My Story: 'I Was Asked To Lose Weight Or No One Will Even Look At Me'
Asmi Shah has been challenging societal norms —breaking one at a time. In her thirties, she is an adventure traveller owning a travel company and a delivery kitchen. Asmi, however, had to battle tough times to get rid of self-doubt and to embrace her truer self. Now, she is actively involved in sharing her days of struggle and spread the message of body positivity to inspire many.
My journey has been quite an experience for me! I have cried, laughed, changed and learnt so much. Over the years, various people or I would rather call it— 'Society' has been, in several ways, interested in my life, my body size, and everything to do with these two things.
The fact that I am plus size, single and in my early thirties — an unacceptable lethal combo that seems to make other people more bothered and uncomfortable than I could be. As for me, I am much more than the labels above. Clear hearted, out-going, selfless, love to dance and travel, that's what I see myself as!
For me, being single was never by choice, but thanks to the society we live in, where the girl has to be perfect in every way, I choose this path rather than falling prey to making a 'compromise' in finding the most suitable match for myself.
At 24, I went for my first matrimonial meeting, which was arranged by my parents. It was weird for me as I didn't understand why the families had to tag along, making the two strangers feel even more awkward by asking them to go and talk at another table! One meeting led to another, until one day, I met someone who was completely incompatible with me. That day I realised how we make ourselves feel completely worthless in the pursuit of finding the 'perfect' partner.
Recalling an incident from when I watched the famous Netflix show – Indian Matchmaking. It disgusted me so much because I had met the likes of Seema Aunty. One of them said, "when we go to a shop, we only buy what we like to see", so unless I lose the weight no one will even like to look at me. Another one had the audacity to tell me I looked like a Truck Tyre! Other sugar-coated their words to tell me that since I am large and do not have 'clear skin', I cannot find myself a 'good match'.
I was not always this strong, in my childhood, I picked to be a tomboy just so that I didn't have to fit into those pretty dresses, mostly because in our country we never had bigger sizes back then in 1998. If I ever sat down to have a meal crossed leg, everyone around me would look at me and make nasty comments like 'Oh my god she is so fat, and look at how she is eating' and mind you, I was just eating what any normal size person would eat. It didn't stop there of course but I decided to change myself and learnt how to give it back to these people. It was assumed that I would get tired from any cardio activities, but I have done maximum trekking back then, played throwball at school, did skating and karate. I use to love dancing, but I use to feel scared about what comments will come my way so I use to cover it up by saying "No I feel shy".
Even today when I am travelling in an auto, people from other vehicles peep into the auto and stare at me, as if I have committed a crime. Relatives in some ways are always trying to ask me to lose weight so I don't stay all 'alone' in life. What was most shocking for me was, that all of these people (at least from those who I know) assumed I won't end up doing much in life. So ideally nothing has changed except Me. I decided to make myself stronger, fun, positive and enjoy all the things I love.
It's disheartening how discrimination is the crux of this society, and no one is really doing much to change perceptions. Each one out there is judged by sex, shape, size, colour, height instead of the person that they actually are. Thankfully, I have been blessed with amazing parents who understand me and support me in all my decisions, even if it means going against the so-called social norms. Eventually, I started to pursue my career as a travel planner, since travelling was my passion and I have been one for nine years. Whilst working as a travel planner I realised the need to experiencing a place yourself and suggesting it to others had a different charm altogether. In that process, I started taking solo trips abroad. Being the only child, I have always been dependent on my cousins and friends for company. I had never imagined that I would enjoy my own company so much. My first solo trip to Singapore taught me a lot about myself, out of which, the most important was that to get rid of the fear of being 'alone' or 'Monophobia'.
It taught me how I could be my best company. And it's okay if you are single; it's all in the head! Each trip taught me more about my strengths and brought many changes in me. I started to feel more independent each day, and more positive on the whole. I slowly got rid of my shyness to talk with strangers. Suddenly, I could strike conversations with anyone. I began to realise how being single is no big deal outside of our country. I also met so many people from all different nationalities and how so many of them had left everything to pursue their dreams! I also co-founded my own travel company — Constant Travels.
When this pandemic hit, and the travel industry came to a standstill, I invested my time in another passion – cooking. I started a delivery kitchen, ANVIAS Cookhouse, in October 2020. The name is derived from the initials of my mom, dad and my name, by the grace of God and to my surprise, the kitchen has been doing extremely well. I am so glad that I have started focusing on my dreams and passions more.
There are times when people back home in India say I travel because I am lonely and have nothing else to do and say that 'oh she cooks and she eats what she cooks all the time'. But then there are others who tell me how I inspire them to travel, be strong, positive and how one day they want to be able to do things just like me. I just do what I enjoy!
I want to call out all those people who suffer from any kind of mental health due to these social stigmas that society forces upon us. Avoid the fancy movies that show men and women who are always in the perfect shape 'only', eradicate those item numbers that tell you only toned body women can attract men and vice versa. Stop bothering yourself with the conversations, your friends (who weigh just about normal) unknowingly make, about how they need to lose weight. Tell yourself each day how amazing you are and please learn to accept yourself just how God has made you. You are a beautiful human being and that's all that matters. Indulge yourself in self-love and just be confident about who you are.
After all of my experiences, I can say I have managed to stand up for myself, 'unconditioned' myself from societal norms to a great extent and do things my way for my well-being. I couldn't care less that I am single. I have a very positive approach and I love to live life to the fullest each day. Whilst, we all may hope to find that companion who makes the journey of life more interesting, fun and gives us the sense of belonging one day, I firmly believe that it must not come at the terms of anyone else except you. It's simpler to be alone with yourself than be alone in a marriage of compromises.
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