At times I wish I were a few inches shorter. When everyone around me is trying to be taller, my decently tall, 5ft 7 something frame sometimes proves to be cumbersome. It started when I was 6.
In our English reader, there was a chapter on Health at the end of which we had to measure each others’ heights and fill in the name of the tallest girl in the class.
I was proudly hoping to see my name in every girl’s book (I studied in a girls’ convent). But it turned out that Shivani, another tall girl was a few centimetres taller than I was. Not to mention, her name and height received the honours that were due. I went home howling because I wanted to be taller.
A few days later, our class IA was about to perform the ‘penguin dance’ at the annual function. We had to wear black and white costumes with pillows around our tummies, powder on our faces and beaks on our heads and dance like penguins.
All students were placed in a height-wise order with the best students at center front position. And I was there, the tallest penguin right in front, enjoying my dance, overshadowing all the shorter ones behind.
Then came Sr. Fulgentia, our principal. She loved the dance, appreciated my performance and then asked Mrs. Maggie, my class teacher to shift me right at the end because I was too tall. I was aghast. “What about my performance?” Mrs. Maggie insisted. Sr. Fulgentia persisted. They finally arrived at a solution.
On the day of the final performance, there were 60 penguins dancing in height-wise order with the exception of one awkward penguin that kept bobbing its beak from the 3rd row and the 3rd column of the entire formation. Not to mention, I cried again because I wanted to be shorter.
My grandmother tells me I was born tall. My dad tells me that at one and a half years of age I looked like a school-going kid. My elder brother’s friends used to call me ‘didi’ (elder sister) by mistake. My granddad was always worried how I would find a groom for myself if I kept growing taller and my mom used to call me a giant whenever I slipped on water at home and fell on the ground with a thud, no, a very loud thud.
Sometimes I pity the tallest man and woman in the world. Or maybe not. At least they will stand out wherever they choose to stand. At least, they won’t have to cry to see their names in a book.
P.S I wrote this on a train journey from Mumbai to Ahmedabad where I could not fit into the seat properly while a big man sitting next to me had taken half of my seat. I met Shivani on Orkut the other day. She is 5ft8inches, still a few centimetres taller than I am.