relationship till it was not. A year on after a difficult breakup, I had to pack my bags and come back home and be with myself. I could have stayed back to work in the same city but the truth was I knew nothing of it without the context of this person. I had run away from my home to build one with another person. Bad mistake. Now I could not live alone.

Ever since, I have learnt to embrace my own being and found myself in the place I was running from. Most people learn to live alone when they move out of home, I learnt this at home. I spent hours reading, walking, just breathing. Nature helped too. The world in all its enormity reminds you of your own silly being. It humbles you. It also opens doors to the enormity inside you. Now I try to reach to it everyday.

Being alone and being okay with it is not something that you just wake up to, it is something that you practice daily, like brushing your teeth. Whether you're an introvert or an extrovert  (both of which are such strict dichotomies and hardly hold true at all times), learning be alone will only help in knowing yourself better and in turn help you understand the world better. It will also make you better company.

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She is a plus sized girl in a fashion world and she's fantastic!

Bridging the gap between fashion and the body positive movement, she is defying all stereotypes...
Snigdha Teentalkindia Counsellor

The fashion industry and the body positivity movement may seemingly be two very different thought processes – that are constantly at poetic odds with each other. But here is someone who is working to bridge that gap!

Defying the stereotype that fashion is only a prerogative of the thin and the skinny, plus-size fashion blogger Amena Azeez with her blog Fashionopolis is making a beauty statement that is beyond the confines of just fashion.

Not only has Amena established herself as a blogger in the mainstream fashion industry but also courageously goes against the cultural narrative that forces unrealistic standards of beauty on us. Armed with an impeccable sense of style and undeterred confidence, Amena Azeez is doing justice to the term influencer.

In a candid conversation with Teentalk, Azeez tells us all about the war she is waging against body-shaming and her work to establish body diversity in the Indian fashion circuits…

TeenTalk: As a teenager did your weight ever come in the way of your self-confidence?

AA: For me it started at school. And they carried on to college, but it was not as bad as school. Luckily, my parents never fat shamed me but a lot of extended family members, cousins my own age, did. Because of being fat shamed at a very young age - started for me around 7-8 - I had major self-esteem issues. I had no confidence in myself and I would never try out anything because of the fear of being rejected or turned down because of my body. I tried to make myself as invisible as possible.

Teentalk: Did you face any peer pressure to lose weight and fit in? How did you deal with it?

AA: All the time. I did by caving in. I would take every weight loss advice and put it to use. Once, a friend of mine told me her cousin lost weight by eating only 8 strawberries a day and nothing else. I did the same. Then it was just two apples a day. I also did the whole liquid diet for a while. I tried every popular diet and weight loss technique out there. I was obsessed with losing weight and becoming thin.

Teentalk: When did you learn to stop bothering with what people say and got comfortable with your weight?

AA: When I got introduced to the Body Postive movement. For so many years I had tortured my body in the name of health and weight loss that I realised it was not worth it. In my pursuit to become thin, I did more harm than good. My body has been damaged because of it to a very large extent. After a point it was either carry on and ruin my body more or find a way to make peace with my body and learn to love and accept it at the size and weight I am at.

Teentalk: Any particular instance or episode that has been a defining moment in your perception of body shaming and issues?  

AA: I was constantly told that "No man wants a fat wife/girlfriend" and I believed it. So anytime a guy would show interest in me I would wonder why? What does he want? What is the catch? Is this some sort of a "date a fat girl" kinda bet? I could just not believe a man would be interested in me for the person I am. This has lead to a lot of trust issues that I deal with even now.

Teentalk: A word of advice to teens who are growing up in the midst of our patriarchy and face pressure to be a certain way and to fit in?

AA: Your body is your only home. You have one body. Don't let people ever turn you against your own body. Don't let people use your body as a way to define you. Most importantly, don't let people's words and actions make you hate your body and go to war with it. Trust me, it is not worth it. Fitness is not size specific and you don't need to harm your body - physically and mentally - to achieve it.

Teentalk: The body shaming campaign is finally here. How would you suggest the teens take part and stand for it?

AA: By speaking up. By letting those who shame you know they do wrong. By being more vocal. By educating yourself better about things like health, fitness and ableism. 


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Disclaimer: TeentalkIndia does not offer emergency services and is not a crisis intervention centre, if you or someone you know is experiencing acute distress or is suicidal/self harming, please contact the nearest hospital or emergency/crisis management services or helplines.