In Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham when Nandini (Jaya Bachchan) drags that small stool to climb up and be tall enough to knot Big B’s tie, it is looked upon as romantic. But how many of us remember Rajpal Yadav and Rituparna Sengupta in Main, Meri Patni Aur Woh? The film was specifically about the insecurities of a man (Rajpal Yadav) whose height is shorter than his wife’s (Rituparna Sengupta). In the film, he constantly fears that she will reject him for a taller man. Why is the Indian society so obsessed with height when it comes to a man-woman relationship? Why are men expected to be taller than the women for them to be compatible? Can height really define the capability of a person and the compatibility in a marriage?
The obsession with taller men is a reality. Being tall is connected with possessing physical power, maturity and efficiency. Taller men who are older, more educated and financially more secure than women are seen as the perfect grooms as they can protect the women they marry. But if a woman is taller than her husband, she is perceived as a threat, perhaps to the fragile sense of masculinity. As far as Indian society is concerned, husbands are deified in marriages. So how can a person near to God be shorter? Right? But do women really need to be infantilised in marriages? Why can’t the Indian society stand a woman as an older and mature partner in a marriage?
While on the other hand, women who are too short are also criticised. The shortness of a woman becomes an obstacle in her marriage which is a worry for her family. Being a shorter woman myself, I can vouch for the criticism that I face in the family and society. I was made to have tablets so that I would grow taller. Since childhood, I was forced to wear heels to appear taller. When I got my periods, my parents were more concerned about the fact that I would stop growing taller now. I was made to think that being short is a bad thing for my own good.
Obsession with the height is a disadvantage not only for women but men also. Society’s expectations from men to be taller, stronger and stable in any condition pressurises them too. It is just a part of toxic masculinity that patriarchy imposes on men.
We need to delink height with strength and stability. A person cannot be assumed to be physically, mentally and emotionally strong just because she/he is tall. It depends on the upbringing, education and experiences of a person, irrespective of the height and gender. A relationship is based on love and understanding and not on how taller and dominating and shorter and submissive a person is. Let us normalise women marrying men shorter or less stable than them because they are not signing into a bond of protector and protected but of equal partnership. It is also okay for a shorter woman to marry a man much taller than her. But it should not be grounded in the belief that the man is greater and dominant by the virtue of his height. Equality and compatibility make a marriage work not the difference in their heights.