Mumbai, Dec 3: It is not easy to face bullies in school, that too in your growing years, and that is precisely what Shweta Bachchan Nanda says.
As news of her elder daughter Navya Naveli's body shaming incident went viral, Shweta did not waste anytime in playing the role of a mother and backing her daughter.
Studying in England, Navya Naveli (who is about to turn 18) was teased for her skinny features. Shweta voices back her concern and anger through a column in DNA, which goes like this:
In a couple of days, my eldest turns 18, an adult. It's a big deal in the UK, where she currently schools. I am in party planning mode, when one night, my phone buzzes insistently. It's my daughter, she's not okay; a flurry of texts and screenshots later, I am updated... along with falling victim to a lot of teenage "mean girling" she has been body-shamed (when you are ridiculed or bullied about your body, either too fat or in her case, for being too skinny).
My immediate reaction was one of utter rage! You bring your kids up with such love and care, not a day goes by when you don't tell them or remind them in different ways just how wonderful they are.... And then, someone callously brings it all crashing down and their only authority is that they are your child's peer and their word will, for a while, mean more to them than manna from heaven. It is the worst kind of bullying, simply because it leaves the most lasting impact!!
Sharing some of her childhood memories, Shweta further added:
I remember my teenage years, a growth spurt at age 12, a disastrous haircut and an overbite that could compete with Bugs Bunny, I was the human equivalent of a bottlebrush. Painfully thin, gawky, with limbs that were growing faster than I knew what to do with... and then there was acne.
It's a miracle I ever left the house. And as if in conspiracy, everything I wore only helped to enhance my awkwardness. It was in a particularly inauspicious chemistry class (not my forté, I am prone to the arts) when dressed in all yellow, I knocked over a test tube with something vile and frothy in it, and managed to burn a little hole in my partner's folder.
He was naturally livid and told me to "stop flapping about like Big Bird." The name stuck! It has defined me since. In my heart, I am always ungainly, flappy Big Bird! Knocking my elbows on table corners and getting my sleeves caught on door handles... a disaster in heels, my balance is always off. I prefer to make it sound like it's an intentional sartorial choice that I wear flats.
Though years of painful orthodontic treatment have sorted out the overbite, I still find it hard to open my smile for fear of any teeth showing. I snap myself out of this nightmare of a flashback and look at an image I have of my daughter, on the wallpaper of my phone. She is everything I would have loved to look like, at age 18. Beautiful long hair, delicate nose, long lashes and elegant artistic hands... a perfect collection of atoms, but more importantly, she has a heart that is equally soft and brave.
I ring her phone, she picks up, stifling her tears, I can feel her pain and my heart breaks a little more... I tell her this isn't going to be the last time someone will be hurtful to her, but she cannot let the world define who she is. She is born into a family that prides itself on defying conventions.
She won't understand what I mean till she herself is much older, but has the sensitivity to make me feel she does. I hang up and can't help but say aloud to myself, "Welcome to the world baby girl, learn to roll with the punches, it is the first lesson of adulthood."