Movie Hall Aisles and CT Scan Machines: Where Fat People Fear to Tread


Movie Hall Aisles and CT Scan Machines: Where Fat People Fear to Tread

Illustration: Arati Gujar

There’s a reason why fat people like me are never at the pinnacle of human evolution. It’s because we’ve inevitably stopped a few hundred metres short of Mount Darwin to catch our collective breaths. Even as the rest of humanity passes us by while offering a reluctant few words of encouragement and vague advice on cardio and yoga asanas and “strength training is best, bro” that will speed up our snail-paced metabolism. If this metaphorical mountain were an IRL parvat, it’d probably be number one on the list of places fat people fear to tread.

Ever since we discovered that our bodies were built for comfort rather than speed, we’ve drawn out a mental list of places that we choose not to venture into lest we inconvenience our flabby selves or make “normal-sized” folk uncomfortable. Which fat person would want to find themselves stuck like James Franco in 127 Hours – but not in the Grand Canyon, just the aisle of a movie hall? Not me, for sure.

I had this moment of epiphany at seat number J25 in a plush multiplex. In one of those rare instances where last-minute plans actually come to fruition, I found myself accompanying a bunch of friends for a movie. Here’s the thing about multiplexes: Unlike their older counterparts, they are designed to hold more butts per square foot than the assembly line at a cigarette factory. So there I was, hoping this seat held me and my dignity snugly in its confines for the brief time that we were one. But midway through the movie, when I tried reaching for my phone nestled in the pocket of my jeans, did the seat decide that it had had enough of my antics and promptly let me down. Metaphorically and literally. Thankfully, my little off-screen thud coincided seamlessly with an onscreen explosion, which I guess was the universe’s way of letting me off lightly.

How fat am I? My weight hit triple digits before I hit puberty which means while kids ny age browsed through the kiddie section, my mum was already ushering me into the “mens” section to pick out trousers. I’ve broken seats on airplanes, the sheer weight of my body has ripped commodes off their foundation and my throes of passion have cleaved a cozy double bed clean down the middle. If Neelkamal Chairs were an ethnic minority, I’d be Idi Amin: I’ve gone through so many of them, I’d much rather stand than bring another plastic chair to structural compromise.

As the world around us grows by leaps and we grow by bounds, our only options are to either fit in or fuck off.

It kinda runs in the family. My next brush with weight-induced humiliation was slightly more morbid than my obesity. It involved needing an MRI scan for my father who was checked into one of the city’s finest superspeciality five-star hospitals that could easily put five-star hotels I’ve worked at to shame. As soon as my dad was safely inside the confines of the giant scanner, all sorts of alarm bells started going off. It didn’t need the deductive mind of a Dr House to deduce the cause of this accident.

And that’s how kids, my father was stuck in the machine — his paunch wedged firmly against its sides, preventing us from gaining valuable insights into the workings of his inner machinery. In the ensuing few minutes, calls were made, apologies issued and threats of medical negligence were floated in the hope of some hush money. Ultimately, my father was taken to another hospital that housed a broader MRI scanner and is now fully recovering from the trauma of having a room full of medical technicians chortle at his very public misfortune.

Come to think of it, I don’t blame the machine; I’ve lived with the man for 28 years and have still failed to see through him. How could I expect anything better from a soulless machine?

Jokes apart, I find that this list of places out of our reach is only growing longer by the day. Earlier, it was restricted to the mythical fourth seat on Mumbai’s crowded locals, airplane seats with leg space that exists only in the airline’s imagination, and the cramped restrooms at shady quarter bars which are large enough to accommodate just a quarter of me instead of the part that actually needs to be there. But lately, it encompasses every establishment that seems to be secretly playing a game of “How many bodies can we cram into any given space?”

It’s as if it’s impossible to walk into any public space — bars, restaurants, trains, or buses — if you don’t have the superpower of shrinking into Ant Man. It’s the death of personal space, and the first set of people to be affected is us fatties. As the world around us grows by leaps and we grow by bounds, our only options are to either fit in or fuck off.  

I guess I’ve chosen a side. Recently, I completed two weeks at the gym, discovering muscle groups I never had and eating a diet that is more supermodel than supersized. But what has been constant motivation from day one is something else. Whenever I pass one of my brethren with a high BMI, there’s this little look of acknowledgement that says, “Haan maine bhi theatre ki seat todi aur log hase the.” With that silent moment, we go our separate ways to try and come down to a more manageable size, so that us fools can rush in where fat people fear to tread.