We’re well into the New Year, and there’s really nothing new about it. The same excesses of previous years are upon us. Not just the traffic, pollution, politics and the wars, but also the literary festivals, book fair crowds, new coffee haunts and so on. Soon, we’ll be engulfed with the election mania just like climate change is flooding our living rooms.

Even as we slip inexorably into the same patterns we resolved to break in the New Year, here’s a peek into an editorial published in Pravartak, a queer journal published from Kolkata in the 1990s till 2000, and in many ways a predecessor of Varta. The article was titled What’s in a Size? and published in the January-April 1995 issue of the journal.

This is a mid-range night-time shot focused on the trunk of a shiny white Ambassador taxi. The photograph has been taken from the front seat of a car behind the taxi, using the illumination from the street lights. Both cars are stationary in traffic on a busy road. In bold capital letters, the following statutory text is printed on the trunk of the taxi: “Same fair taxi”, where the word ‘fare’ is spelt as F A I R instead of F A R E. The rear red lights of the taxi are on. Part of the license number plate on the trunk has been smudged to hide the number. The trunk also carries the car and model name and details of the bank that would have financed the purchase of the car. Apart from the driver, there seems to be someone seated inside the taxi, but only shadowy figures can be made out from the rear window of the taxi. Other cars can also be seen ahead of or beside the taxi. Photo credit: Pawan Dhall

Same fare or same fair? Imperfections are only fair and can also be funny! Photo credit: Pawan Dhall

The editorial was not questioning excess, rather its focus was on the obsession with big size. Yet, excess and size are connected through their close cousin inadequacy, which in turn is also related to FOMO. For those excessively behind the times, FOMO is short for ‘fear of missing out’. A constant feeling of inadequacy and FOMO can do significant damage to our mental health and even to those around us when we inflict our misery on them.

So, if there’s one resolution that can still be made, then let it be about being kind to ourselves and others, and not drowning in FOMO or fighting a losing battle with illusory standards of beauty or perfection. This applies equally to our bodies, genders, sexualities, abilities, and even career pathways. Excerpts from the editorial follow.

“Humankind seems to be enslaved by the size fetish. Bigger companies, large(r) scale production, thicker newspapers, taller buildings, bigger dams . . . one could go on and on.

“The fetish is not restricted to inanimate objects. Bigger bodies are also more in demand. Taller models, heftier hero[e]s with bigger biceps (in films), bigger bosoms, bigger crotches . . .

“This is not to brush aside all things big as unwanted or unnecessary. Bigger dimensions can and do serve some purpose.

“It is also not being insinuated that all people have lost their sense of proportion vis-à-vis the size of things.

“On the whole, however, bigger things do seem to be blocking out the smaller ones – their importance, strength and beauty.

“Why does a small size evoke ridicule or derisive laughter? Why are shorter people looked down upon?

“Small can be beautiful, and bold. Why are more and more people forgetting this? Small firms do make profits; small dams can irrigate and generate electricity; slimmer newspapers can inform, educate and entertain.

“The size fetish seems to have become a universal phenomenon – inter-cultural as well as intra-cultural. Knowing where and why it originated might be of interest. What we also need to realize is that might (big size) need not be right; that it’s fast becoming a blight.

“All beings – animate or inanimate, big or small – have an identity. And identity is what we’re talking in this issue.”

The editorial then refers to a conference titled ‘Emerging Gay Identities in South Asia – Implications for HIV/AIDS and Sexual Health’, which was held in Mumbai in December 1994. The conference was organized by Humsafar Trust, Mumbai and Naz Project, London, and primarily focused on the concerns of gay and other men who have sex with men. It was among the first such events undertaken by and for the queer communities in India.

The editorial continued: “It was said at the conference that sexual behaviour is ‘down there’, while sexual identity is ‘up there’. But the general perception seems to be: Never mind how much grey matter’s up there, down there it had better be big.

“Perhaps saying so is being unnecessarily pessimistic. Even so, in many minds the size fetish evokes a very real fear – a fear of inadequacy, of being unattractive, of being unwanted. This fear can only hinder the progress towards a healthier existence.

“If only we could remember that the real enjoyment is ‘up there’ and not in the size of what’s in our hands. And if we look at the practical side of things, a small size can be so convenient. Tucking it away in a hurry becomes easier when you don’t want it seen!

“The previous paragraph was with regard to Pravartak, though it could be applicable to other situations as well. The journal has become smaller in size, albeit with more pages. This has been done in keeping with the feedback from our dear readers . . .”

Click here to read the editorial in its original form – Editor.

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