I grew up in a regular Indian joint family where I was showered with love and affection by pretty much everyone around me. My parents were obsessed with books and me with dolls. I truly did have an idyllic childhood, growing up in sleepy Dehradun.
As per the family tradition, at 10 years of age I was packed off to boarding school. Boarding school was the best and worst thing that happened to me. The exposure was phenomenal, and being an over-sensitive child, I actually learned what 'survival of the fittest' meant. Being shorter and bigger than my peers, it was not easy to say the least. Children, unknowingly, can be quite cruel.
Student Life Filled With Ups And Downs
I was targeted by a few classmates and as a teenager, who had been treated like a star at home, I was shocked and extremely hurt by silly comments made about my size. They spoke about the activities I should not perform and the clothes I looked bad in. India was the country of "Fair and Lovely" back in the day and I certainly did not fit the bill.
But I had a great set of teachers or perhaps the word should be educators. They rubbished my complexes and forced me to realise my actual potential. "Fat and ugly" was pushed away and I was made to focus on my academics and other activities where I did manage to win a few accolades.
College was a completely different story. I studied in Singapore and the USA where I actually learned about body positivity. There, it was not about how I looked but what I was actually about. No one seemed to care what I wore or how I looked. My then boyfriend, and now husband also had a huge role to play in changing my thoughts about my body. For the first time in my life I actually felt beautiful and loved. He actually continues to push me to talk openly and with confidence about body positivity even today.
Living My Dream
As a little girl, I grew up watching my gorgeous mother getting dressed. I was always pottering around when she was getting dressed, and ruined a lot of her make-up. Growing up with problematic skin, I was always conscious about what I used on my face. Over the years I started getting truly interested and did a lot of reading up about ingredients for skincare and that's when I realised the lack of quality skincare in India. This pushed me to create brands that focus on curated skin and hair care.
The "ideal" standards of beauty have existed since time immemorial. Honestly, it's just easier learning to ignore them as they are pretty much impossible to keep up with. One has to learn to love oneself "just the way one is". Being thick-skinned is a great quality to possess. I usually enter meetings or award ceremonies full of confidence. I know some people are judging the way I look. Quite honestly, I don't let it bother me anymore. There are a lot more people who are actually more focused on my actual performance at work or the quality of the products I am creating. Things are changing now, you have models of all body sizes showcasing clothes. "Fair and Lovely" has changed too! And that is the way forward for all of us.
My Grandmother Is My Inspiration
My grandmother is an award-winning social worker who has worked towards the cause of women's upliftment all her life. Of course, she has met with many failures along the way, but she has always inspired me to work towards making even a small contribution in someone's life. She has always inspired me to work towards seemingly impossible goals without always being worried about the end result. Seeing her fight for other's rights, failing, getting up the next morning, and trying another route and eventually succeeding has taught me a lot. Her 'never say die' spirit has inspired me to scale many a mountain.
This is what inspired me to start the 'ViRa Project' during COVID-19's second wave. The helplessness felt by every Indian at that stage pushed me to do this. Seeing how every individual came together as a community, starting with 'auto-rickshaw ambulances' to 'oxygen langars' inspired me to do a little something of my own. We got together a team of councillors to help people cope with the loss of loved ones. We also got people placements after they suffered job losses because of the terrible economic conditions that the lockdowns brought. We raised funds to help support villages in remote locations during the lockdown.
Being an animal lover, we also got dogs adopted after they lost their humans to the pandemic. In the toughest year for several people, we tried our best to make a tiny difference.
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