Delicious Desi Aunties

January 28, 2006

I will never have a washboard-flat stomach no matter how many sit-ups I do. And these hips are here to stay. I can't help it, I'm Punjabi.

JuneI recently saw a photo of Demi Moore at 43 and a TV advert for some torturous exercise contraption featuring a 50-year old woman (or "grandmother" as they kept calling her). They both had skinny, rock-hard bodies and ageless faces as they strutted in their scanties. It made me droop with exhaustion thinking of the standards they represented as normal for the average woman and desirable to the average man. When is it going to be okay for a girl to become a woman who fills out and ages anyway?

Remember film legends Sridevi & Babra Sharif who enticed us to follow them over the green hills of Bollywood and Lollywood screens? They wore clothes that enhanced and hugged their womanly figures and millions adored their voluptuous beauty.

It used to be that South Asian girls had busts and hips, and, in fact, lived in the hopes of developing them. They filled out a sari or shalvar kameez properly. They saw Moghul miniatures, temple carvings, homegrown actresses and models, and heck, the Aunties all around them and knew that a buxom beauty lay within their reach. Nay, it was their genetic destiny.

But that was before the Murdochization of South Asia and the accompanying pre-adolescent body ideal invasion.

Although certainly not as bad as the Kate Moss rage in the West, desi women from the silver screen on down are feeling the pinch as they try to squeeze themselves into smaller and smaller sizes. Bony socialites and models are in, tall slim beauty queens compete for international titles (the only difference between them being skin color and even then none are too dark), actresses retire just so that they can finally eat, and everyone is perpetually on a diet or exercise machine - most often simultaneously. And to have a bust now is simply passé.

It wasn't so long ago that a little extra weight delighted everyone and was termed "healthy." Oh, Pinkie? Yes, I saw her yesterday. She's become so healthy, na! Give me the old days when a woman dug into her parathas with relish. When Lollywood Punjabi film heroine Anjuman frolicked like a baby elephant around mustachioed, bloodshot-eyed, & equally-large Sultan Rahi. When a girl relaxed into fertile belly posture immediately after marriage out of sheer relief to have got all that over with.

Remember delicious desi aunties? The ones that elbowed you out of the way as they attacked wedding buffet tables with zeal? You can see them on the video afterwards, setting their plates on their stomachs (which double as tables) & throwing gnawed bones over their shoulders with abandon and little concern for the cameras. They revel in maintaining their deliciousness and have the deep satisfaction of offering that much more of themselves to the world to love.

Delicious desi aunties still exist everywhere in spite of skinny desi "blondes." And I'll tell you a little secret: they exist inside of you. You can huff and puff on those machines and deny yourself the dosa but somewhere along the way you too will embrace and celebrate your genetic destiny - just like Sridevi and Babra did.

Now, pass me that chicken tikka - and hold the salad!


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January 28, 2006
02:06 AM

Great post - women do not seem to know that most men would rather turn an eye to a voluptuous woman than to a Twiggy-clone.

The comic Project
January 28, 2006
03:50 AM

I have that painting on my wall :-) It is called Flaming June

January 28, 2006
05:26 AM

Warm greetings,

Aaman: Thank you! For me it's less an issue of twiggy vs voluptuous women or what men prefer & more about the cloning issue - i.e., the globalization of narrow beauty ideals. Women should celebrate who they are instead of trying to force themselves into someone else's mould.

And, while a balanced diet & exercise are important, incessant gymming, obsessive weighing, & endless salads are just tiresome.

The Comic: It's one of my favourites. :)


cow tse tung
January 28, 2006
08:37 AM

What I've never understood is why South Indian cinema features so many fat actresses.

That said, DJ/composer/artiste/producer BT has a track called 'Flaming June', considered to be a trance classic.

January 28, 2006
09:31 AM

Great article!! Voluptuous plump women are ADORABLE!!! I think Baraka - the "globalization" of the twiggy female also coincides with the "liking" for that image by men - or supposed to - around the world! If its important for women to look for the real person within them, its also equally important for men to articulate their internal desire! For, in the end .. the Husn that sells is what the Ishq demands :-) and vice versa!

January 28, 2006
09:32 AM

What about the girls who hog even more than me and yet can show off their sexy figures? :P I think it's in the genes... oh ofcourse I may not be accurate here, because these girls are teenagers.. perhaps they'll become fatter in the future :P Not that I want them to be. Imagine the nightmarish questions then from them like "Do I look fat?"

deepti lamba
January 28, 2006
10:21 AM

solemn, its called a high metabolism rate.

Baraka, most celebrities have nips and tucks after they deliver. Even the Indian heroines are now going in for it. Demi Moore got a total body job done- but then again Bruce had the money to pay for it in alimony.

