The fad of being skinny came with Kareena Kapoor’s ‘size zero’ phase when Tashan released. This has been a popular trend in the fashion industry abroad, and India too, began joining the bandwagon of believing that being thinner means being more beautiful. The unrealistic standards of beauty that Bollywood sells us, we end up buying, therefore neglecting the beauty of women in everyday lives, the manner they were made.
It is women like Anjana Bapat who set an example, be a beacon of hope for those who have fallen victim to body shaming all their life, been called fat and demeaned for the longest time until their self esteem takes a hit. Anjana was no exception to this. She was bullied by the society, friends, relatives, perhaps everyone who still think that being overweight is something to be mocked and stereotyped.
It was dance, that played a huge role in Anjana’s life that helped her come out of a phase of severely low self esteem and emotional volatility. “I have loved dancing since childhood. I did not have any professional training until the longest time, but always participated in dance competitions all through my high school and professional life. In college I learnt Latin-American dances like Salsa, Bachata, Samba, etc, and I always loved dancing on Bollywood. Then came belly dancing which was a game changer,” she tells us.
Anjana says that as a child, one never finds flaws in themselves. It is the external environment and societal mindsets that affect your perception of self. “Through high school and teenage years I faced bullying which ofcourse affected my confidence and self esteem. While trying to work through that, I went through a phase of laughing at yourself, so I would make jokes on myself before others could. It’s a defence mechanism that most people use, and I did too,” she shared with us, adding that there was another painful phase where she internalized everything and became emotionally volatile.
“It was when I was about 23 when things began to change. I started meeting some really good people who supported me and helped me with self-acceptance. It was then that I auditioned for a musical, where I had to dance and got through! Just then, modelling happened as well,” she said. Dance has been significant in uplifting Anjana’s life. Especially belly dancing “because it really puts you in touch with yourself. The dance form is so much more complex than people think – there are isolations, layers, specific movements that take years to master.”
When Anjana took her first belly dancing workshop with Sanjana Muthreja, things changed. “I always love a challenge and having danced almost all my life, this was a step ahead of me,” she smiled. Anjana’s parents are also quite proud of her. While initially they were apprehensive about her pursuing modeling and belly dance, “recently at a family function, my father went on stage and shared with everyone what I do. It feels quite amazing when your parents go up and declare how proud they are.”
Anjana continues to work as a model and a belly dance instructor but her day job is that of a Statistical Programmer. The job profile is as heavy as the title sounds – Anjana collects data of new medicines that come in the market, and analyse it to determine their quality and suitability for consumers. “I absolutely love my job. And ofcourse, pursuing belly dancing along with it is immensely exciting. I am fortunate and blessed to have a platform that I can reach out to people with and make a difference in the womens’ lives who still have to unfortunately go through what I did. But I will continue to do my part and bring that change needed,” she shared.