Shriya Ganguly


The 2000s have been back for more than two years now, and so have their impossible standards for thinness. But this time around, many are pushing back against the idea that some styles are just not meant to be worn by anyone without the body of a runway model.

The 2000s were known for the emergence of fashion trends that bared either your abs or your insecurities, from low-rise everything to skin-tight outfits. Baby tees, tube tops and low-waisted jeans with underwear peeking above them were only a few of the audacious styles that were popular during the decade.

They were also known for their rampant fatphobia and glorification of nearly unachievable bodies. Exemplified by socialities like Paris Hilton and Victoria’s Secret Angels, this body was long, lean, busty and, most importantly, perfectly toned. 

Every other kind of body was deemed unattractive and relentlessly shamed, something that is all too apparent when we look back at the pop culture of the era.

Kim Kardashian’s now-idolised figure was referred to as a disgusting result of her bingeing on junk food, especially in comparison to her friend Paris. On iconic TV shows like FRIENDS and Sex and the City, a character’s (past or present) fatness was often the punchline.

Even the women who did fit into these narrow standards were not spared. Lindsay Lohan, Kristen Stewart and other actresses had every pound of weight gain scrutinized and documented by the paparazzi. When they lost too much weight or, like Kiera Knightley, were simply too skinny in the first place, they were accused of having eating disorders and being desperate for attention.

Of course, the 2010s that came after weren’t exactly a utopia where all bodies were accepted as they were. After all, Brazilian butt lifts, the world’s most dangerous cosmetic procedure, Facetune and waist trainers rose to popularity in this decade. And thinness was still seen as desirable, even if it wasn’t a necessity for being considered attractive as it had been in the ‘90s and ‘00s,

Still, with the rise of the body positivity movement, a far wider variety of bodies were seen as acceptable or even appreciable than at any other time in recent history. Celebrities were still shamed for weight gain or loss, but it was usually the trashiest tabloids doing it, not Cosmopolitan magazine. 

The fashion trends of the 2010s like athleisure, high-waisted bottoms and flowy midi skirts were also far more forgiving of most of our physical “imperfections” than the previous decade’s fashions.

But fashion, like most other forms of art, is said to follow the ‘20-year rule’ where trends die out and come back in style within about 20 years. So, it was inevitable that with the beginning of the 2020s, early 00s trends like baguette bags, claw clips and, of course, all of those clothes that laid out all our insecurities for public display would come back in full force.

Also inevitable was the return of the hunger for the 2000s body.

Kim Kardashian and Doja Cat have been rumoured to photoshop their curves smaller and get their body implants taken out. Thin celebrities are doing the exact opposite—showing off their naturally lean frames in Y2K styles instead of camouflaging them with hip pads(!) and clever angles.

And it isn’t just the professionally beautiful who’ve begun to crave model-like thinness once again. “How to get 2000s skinny” is a popular Google search and Pinterest boards called variations of “outfits for when I’m skinny” are popping up with increasing frequency. “Pro-ana” content that glorifies anorexia nervosa and other eating disorders that originally emerged on Tumblr and internet forums in the late ‘00s is making its way back to social media, particularly TikTok. 

But not everything’s stayed the same. Many women, including popular plus-size fashion influencers, are embracing bold, beautiful Y2K styles but rejecting the baggage they originally carried.

Instagram models like hollymarston, v.zozimo and francescaperks play around with 2000s-inspired outfits that range from sexy and fierce to playful and sweet.

The popular “Is It An Outfit Or Is She Just Skinny?” trend on YouTube also reveals increasing awareness about the role a thin, fit body plays as the most important accessory in many outfits. In these videos, women try on outfits that were praised as incredibly fashionable on skinny celebrities and models, often confronting insecurity about their own perceived imperfections, and decide if they really are stylish or if it was just the wearer’s aspirational body that made them seem that way.

But that certainly doesn’t mean that Y2K fashion, or trendy clothing in general, is accessible to everyone. The vast majority of these clothes are only available in a very limited range of sizes. They are often also not designed to fit curvaceous bodies, whether they plus-sized or not.

The women who’re regarded as the trailblazers of this trend, from Bella Hadid to Megan Fox to Charli D’Amelio, fit perfectly into the 2000s mould. It’s unsurprising that most of us who don’t look like them fear judgement and disdain if we try to replicate their looks, even if it wouldn’t be expressed as openly as it was 20 years ago.