Recently, I did a similar post on Blogcritics.org and was accused of twiggy-envy not by those who liked skinny women but by the exceptionally fat women who were in the denial mode- 'love me as I am fat and all' and had made peace with their unhealthy bodies.

What we call over weight in South Asia are normal sized women in America and their obese, well, we never reach that stage.

I have yet to see a South Asian woman beyond the size 12 or 14.

Don't know if that makes you feel better but umm...its the French women who are petite and glamorous not most of the American ones.

January 28, 2006
11:34 AM

good read baraka!

this is another one of the chicken and egg conundrum... more troubling and slightly longer lasting for the ladies...

while perception and perhaps tastes also changes...i wonder if an allora-ajanta built model can pass through her first interview at an agency or studio today

or for that matter the leading ladies of the blockbusters in 50s and 60s will be considered too plump and unsuitable for current films

January 28, 2006
04:39 PM


very interesting comments! :-)

I have been to Venezuela twice.. you know that country which has an assembly line of Ms. Universes and Ms. Worlds! Needless to say its not a place for married man to visit alone. :)

What really surprised me was despite chocolate and cheese being their staple - the women some how do manage to keep slim and sexy.

Another thing that regularly irritated me at the malls there was hardly any shop for me to buy men's stuff. Truly men, in that society, are an AFTERTHOUGHT! :-)


January 28, 2006
06:13 PM

Warm greetings,

Beauty is usually a narrowly defined ideal in all cultures & may well vary from decade to decade - but that ideal was still taken from your race/ethnicity & was therefore more realistically achievable.

Right now what we're experiencing is the transfer of a different culture's ideals to a worldwide arena. E.g., compare the covers of Cosmo or Maxim UK & US with that of Indian versions & it's clear that though the latter model may be duskier she is cavorting & pouting in similar postures - & that the articles inside are much the same. The same goes for MTV or international beauty contests.

And yes, most Hollywood women do have plastic surgery/eating disorders. But many average women & men looking at a magazine really don't realize the extent to which plastic surgery/airbrushing play a role. The girlfriend of a friend of mine recently released an album. She's beautiful & voluptuous. For the album cover though they airbrushed all her "imperfections" - including the lines on her hand. This sets up unrealistic standards for both men & women.

Obesity in the US is definitely not the same as anywhere else, it really is a problem of different proportions here. And as for the French - what I love about them is that they presume a woman grows more attractive & interesting as she ages & gains more life experience. Now there's a standard I can live with!


deepti lamba
January 28, 2006
07:03 PM

dpaks, or here is what married couples can do- separate trips, the men can go to South America and the women to Italy.

deepti lamba
January 28, 2006
07:05 PM

Baraka, you were talking about is a bowflex machine.

Jangjeet Singh
February 17, 2006
05:30 AM

Barakaji! Zindabadh! Someone who finally recognises what I've been going on about for years: plus sizes win prizes, hai na! I'm all about the weight! Because I'm quite athletic and not too bad looking either, so people are always surprised when they see me drooling over the weight-unwatchers! And when I say 'big girls' they think of some would-be slimmer, just venturing over her weight threshold. I'm an African Sikh so I've got Panjabi aunties on one hand suggesting sorting me out with a Panjabi kuri, and ammiji on the other hand doing the same for a kali kuri... but what I fear none of them realise it that I mean is WEIGHT, threshold long gone, voluptuousness long gone... POW! Both the apni kali kurian and apni Panjabi kurian are all going the same way, eating less, stressing more and I'm screaming nooooooooooooo. They can take our lives but they can never take our Ghee! Freedom. Anyway, I'm becoming slightly over-excited so better get back to the kaam. Oke ji,

February 17, 2006
01:50 PM

Welcome Jangjeetji!

Thanks so much for your enthusiastic response! :)

I wish you lots of luck finding your sapnay di rani - someone who'll be willing to live life large & wonderfully with you!


June 7, 2006
02:07 AM

"I will never have a washboard-flat stomach no matter how many sit-ups I do. And these hips are here to stay. I can't help it, I'm Punjabi."

- Uncle, Not sure, it happened in south as well as west bengal also.

- Very few aunties face such problems, who have to work 14 to 18 hours a day not only at home out of home also.. " Hard Work", please do not term doing kitty party, bring child from school, desribing near by friends how our uncels are bad and how thier mother's are out dated..etc also to be included in "Hard work" list.

Still i have to find some auntie in my dadi's village, who have some falsh on thier body!!!! We see more bone than flash.....provided we are not blind enough to see only those so called representative of Auntie section!!!

When our uncel and auntie will consider that, "work and hard work both have some advantages and disadvantages." Want some thing in free or comfort work also have some advantages and disadvantages. Choice is with you, waht you want, you will get the same in return.

Example, auntie and uncel before marriage and after marriage...why such huge difference, let it be punjabi, or bengali!!!!

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