“Life sucks when you don’t look like everybody else.”
Pamela is half Bengali, half American, born of parents who clashed over a plate of spicy chicken tikka. The clash led to a storybook romance, and life could not have been rosier. However, the reality lies elsewhere.
Pamela is the quintessential fat girl, who goes through a large part of her life hating her appearance and just living with her repulsive fat self. Endowed with hazel eyes, long eyelashes and a slim but cute nose, she finds that all her attributes get swallowed up in the reality of her extra-large size. She has mastered the art of living the fat girl life, as she puts it. “Life was more about hiding the hugeness.”
Her mean sister, Mona, does little to boost her self-confidence, often siding with her detractors to poke fun at her. To add insult to injury, Mona is small and slim, having inherited “good genes from (our) parents and ancestors.”
To combat her loneliness, Pamela creates her own family and friends in the form of Ernie, with his orange head and googly eyes, who is as wise as he is lovable, Pumpkin, O Henry, Chimpu, Pookie, Pingu and Teddu, and bares her heart out to them in the privacy of her bedroom.
School life is no better as it is the slim girls like Reshmi and Aparna who are popular. Pamela is often derided or ignored, even as she longs to live the magical lives that her slimmer classmates enjoy. She dreams of scenarios from ‘Friends’ and ‘Sex and the City’, and despairs of ever finding a boy who would be interested in her. Sudesna Ghosh describes these episodes with wry, self-deprecating humour, as the dashing Ben, the shy, fat, girly-voiced Sumit and her very own miracle date Abhi, come into Pamela’s life for a while, and then leave her for various reasons.
In frustration, Pamela laments, “I never really understood why people make everything their business. From a pimple to your weight loss to your weight gain, people love to give their input even when you do not ask.”
The significance of the unusual title of the book becomes clear after Pamela goes as a teacher to Mona’s class on Teacher’s Day, and is laughed at and insulted.
“I hid in the bathroom to cry my heart out. I loved being alone. It was just me, the sink and the pot.” It was the one place of refuge that she found where she could vent out her emotions.
However, there is a big surprise waiting for Pamela at the end of the book, one which makes her feel vindicated. As she finally puts it, “I’m cool because I am different. It’s stupid to try to look like everybody else.”
Written in simple language, the book deals with the normal mood swings of an overweight young girl, highlighting various instances in which she is hurt every single day as she strives to be accepted in a society in which good looks are paramount. The chapter titles are as eye-catching as the title of the book. What is especially noteworthy is the way in which the author has brought out the insecurities of a young girl so consumed with hatred for her body that she suffers low self-esteem issues. This could be a story about you, me or just anybody.