But things are changing, and that remains a cause for hope. We may not all have the confidence or desire to wear cut-out bodysuits and thong-baring pants, but most of us can agree that a woman who does can, even if she’s not a size XS.

You can pry my high-waisted skinny jeans away from my cold, dead hands, though.

Featured Image Credits: NBC News

Read also: Auburn Umbrella – Iconic Cinema-Inspired Fashion Trends

Shriya Ganguly                                                                                                                                                  [email protected]

In DU and in India, LGBTQ representation has been improving, if at a snail’s pace. But does it go far enough? We spoke to queer people around the university, who have found no place in this emerging space, to understand why a certain demographic still dominates LGBTQ representation.

LGBTQ representation in DU, as in the rest of India,  is still measly. The University administration does not acknowledge the existence of the community, let alone take any steps to uplift or prevent discrimination against its members. In most colleges and spheres of university life, anyone who is not perfectly straight and cisgender must conceal their identity for fear of being socially ostracised, harassed, or just looked at as strange and deviant.

But slowly, this is changing. Queer collectives have been created in a few colleges, to provide spaces for LGBTQ students to express themselves freely and find a place for themselves in the community. More and more students are able to come out to their friends without fear of judgement or exclusion, and some have even found safe spaces in the classrooms of progressive teachers. Moreover, every June, both LGBTQ students and their straight allies come out to the streets of North Campus and other parts of the university in a celebration of queerness and love.

Yet, there’s something a little strange about this representation. When you think of an openly queer student from any of India’s large universities, who do you picture? For most of us, the answer will be a young bisexual woman, likely with a name that betrays her upper-caste origins and a healthy dose of socioeconomic privilege to go along with it. But why, in this group of lakhs of students from across the country, is this the one demographic that appears to be so dominant. Is it a simple chance, or is there something more sinister at play?

“I think being gay or especially bisexual has become “mainstream” in certain circles in a way that being trans has just not. It’s also much easier to hide not being straight than it is to hide being cisgender. You can choose to hide the fact that you date the same sex when you go to an interview or doctor’s appointment. But if I were to come out and transition, especially with meds or even surgical procedures, there would be no way to turn my trans-ness off if I’m not in the right setting,” a closeted trans man from Miranda House told us.  As a student in a women’s college, he feels a sense of otherness from his classmates all the more acutely, but does not feel comfortable coming out to anyone but his closest friends for the same reason. 

A trans woman we spoke to told us that being transgender in India is still associated with the third gender community, even if the trans individual in question does not identify with them. Since this community, by virtue of its socio-economic position, is as far as can be from the woke metro-dweller, transgender individuals are excluded from queer discourse in these circles as well.

Yet, bisexuality is also one of the identities that is most frequently erased by society and the media, simply because it isn’t as visible as many other queer identities. “I think one of the main reasons behind people feeling that bisexual women are “over-represented” is because our identity isn’t taken seriously. Everyone thinks we’re just straight girls who sometimes kiss other girls when we’re drunk or to entertain guys,” said a bisexual woman from Lady Shri Ram College for Women. 

This superficial view of female bisexuality means that the consequences of being out and visibly bisexual are often not as severe as they are for being visibly transgender or gay. Even so, it perpetuates an incredibly harmful stereotype and leads to bisexuality being dismissed as an adventurous phase, at most, which bisexual women will get over. Many bisexual women also report lesbians refusing to enter into serious relationships with them, as a result of the perception that they will choose a more socially acceptable male partner when they eventually have to make a serious, long-term commitment. 

And when bisexual women do flout this stereotype and choose to spend their lives with female partners, they face just as much, if not more, backlash than gay persons. As one bisexual woman who has been with a woman for nearly a decade now told us, “My family and many others think I’m even worse than a gay person because at least I have a “choice to be normal”, whatever that implies.”

Some think the class divide in queer representation has a simple origin. “I honestly don’t think it’s anything too deep. If your family’s rich and you’ve grown up with a so-called “international” education, you’re more likely to be accepted by your friends and family if you come out. So you can paint pride flags on your face for Pride and put up infographics about gay representation in movies without constantly worrying about the wrong person seeing it or spreading a rumour.” says a lesbian woman from Hindu College.

