"Oh my God! How different I looked back then!" exclaimed a friend while looking at a photo taken in 2008. "You, however, have hardly changed," she added.
I chuckled to myself. I knew it wasn't true. I have changed in appearance over the years as much as anybody else, mostly because my body puts on weight whenever I am looking the other way, but also because of changing hairstyles, spectacle frames and, er... facial hair (which I finally got out of the way in 2002). So this narcissistic blog post is about looking back at some of these old appearances of me, and feeling amused or jealous, as the case may be.
To be reasonable, I will exclude photos of childhood from this list. All of these photos depict me later than my late teens.
So let's get the unpleasant one out of the way first. This is a photo taken by my father sometime during my final years in school. My beard had started growing in the most ridiculous fashion, and I had not started shaving it yet. You can see the result. And those glasses! Oh, how can I forget those glasses? They were my first pair. These large carbon fibre frames were the rage in those days. Now looking at them almost kills me with embarrassment. Seriously, I looked like that?
When I started my engineering at IIIT Calcutta, the first thing to go was the beard. The moustache followed six months later, although both of them made cameo appearances from time to time before the semester exams. The large carbon fibre glasses made way for narrow metal frames. The third significant change in my appearance concerned my weight.
I have been slightly overweight since my high school days. I always loved food, but was never a voracious eater. So my weight could only be attributed to a lack of exercise. After coming to IIIT, I decided to do something about it. That something was a four mile walk every day and a reduction in food intake. The latter one was easier to implement as I was living away from home and my mother was not around to check the amount of food I was eating. As a result, I was soon about 10 kilograms lighter and I loved it.
Those were strange times - photos were still taken on film. I had a small auto-everything camera which my mother sometimes used and which I had taken to college with me. Neither that camera took good photos, nor were the scanners which I used to scan them later any good, which is a relief, actually. The few photos that I found of my first year are so grossly weird that I would rather die before publishing them online. I would have died after publishing them anyway, for my other friends who appear in those photos with me would have had me assassinated. So fast forward to my third year in college when two of my friends brought digital cameras to college (on separate days). It was an amazing thing, nothing short of magic. We fooled around with those cameras all day, clicking photos of everyone from the professors to the tea sellers outside the college. Oh those grainy photos in all their 2 megapixel glory are almost painful to my eyes now, but at the time they were the best photos of my college life.
Then came fourth year, along with six months of staying at home during my project at ISI and soon I was on my way to fatness once more. Here you can see me during this period. This was taken by my cousin in May 2005, shortly before I joined my first job using a 3 megapixel digital camera that my other cousin sent from the US. Here I am neither extremely thin nor excessively fat. Yes, my Blogger profile photo is cropped from this photo. So this is not really an unknown look for my readers and hence there is really no reason to select this photo in this collection, but you know, kittens can justify anything.
The next photo shows me a year and a half later, in February 2007. I was comfortably settled down in my job and almost halfway back to my old weight by virtue of sitting at one spot all day and hardly having any time to cook healthy food. By this time, I was a photographer, so this was taken with my own Sony point-and-shoot by my friend Bhavana. Also, "A Joyful Experience" was already a year old at the time. Another year and a half later, in August 2008 to be exact, I said goodbye to this job and flew to the United States to do my PhD. I was further fattened up at this time and also, I had my first haircut in USA on New Year's Day which meant I had annoyingly long hair by Thanksgiving break, when the next photo was taken. This photo was the one from which I have supposedly not changed. But as you will see next, I actually changed a lot in between and then returned to the same configuration.
It was only appropriate that I should lose weight during my second innings of college life like the first time. Only, this time it was far more difficult. Firstly, you don't simply walk for miles in the winter anywhere in America, and particularly not in Newark. Secondly, as a student with an embarrassingly low income, most of my eating out options were limited to McDonald's and the like. Thirdly, I was seven years older than last time, which made things difficult. However, I found New York City a very good place to spend the weekends, and I sometimes walked seven or eight miles on each visit. Usually I have seen people put on weight after coming to the US but I was an exception. I dropped another 10 kilograms (or 22 lbs as the Americans would put it) and became very thin indeed.
So here I am in spring of 2009.
And then here I am in summer of 2009.
In summer of 2010 in Boston. Note that the glasses have changed to rectangular half-rimmed ones.
This time, I was not able to shed the extra pounds, and I really don't know why. To make matters worse, I had seen most of New York City and the motivation for walking was gone. I had moved to a house next to the station which meant I didn't walk home also. So I started going to the gym. This resulted in my becoming slightly muscular, but without any loss of weight. So here I am in summer of 2011.
And then, in summer of 2012, as seen in the photo below, I was heavier than ever before. Clearly, something needed to be done urgently to reverse the trend, but I did not have time to do it as I was nearing the end of my PhD and was simply too busy with my dissertation and job applications.
I kept getting fatter until winter, when I half-starved and half-exercised myself back to my fall 2008 proportions. So when I was travelling around the United States with my parents in summer 2013, getting hooded, and getting my photo taken all over the place, I had managed to look somewhat different again. I still look like that, except for the occasional hair cutting disaster. While this is still far heavier than what I would like to see myself, this is what I was like when I came to the US. So I have been worse, and I hope to get slimmer now that my new college/office has an area of 700 acres and I have to walk a mile to just go to the cafeteria and back.
Of course, what I do at the cafeteria once I'm there is important too for my appearance, but I think I have spoken far too long on the subject of myself, so I will make an abrupt stop here.