Open 2021 Open Stories - Priyamvada Singh


Flawed Perspective
By Priyamvada Singh


It was the perfect first date until I went to use the ladies’ room.


He received me with an involuntary smile on return. The pace of our conversation dipped, and his eyes began to gape towards every object of decor in the restaurant, hinting at his sudden lack of enthusiasm in getting to know me better.


He offered to drop me home after hastily winding up dinner, but I was clearly not comfortable accepting a favour from someone who had just shown his disinterest so evidently. Waiting for my cab to arrive, I wondered how naïve I had been to think that men in the national capital would have more evolved mind-sets as compared to the boys from my home town in the neighbouring desert state.


I had connected with Samar through an online dating app a fortnight ago. We exchanged a series of interesting chats and telephonic conversations before deciding to meet that day. Since I had arrived before him, the first time he witnessed my standing profile was when I got up to visit the restroom. With this revelation, our two hours of scintillating conversation swiftly became inconsequential. My “infectious smile” (his words) stopped working its magic. The “hilarious anecdotes” were no longer funny.


Calling it a night, I threw myself on the couch and surfed through my OTT watch list in search of the next crime thriller. It was my tried and tested method to fuzz the memories of an unpleasant date. My apartment was a safe haven where no one was going to judge me for my physical appearance - or maybe that was not true. The full length mirror in my closet often reflected the collective memories of all the judgemental jackasses I had met since I was a little girl.


Growing up in a small town in Rajasthan, I was taller than most of my peers since childhood. “Really! Four and a half?” I remember the intrusive relatives taking a dig at my mother during family functions. “Kaunsi chakki ka aata khilati ho isko?” was their humorous way of asking “What are you feeding her?” I never quite understood the hilarity of this statement. Rather, my mother’s discomfited smile in response to this question adversely impacted my young impressionable mind. I became conscious of my height very early in life.


Being tall brought along more setbacks in the growing years. I was brilliant in dramatics throughout school, but never bagged a lead role as I was towering over most of the boys. “How can Desdemona be taller than Othello? Why don’t you assist with direction instead, and help your friends fine-tune their nuances.” I distinctly remember being pacified by the dramatics teacher to reduce the blow of role rejection. On the day of the performance, as the actors took a bow amidst roaring applause, I stood in the aisle as a mute spectator - staring at the glory that should have been mine.


Soon came a time when all my friends began their dating phase. As for me, I was mostly accompanying them as the third wheel, and smiling politely at the lame joke that was perpetually made by the new plus-one entrants in my social circle. “How’s the weather up there?” became the most despicable words for me.


When I moved to Delhi two years ago to join an advertising agency, I had overestimated the outlook of this city. Just like any other starry-eyed small-Towner, I had safely assumed that the residents of a modern metropolitan will never be judgemental about physical attributes like the people of my hometown. It was on a friend’s advice that I had refrained from mentioning my height in the online dating profile. “Let them get to know you first.” She had insisted. “Once you like each other, this could never be an issue.” We were clearly mistaken.


I was already a few dates down, and this factor was constantly cropping up as a concern. I filled the missing details in my profile that night, fully aware of the fact that not many will be inclined to swipe right anymore.



A new billboard caught my attention en-route to work one day. It was a men’s deodorant with a hyperbolic tag line claiming that wearing this fragrance will make you a man. As I watched my cab driver smirk at the hoarding approvingly, the copywriter in me wanted to applaud the creative team behind this advertisement. After all, it was clearly working with their customer base.


The woman in me however, felt disappointed. This incident had reinstated the fact that even in this day and age, gender identity for men remains more fragile than what it is for women. It’s a pity that our pop culture still endorses the belief that one is born a woman, but one ‘becomes’ a man - sometimes by wearing the right deodorant!

Owing to the recent episode, I was not in the best of spirits when I landed at the studio of Madhav Kapoor. He was a familiar name in the world of advertising photography but I was meeting him for the first time. My colleagues had tagged him as someone who was easy to work with. Unfortunately, I was the one being difficult that day.


Every time I met someone for the first time, they would curiously glance down at my feet to check whether I was wearing heels, and then return the gaze to my face with unmistakable amusement. This unsolicited attention annoyed me immensely, but what infuriated me was the offensive humour around my height which was a regular affair with new acquaintances. As a result, my aggressive streak kicked in inadvertently around strangers.