Openly queer public figures in India, whether they’re the two lesbian lawyers Arundhati Katju and Menaka Guruswamy who fought to overturn Section 377, or iconic author and novelist Vikram Seth, are nearly always sophisticated, wealthy and endlessly eloquent (in English, of course). As one gay man said on an anonymous online forum, this image has become the only remotely socially-acceptable way to be queer in modern India.

“It’s not really a shock that Dalit queers aren’t represented in mainstream queer discourse in India. We’ve been excluded from all of these other supposedly progressive movements, whether it’s mainstream Indian socialism or feminism,” a student of Kirori Mal College told us.

In a society where upper-caste activism narratives are dominant, the identities and significance of transgender Dalits are sidelined completely. This is especially true when it comes to transgender and third-gender Dalit women, who, despite being some of India’s oldest and most important LGBTQ activists, are brushed aside for figures that are more palatable to dominant groups.

Some of these factors are beyond the control of the queer community, but many of them are not. So, it is the responsibility of the most vocal and visible of India’s LGBTQ community to pass on the mic. If we don’t, there is no hope of India as a whole ever accepting those who stray from the straight, cisgender norm. We may create islands of pro-queer wokeness and get a colonial-era law or two repealed, but real, large-scale change can never come when the vast majority of us are still invisible and unheard.

Read Also: The Need for Queer Collectives in Colleges

Featured Image Credits: Deccan Herald

Shriya Ganguly                                                                                                                                                [email protected]

It’s nearly impossible to imagine DU without Hindi, the language omnipresent in its classrooms, canteens and fests. But for students unfamiliar with it, its growing importance has dire consequences.

On 7th April 2022, Home Minister Amit Shah described Hindi as “the language of India” and encouraged people of different states, such as the seven North-Eastern ones, to use it to communicate with each other. He also noted with pride the adoption of Hindi as a compulsory language until Class 10 by all the North-Eastern states, the fact that 70% of the agenda of the Cabinet is now prepared in Hindi and, most egregiously, the agreement of nine tribal communities in the North East to change the script of their languages to Devanagari.

On the following day, 8th April, first-year students across DU who have not studied Hindi up to Class 10 gave an exam, the Compulsory Test for Hindi (CTH), that tested their knowledge of the language. It may seem absurd to compare an enormously influential politician’s speech to a college exam that isn’t paid much attention to, but for many CTH students, the imposition of the subject is a symptom of a much bigger problem.

DU is a central university, not a state university. That’s why colleges that aren’t specifically funded by the state government don’t have reservations for local students and the curriculum doesn’t focus on Delhi. The same argument should apply to the compulsory teaching of Hindi.

Swati, a student of Kirori Mal College

When the test was introduced in 2016, there was much protest from students of non-Hindi-speaking states, but this was ignored completely. Today, any student who has not studied the language up to Class 8 must pass it in order to receive a graduation degree from DU. A popular argument in its favour goes that the course will teach students the basic Hindi that is nearly essential for living in a city like Delhi. But a closer examination of the curriculum says otherwise.

The course doesn’t even teach us normal spoken language. It’s complex, written Hindi. We learnt an entire script, with all grammatical nuances included, in four months and now have to do complicated essays on places of historical importance. There isn’t even a spoken test and our teacher speaks to us in shuddh Hindi so we can understand barely 20% of what he says.

Kamalkoli Majumdar, second-year student at Miranda House

BA and BComm. Programme students at DU, too, are usually forced to study the language. While the official syllabi for the courses only require students to study any one modern Indian language, the vast majority of colleges only offer Hindi to students. Like in so many other cases, a facade of inclusivity is used to shield discriminatory practices from criticism.  The CTH paper is of far more consequence, here, because its marks are counted towards a student’s CGPA.

As a student from Kerela, we are not as comfortable with Hindi as we are with other subjects. For example, I studied Hindi till 12th so I need to choose Hindi Paper A which is the toughest one. Even students from a Hindi background find this paper tough, There should be an alternative to Hindi as the subject name itself suggests—Modern Indian Languages.

A BComm. student of Gargi College

This Hindi hegemony is, of course, not limited to formal academic situations. Consciously or otherwise, student groups often speak in Hindi or a mixture of Hindi and English that is equally unintelligible to students who don’t speak either language. Even groups that conduct formal proceedings in English switch to Hindi during more informal gatherings.

