Abhilasha Sinha (left) and Kamakshi Khanna are calling out those who body shame women for having body hair and love handles (Aryaman Dixit and Kamakshi Khanna)
Abhilasha Sinha (left) and Kamakshi Khanna are calling out those who body shame women for having body hair and love handles (Aryaman Dixit and Kamakshi Khanna)

Two millennial musicians on body issues, confidence and sisterhood

  • How NY-based Abilasha Sinha, 26, and Kamakshi Khanna, 27, from Delhi are using social media to spread the right idea
By Karishma Kuenzang
UPDATED ON JAN 16, 2021 08:21 PM IST

People around the world seem to have found solace in different things during the lockdown – workouts and cooking topping the list. Both healthy, but possibly, also triggering insecurities in those with body image issues. Which exist aplenty thanks to the beauty norms ingrained by family, friends and educational institutes. And so, friends and musicians Abhilasha Sinha, 26, New York-based, and Kamakshi Khanna, 27, Delhi-based, are using social media to address their body issue demons – body hair and love handles to be precise – while cheering each other on across continents, just like they have since they met in the music society of Lady Shri Ram College, eight years ago.

Fitness and fatness

The lockdown has helped put a lot of things in perspective, they say during our Zoom call. “Like the amount of weight I’ve been gaining, as I haven’t been able to go out and exercise,” says Abhilasha. “I love food and I have a lovely relationship with it, but it’s all ups and downs due to the guilt that comes with it. Kamakshi and I have seen each other struggle with this.”

Kamakshi chips in with a quick confession: “Most of us have that guilt.” The problem? “We’re great at giving advice but we don’t follow it ourselves,” Abhilasha shrugs.

“I don’t ever make fun of someone else because of their body, so why do it to myself? Mostly people I care about haven’t shamed me. So, this is just me being hard on myself?” Kamakshi questions.

“I finally like my body and it’s taken so long to love it, with so many breakdowns” –Abhilasha Sinha

Body positivity issues have been on the rise during the lockdown and people have now completely confused fitness and fatness. “Someone may weigh a certain amount, but can run 20 miles and lift things you can’t even move. So, don’t equate someone’s weight with their health. The fact is, we don’t shame thin people as much,” explains Abhilasha. Kamakshi, who now has a ‘relationship’ with working out, says it helps her mentally and emotionally. “I take breaks – month-long ones,” she admits. “Sometimes two months,” Abhilasha giggles knowingly.

“The point is not to be too hard on myself because I’m doing this for my mental health,” Kamakshi quickly sobers up, adding, “I wish people would focus on that rather than a particular body type. It’s unrealistic to blindly experiment with a certain kind of nutrition.”

When Kamakshi did an Insta live and got lewd comments, Abhilasha came forward in support and posted about it(HT Brunch)
When Kamakshi did an Insta live and got lewd comments, Abhilasha came forward in support and posted about it(HT Brunch)

There’s no pleasing anyone’

Abhilasha, who puts up a few IG stories on body positivity every week, says these insecurities stem from what she’s seen growing up. “Overweight could be normal for you if you are struggling with 20 things!” she says, admitting that there are a lot of images of herself she would earlier avoid posting. “I finally like my body and it’s taken so long to love it, with so many breakdowns.” Many of which Kamakshi’s been privy to.

Because the Delhi resident too has her share of body insecurities. “I may love what I’m doing but would feel s**tty if my tummy stuck out in an outfit,” says Kamakshi. When she saw Abhilasha’s posts about body hair, she was inspired! “I’m one of the hairiest women I know because of my Punjabi genes. I was the hairiest girl when I was in Class 7, and all the boys called me ‘bear’,” she recalls. And so she got waxed, the first in her class, and was then tagged ‘wax museum’. “There really was no pleasing them. And the body image insecurities were born. Addressing them in therapy, I realised that the problem is that people don’t know better.”

“I was the hairiest girl when I was in class 7 and all the boys called me ‘bear’” –Kamakshi Khanna

Parents and family, too, can play a role even with the best intentions. Due to genetic heart problems and diabetes, Abhilasha’s parents asked her to control her weight and sugar. “I appreciate it, but it could have been done slightly mindfully, not ‘oh look at you, you’ve gotten so fat’. Though this helped me develop a thick skin,” she laughs. “You could either think your family hates you or that they need to work on it, not you,” she says pulling up a picture from years ago when she thought she was fat. In the picture, Abhilasha is looking at the cake, clearly wanting some, while a friend standing next to her recoils from a slice she is being fed. This was used to make fun of Abhilasha in school for being ‘fat’.

Meme central

With a BA in psychology, Kamakshi has been in therapy on and off for two years now. Social media, which she needs as an indie musician, has never helped her mental health. “It’s always had a negative impact. If I could do music without needing social media, that would be ideal.”

“Yessss,” cheers Abhilasha.

“I don’t even want to see social media except for the memes. That’s been the highlight of 2020!”

“Yesss,” Abhilasha agrees. “I have close friends who are prominent on social media. I’ve had them crying over the phone, and two seconds later they put up some positive story,” she says, pointing out the dissonance in what you feel and what you have to portray.

“This leads to a deterioration of your mental health,” adds Kamakshi, who’s been working on having healthier conversations with herself. “Therapy is helpful for everyone – people should do it to perceive situations in a healthy way. I’ve had my fair share of breakdowns even during lockdown but the willingness to work on myself hasn’t gone away,” says the musician who released her first Hindi single Qareeb during lockdown.

But if you’re a woman in the indie music scene, you do have to prepare yourself to be part of an industry where women aren’t on top, and not because of lack of talent. The duo says, “Indian indie playlists on platforms like Spotify will feature four women on an average. Music by a woman in India will get 9k likes, but a man’s will get over a lakh even if it’s the same exact thing. And then there’s the separate ‘women’ playlist, which is just a token. We need to have our own festivals, put together talks – that’s how Woodstock started!”

Step one for that? Acceptance and self-love. Because we are wired to accept the love we think we deserve. 

Follow @KKuenzang on Twitter and Instagram

From HT Brunch, January 17, 2021

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