I was ready to wage a counter attack on Madhav as soon as we met. To my surprise, he did not open the conversation with a comment, question or joke about my stature. I remained geared up throughout the day for rebuttal, but it was all in vain. The fact that he did not touch upon this topic was astonishing, yet reassuring.

As we scrutinized the photos later to shortlist them for client presentation, I purposely touched upon my pet peeve. The truth is that I could not contain my curiosity about Madhav’s reaction - or rather the lack of it.


“All your shots are cleverly framed to twist the perspective and make the shorter male model look taller than the girls.” I continued without pause. “If multinational brands are relying on such gimmicks, how can we blame the boy next door for reeking of fragile masculinity?”


As soon as I stopped talking, I realised that I had been inappropriate at so many levels. Sporting an apologetic expression, I embraced myself for the repercussions.

“This is a men’s product, so the male model has to dominate the photo. This is the only reason to make him stand out.” He was very matter of fact.
“A lot of people around us idealize male dominance in relationship dynamics, but I am not a fan of this notion.” Hearing this constructive response to a question that had clearly overstepped all boundaries of professional courtesy, I was bowled over.


I had never met a man so immune to gender stereotypes. His candid view on the subject inspired me to get to know him better. The feeling was mutual as he called the following week to invite me to brunch. We met frequently over the next few months.


Each time we entered a public space, I could see numerous eyes judging us for the unconventional couple that we were. While I always rushed to grab a seat and dodge the unwanted attention, Madhav preferred to saunter around, impervious to all judgment.


His poise in the face of a taller date indicated strength of character. The way he was not hung-up about looking conventionally manly, he appeared to be equally comfortable breaking other stereotypes – like a woman earning more than him – or being comparatively more ambitious or outgoing than him. It did not take me long to realise that he would never make me feel small in order to make himself feel bigger. I thanked the universe.

Madhav surprised me with celebratory champagne and chocolates on a Saturday afternoon. He had been invited to showcase his work at the prestigious Alcove Festival as one of the promising photographers to watch out for. An opportunity like this was bound to position him in the big league. I was delighted.


It was a formal event where all the showcasing artists were scheduled to make a red-carpet inspired grand entry. This seemed like the perfect occasion to make our social debut as a couple. We coordinated our designer outfits and booked a luxury rental to arrive in style.


On the day of the exhibition opening, I decided to get ready a little ahead of time. As I was applying mascara with careful strokes, I suddenly caught my reflection in the vicious full length mirror in my closet. True to its nature, it instantly flared up all the bitter memories of the past. Engulfed by anxiety, I was petrified of all the judgemental eyes at the event, piercing through the delicate periphery of my new found love.


My trauma was momentarily disrupted by a message alert. Madhav was on his way to pick me up. As I attempted to regain composure, I noticed that the mascara still seemed to be wet. The cosmetic had dried a while ago. Those were my tears brimming over, smudging the makeup. I was choked with emotions, and could not muster the courage to tell him in person. I put my writing skills to use and drafted a note which I will be ashamed of forever.

“All the eyes at the event tonight must only delve into your artistic brilliance. No one should judge you for your unconventional personal choices. Your intrepidity makes you rise above societal stereotypes, but others including me are still consumed by a flawed perspective.


I cannot tower over you today and steer the spotlight towards meaningless whispers. I will see you tomorrow.”



Priyamvada Singh ffrom India ashioned a burgeoning career in television across Mumbai and Delhi for over a decade before dedicating herself to the ‘Meja Project’ - her long cherished dream that blends socio-cultural resurrection and heritage restoration. While she pursues her vision of restoring a 150-year old ancestral fort in Rajasthan and gives the rural community a new outlook, she uses her free time to weave short stories. Her stories have been published on Women's Web, eShe magazine and Story Mirror, and she has also authored a coffee table book. She works with several corporates and lifestyle brands on freelance basis as a content writer.


Our Contributors !!

Some of our writers!

  • We occassionally invite writers to send their musings. Do send in your work, and we will host it here.
  • Do visit the Submit page to submit your work.