“People speak in Hindi in casual conversation quite a lot, but I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. But I find it annoying, at best, and exclusionary, at worst, when even in spaces that are supposed to function in English or at least cater to everyone’s needs, like college societies, default to Hindi. I can choose another group of friends if one doesn’t accommodate my linguistic needs, but I can’t do the same with a college club, can I?” – a student of Lady Shri Ram College 

In colleges that are dominated by students from Delhi and other Hindi-speaking regions, the hegemony is far more obvious. It becomes nearly impossible for students who can’t speak the language to operate, let alone participate fully in college activities.

There is repeated intimidation of people whose command over the language is not strong and fluent and moreover there is a deep lack of non-Hindi speaking people in positions of power in student bodies. 

Anwesh Banerjee, a student of Ramjas College

These varied shades of Hindi imposition, formal and informal, subtle or overt, in all university spaces are not aberrations or coincidences. They are part of a much larger trend, the attempt to impose the language upon the entire population of India, to establish it not only as the official language, the raj bhasha, but also the national language, the rashtriya bhasha. It is not surprising at all that it has only been encouraged by the official sanction it has received from the highest political offices in the last half a decade, in particular.

Of course, the argument against the use of Hindi isn’t so cut and dry. Inevitably, the language to replace it will be English, which comes with its own colonial, elitist baggage. For every instance of a student facing academic or social discrimination due to their proficiency in Hindi, there is a similar story with Hindi swapped out for English. 

There is no simple solution to this, no easy switch that can be made. Instead, as with most other problems that are a natural consequence of India’s incredible diversity, striving for balance and inclusivity is the only way forward. Syllabi that so plainly disfavour a huge portion of the university’s students must be changed, immediately. But more importantly, every single one of us must attempt to accommodate all our peers, not just the ones that sound like us.

Read Also: Foreign Ties: a Conversation with an Exchange Student at DU

Featured Image Credits: The Swaddle

Shriya Ganguly                                                                                                                                                 [email protected]

Ed-tech startups like Byju’s and Udemy promised to revolutionise the Indian education system. Instead, they’ve turned it into a ruthless and exploitative money-making machine.

The COVID 19 pandemic came as one of the greatest blows to education in modern history. It shut down schools, left millions of students stranded and forced them into child labour and marriage. But for one industry, educational technology the closing of classroom doors was exactly what cleared their path towards monumental success. 

Byju’s, the most successful of these ed-tech startups, has been valued at USD 18 billion, more than the entire education budget of India for 2021-22. It has acquired other education brands like JEE and NEET coaching giant Aakash Institute, WhiteHat Jr., a company that claims to teach kids as young as 6 to code and skill-development app Great Learning. It has even gone international, buying up Epic!, Osmo and other American education companies.

Fueling its meteoric growth are huge investors like Edelweiss and the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative as well as a host of unethical practices that swindle students and parents out of their money by making misleading claims and false promises. And Byju’s is certainly not unique, most other ed-tech platforms have adopted similar strategies for profit.

Byju’s incessant flashy ads starring Shah Rukh Khan and WhiteHat Jr.’s promises to turn kids into computer geniuses who create apps worth billions at age 12 might be egregiously false and very irritating, but they’re far from their most outrageous techniques for selling their services.

Toxic Work Cultures 

Byju’s employees are reportedly made to work more than 12 hours a day, skipping meals and rushing from one potential client to another in order to meet their weekly target of INR 2,00,00 per week. They target everyone from 6th-graders who say they want to become doctors to 12th-graders struggling with competitive exams (and, of course, their parents) and convince them that they will never be able to succeed without Byju’s or one of the companies it owns. 

To do this, they partner with schools to push their courses among students, prey on parents’ insecurities by asking their children questions that are too advanced for them and convince parents in smaller towns that local coaching institutes will be utterly inadequate in preparing their children for national-level exams.

Even student interns hired by the company aren’t spared. They are asked to push the service onto their peers and convince them to first sign up for a free trial and then buy the courses. They often receive calls from frustrated and angry parents who are tired of Byju’s insistent marketing.

Students were not ready to take up the free lectures as well because later on they used to jam up their parents every now and then to take up the course.

Disha, a former intern at WhiteHat Jr.

Targeting the Most Vulnerable

Until relatively recently, Byju’s reach was limited to the digitally-literate elite. But after they launched Discovery School Super League, an inter-school game show, they saw a sharp increase in sign-ups from students of less-privileged backgrounds. So, they decided to fully capitalise on their new market.

