Monday, September 17, 2007

Ssh! They're Talking About You Behind Your Back

When you've been this tall for this long, you begin to learn the tricks of the trade. I have. As I have mentioned in one of my previous posts, I am 6'6" (198 cm or 1.98 m).

I was fairly average in height during my school years. The leap came towards the end of those years. In the one year that took me from Class 11 to Class 12, I put on 10 cm (4"). That made me a six footer and I finished school at a very respectable 6'2" or thereabouts.

I entered college as a geeky gawky too-tall-for-his-trousers kid with misaligned teeth wearing big round glasses and the safest hairstyle in the history of safe hairstyles. Of course, today everybody, especially the women, find this description and the accompanying pictures very cute, but let me tell you, it was anything but cute at that time when I was trying to establish myself in the big bad world outside the safe confines of home. I have never worn a pair of trousers that have fit me perfectly because the brands don't make clothes for people built like me and the tailors don't have enough experience tailoring clothes for people built like me.

Anyway, during my college years, I put on another 10 cm (4"), and when I exited college, dazed and confused, with braces to correct the misalignment of my teeth, I was 6'5" (196 cm or 1.96 m), or so I thought. I never bothered to properly check my height and told myself and everybody else that I was 6'5". I didn't want to be any taller. But then, sometime ago, I measured myself on one of those electronic machines, and it told me that I was 198 cm. So there you have it. 6'6" it is.

So, as you can see, I have some pretty impressive experience when it comes to matters of the altitude (I am "Sir Altitude", as one of my MICAn batchmates fondly calls me). I have developed a sort of a sixth sense, an intuition, that tells me exactly which person is going to be stupefied by my height, when two people are talking about my height. In fact, I often catch myself looking at the person who I think is about to shoot forward, grab his friend by the shirt and whisper in his ear. And then, as if for confirmation, the friend slowly or immediately turns his eyes towards me. And I chalk up another intuitive victory for me.

But it's also made me feel like a woman on the streets of India. I hate the way people look at me, I hate the way they pass comments. It's ok when little children come up and ask me my height. But it's not ok when grown-ups stand right next to me and stare at me and then loudly try to guess my height with their friend. I hate travelling in the elevator and especially in the metro. The metro is the worst.

I travelled in a school bus in Delhi a few months ago as I was accompanying a friend of mine. I can't stand straight in buses, they're too short. The children in that bus had the time of their lives. I'm sure they went and told their parents and their friends that they had seen a giant that afternoon. The teachers also had a blast. As we exited the bus and walked back, every head was stuck out of every available window, looking at my gigantic receding frame.

Ugh! The jokes, the comments, the questions, the stares, the comparisons, the giggles - I hate them all. If you want me to get something from the top shelf for you, I will. Heck, I was the only guy who could operate the A/Cs in class at MICA without a remote. I was the manual remote. Just don't make it into a joke to ease the tension, because there is no tension. I'm used to using my height to help others, so you don't need to be apologetic or overtly funny. And do not ask if everybody in my family is as tall as I am. I've had that conversation so many times with so many people, I know exactly what your response is going to be to everything I say in the order I say them. And my height is not a cause or effect of me playing basketball. I cannot just stand and drop the ball in the basket. And the only reason I'm an advantage to a basketball team is because of my talent. My height plays a small part in that talent, it is not the only part. I am not Amitabh Bachchan or Raghuvaran (in Tamil Nadu).

I know I'm taller than the average human, but that does not mean that you have the right to come up and ask me my height. Maybe once we get to know each other better. I don't ask you what area of your face that huge mole covers and whether moles on the face run in the family. I don't ask you how low your IQ is (and then try to make a lame joke to cover the obvious tension in the air like "I could just see how stupid you were by that duh look on your face. I rubbed my eyes, but it was still there.") and then ask you if stupidity runs in your family and whether you are the stupidest person in the family ("What? Your brother's not quite as stupid as you are? But he doesn't play chess, does he?")

This was meant to be a short post, but I guess that there is just so much that I need to get off my chest as far as this is concerned. There are times when I absolutely critically hate my height. When I have to sleep in discomfort in an otherwise perfectly comfortable room because the bed is too small for me. When I can't even consider a vast majority of the women because they're just too short for me. When the ready-made shirts, trousers, blazers, shoes I try on for size would have fit me perfectly had I been just a couple of inches shorter. When I have to constantly make do. When I'm left out of a normal life just because I'm a few inches too tall. People think it's a boon to have such great height and that I am extremely lucky to have all the avenues of my life open to me to do what I please with my life, simply because I'm so tall. People have even advised me to join the army or do other such national security related jobs because I'm so tall. They do not realise that being an extreme is also a bane. I feel like a circus freak. And yet you wonder why I'm such an elitist introvert who prefers solitude?


Su said...

I have been meaning to comment on this for quite a while now. Its easily one of your best posts. The travails of a tall man :)

suraksha said...

Wonderful writing on this post :) Really, some of the best I've read.

*respect* :)

Rags said...

@ Su & Suraksha:
Thank you. Thank you. It's readers like you who make it all worthwhile.