Being Short in a Tall World

I am short! Most of my family and members of my state are too. We come with our very own unique set of problems.

The first problem that all parents repeat ad lib to their short daughters is that of getting them married. That one is easy. We just develop awesome personalities, which makes tall men fall for us like tent pegs and, since love is blind, it works out pretty well for us (I caught me a 6-footer).

This C/N-neck is by choice! Not everyone is that brave!
This C/N-neck is by choice! Not everyone is that brave!

Buying clothes is always a heartbreaking challenge. Especially, dresses and tops that are V-necks for average-sized individuals, which become C(leavage)-necks or even N(avel)-necks for us. One can chop off a long dress from the bottom, but what can you do with the necks. So we resolutely fit our beautiful, brand-new dresses with bands of cloth to cover up, destroying the beautiful lines of the dress in the process, or just leave it in the shop with a few tears (from our eyes – I told you we develop great personalities and are not mean). Over time we learn and adapt, going for elegant boat necks and backless dresses.

Yes, some people have to bend their knees to look out their doors

When the doorbell rings, I can’t check to see who is on the other side because the peephole is too high for me. In a city where robbers are known to ring the bell during the morning and afternoon hours to do their tough jobs, this is a severe handicap. Yes, you didn’t think being short could actually be a life-threatening condition, did you?

Why restrict yourself to the bar when you can spread spindly, tall chairs all over!
Why restrict yourself to the bar when you can spread spindly, tall chairs all over!

Bar stools are a potential death trap. One is invariably dressed in tight-fitting, or, if you have good legs, extremely short, uncomfortable clothes and exorbitantly high heels – another concession to short stature – to visit the pub. To add to this when one has to maneuver one’s, not always, ungainly buttock onto a chair that is almost three-fourth of one’s height in a graceful manner, fun rapidly begins to fizzle out of the evening. If the heel slips on the thin, absolutely inadequate footrest on the stool or you miss the seat of the chair on the first hop up or if, due to your bad grasp of physics, you distribute your weight unevenly, you and – God forbid – your shape-wear drawers are liable to become the entertainment of the evening for a lot of people. This aspect usually leads to us being the designated drivers, since when you hop up you also have to hop down and you need all your faculties around for carrying out this delicate operation.

(Photo by Sybill Jecker/Brooks Institute, ยฉ2008)
Photo by

Public transport in India is a widely distributed and over-zealously used commodity. When I travelled in buses in Himachal, I didn’t really figure out this bit of problem since most of us average around the same height and the buses are built around those specifications. Plus, the buses are usually so jam-packed that one really doesn’t need to be holding onto anything. Also, the winding roads mean that drivers go at a steady speed and you are braced like a sailor on a ship for the gentle to and fro swaying motion of the bus. Then I moved to South India. The average height for women here is 6-7 inches more than that in my state. Therefore, the overhead bars for the unfortunate ones who are unable to snag a seat in a bus are about 6 and a 1/2-feet off the floor. The few times I travelled home from work in a bus, I found that I could just about reach the overhead bar with my fingertips. It was a horribly precarious position, considering the tendency of the drivers to speed up between traffic lights in an effort to catch the next green one, invariably lose that battle and then screech to a halt sending you headlong into the passenger standing in front of you. As I was jostled to and fro, I also found to my eternal regret that my height brought my face at the exact level of the armpits of my fellow travellers. Summer, sudden halts and the law of physics which states that a body in motion stays in motion led to the most embarrassing and sadly depressing bus rides of my life. The only solution to this was to give up cheap bus rides as a mode of transport forever.

The sad, colourless sailor
The sad, colourless sailor

I have lived with my short height for long enough to get used to all of that, but imagine my frustration when I decided to paint a vertical full-page watercolor. Since I am an amateur painter and don’t paint on an easel, it became almost impossible for me to even finish the preliminary sketch work. I tried standing the work-board against a wall, tried keeping it at an angle with all the pillows in my drawing room, sat up on my knees and even tried to sketch upside down. I finished the sketch a week ago but, unlike pencil, watercolor cannot be erased so easily, and I shudder to think how I will manage to paint this ambitious project without letting the colors drip down or smearing them with my clumsy hands and elbows. Worse, I might also fall on it, as I did repeatedly while sketching it, lending a human-sized stain to my boatman and his gondola!

Well, life sure teaches you new things every other day.


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