An Absence of Colour

When I pulled on my favourite mint hotpants today, I didn’t feel any different. I just felt happy that I was dressing up and was going to take some nice photos and feel better about my body image. If any of you have ever wondered why I blog my outfits, well, it’s because seeing photos of myself in which I look nice gives me an instant confidence boost. I need as much of this as I can get. So even after 3 years, I haven’t tired of posing ridiculously in front of the lens.

But today as I started posing, something felt off. My photographer Diviani looked me over and asked, “Kitteh, (that’s what my friends call me) have you lost weight?” I hitched up the shorts for like the fifth time and told her, “I don’t know. Maybe?” The truth is, I really had no idea if my body had changed over the past couple of months. But as my once snug shorts kept bunching around my crotch and slipping off, I realised that Diviani probably wasn’t far from the truth. It is very likely that I am losing weight, and before today, I hadn’t even noticed.

In hindsight, it doesn’t seem at all impossible. This isn’t the first time in my life I have lost weight without realising. Back in the winter of 2010, I dropped a dress size because I was too upset about breaking up with my ex to eat. Of course, once I got back with him, I happily started eating again and got on birth control as well, and 8 months later, I had gained 2 dress sizes. This time around, though, my reasons for not eating are far more troubling – to put it plainly, I can’t afford a great deal of food.

I have been lucky in that I was born to middle class parents who never let me materially lack for anything. Indeed, I was luckier than most middle class Indians – I got to spend 4 years doing nothing else other than smoking pot in an attic room and then I got to run off to the UK just because I didn’t want to be here anymore. I have had an incredibly economically privileged life. Which is probably why I have been dealing so badly with my newfound poverty. I no longer have a secure roof over my head; I am currently in a B&B like place where a 10 day stay will cost me my monthly paycheck. Even then, the bathroom is too small to shower in and the room stinks – which should tell you volumes about how much I earn. I am lucky enough to get incredibly cheap food at work; I take care to eat small portions so that I have enough left over for dinner. I am helped greatly in this by my antidepressant which kills my appetite completely – I stopped taking my mood stabilisers because they made me ravenous and I literally couldn’t afford that much food.

The antidepressant works at times and doesn’t at others – without the rest of my medication, I am an anxious, unstable, depressed mess, prone to extreme mood swings, which I deal with by cutting. I hardly eat on weekends. Last weekend was the first time I had red meat since I have been back in India, and it was thanks to my childhood friend – I didn’t have any money. Apart from a snack and mugs and mugs of sweet, milky tea, that was all I had in those two days. And that’s just one weekend. Tea is good, tea keeps you full. Except I no longer stay in the place where I had access to free, unlimited tea – I got kicked out. Today I have something nice for dinner thanks to Diviani who lent me some money; tomorrow will be another hungry day.

I have been working myself to exhaustion for the past couple of months, working 16 hour days and sleeping 4 hours a night just so I can earn enough money to live comfortably. Two square meals a day INCLUDING weekends, maybe a moderately priced restaurant meal once a month, the ability to buy necessities like shower gel and detergent, and maybe a small addition to my wardrobe once in a few months. Except I never have as much money as I plan to earn. I economize, oh how I economize – I wash my hair with cheap shower gel because I can’t afford shampoo or conditioner, I smoked the cheapest fags for a week until I got mouth ulcers which still haven’t healed, I never go out anywhere because staying in is cheaper; consequently, my friends don’t want to see me anymore. Last week was the first time in almost 4 months that I bought something to wear – something frivolous, something I didn’t need. It was a bag from Modcloth, and I used some of my Rookie money for it. Today I got the news from my sister that Marie Claire India has been shut down by its parent company. I felt like I had been hit by a bus. That’s a huge part of my income which just disappeared overnight, and I have no way to make up for it.

I have never been a high profile fashion blogger – I have never had a lifestyle to sell, and every single piece in my wardrobe is something I have deliberated several times over before buying. And now, poorer than ever, I am seriously wondering if I can even continue blogging about fashion anymore. But this, this blog, meagre though it might be, is what keeps me going during my darkest hours. I can’t afford to stop. Everytime I get an email from one of you, I feel like I’m doing something worthwhile, that this is not an entirely useless pursuit. And I find enough strength to battle the diseases of my mind and my wretched economic condition and go on. Because you, all of you, inspire me.

One thing people always tell me is how open I am. And it’s true – my life is an open book; I don’t have anything to hide. There is much that I have shared with the world, here and elsewhere – my struggles with body image, my abusive past, my disastrous love affairs – and today I’m sharing my poverty. Detractors will say that it is a privileged sort of poverty, and I agree. After all, what better indicator of my privilege than the fact that today I had the opportunity to wear pretty clothes and have DSLR photos taken of me – photos which I am now putting up on the internet? I am fully aware of my privilege and grateful for it, but still, sometimes, the hunger and the lack of sleep really hurt. I was suicidal today, for quite a while, like I am a lot of the time. But I pulled myself together because I have to go on, because I am stronger than this, because … because that’s what life is about. You go on. You battle all the shit heaped on you and you fucking go on.

That’s what I am doing. I’m going on.

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