Employees were asked to sell the course to everyone in their lives, from the owner of a chai stall they frequented to their domestic workers. The company also collects data from their phones that have downloaded the Byju’s app that allow them to guess the owner’s socioeconomic status and tailor their marketing strategies to it. 

When speaking to poorer families, sales associates make their children seem incompetent and tell the parents that their only path to academic and professional success is through a Byju’s education. To enable them to pay for these courses, which can cost lakhs, they encourage them to take up loans. To facilitate this, they even have tie-ups with companies that offer these loans but take care never to refer to them as “loans” or mention “outstanding payments” to make sure potential clients aren’t driven away by the idea of borrowing money. Unsurprisingly, a survey by The Ken found that more than half of the people who were signing up for these subscriptions had no idea that they were taking a loan.

My driver was scammed by Byju’s. They sold him a course of 35,000 for his daughter and convinced him to take a loan for it by telling him all sorts of misleading things. His daughter kept insisting that it was very important and he thought it best to listen to them because he was not highly educated himself and was uninformed about these things. Now he has to borrow money from me and struggles to pay instalments every month.

Anya, a second-year student of DU

Unhappy Students

Byju’s promises to refund clients who are unsatisfied with the service and cancel their subscription within 15 days of purchasing it but many parents claim that this is a false promise. Many of them who have been denied their money have taken to social media platforms like Twitter and LinkedIn to publicly voice their grievances. Often, the threat of public disgrace has turned out to be the only way to make the billion-dollar company pay up. Once again, those who do not have the privileged knowledge or ability to access these platforms are left in the lurch.

The quality of the teaching and learning resources themselves on ed-tech platforms is highly inconsistent. Some have found the classes useful but have been frustrated by repeated attempts to convince them to buy even more Byju’s services. Others say that they did not even receive most of the services they were promised, let alone find them satisfactory.

“Overall the e-learning part was helpful… although they would keep on calling you until you enrol in the physical classes. But the physical classes turned out to be a pain for me.” – Devyanshi, a first year student of DU whose school partnered with Byju’s

My younger brother signed up for a 3-month course with Byju’s which was supposed to come with personalized guidance. The learning material itself was decent, but his supposed mentor stopped calling us or replying to our attempts to contact him just 2 weeks after the classes began.

Shreya, a first year student of DU

Worst of all, these companies have been ruthless about suppressing criticism against them in order to maintain their public image.

In 2020, software engineer Pradeep Poonia was sued for a whopping 20 crore by Whitehat Jr. on charges of defamation and copyright infringement. Poonia had uploaded a series of videos criticizing the ed-tech giant and its practices, particularly its ad campaigns, one of which claimed a 9-year-old named Wolf Gupta had got a 150-crore job at Google at the age of nine after learning to code from Whitehat Jr. Along with the lawsuit, Poonia had his videos taken down and social media accounts disabled. Although Whitehat later backed down and withdrew their charges, the extent of their power and influence had been made apparent. Now, anyone who isn’t a multi-billion-dollar corporation knows that going up against these giants could prove fatal.

The Way Forward

Many educators have suggested that the government must crack down on these ed-tech companies and regulate their operations as strictly as they do schools. For instance, their subscriptions must all be turned into monthly ones similar to those of Netflix and Spotify, forcing them to keep their clients continuously satisfied rather than abandoning them the moment the deal is closed.

Others say that the commodification of online education by corporations is a problem in itself. They claim that all the resources available on these websites can be found elsewhere on the internet, from YouTube to the free, non-profit ed-tech organization Khan Academy’s website.

Either way, the pandemic has made online learning an essential part of most students’ lives. If we want to stop it from becoming the monopoly of a few greedy and unscrupulous businesses, we must act now.

Read Also: In Conversation with WeConvert: A start up to change the waste management system in India

Shriya Ganguly                                                                                                                                                  [email protected]

The Maulana Azad National Fellowship Scheme provided 5 years of financial support to minority scholars.

On 12th January 2022, members of the SFI (Students’ Federation of India) demonstrated against the government’s discontinuation of the Maulana Azad National Fellowship Scheme in front of the Ministry of Education, as well as at the University of Delhi and Jawaharlal Nehru University. Also part of the protest were members of the All India Students’ Association (AISA), Maulana Azad National Urdu University, Students’ Union (MSU), Krantikari Yuva Sangathan (KYS) and JNU Students’ Union, as well as students from institutions across the capital. The Maulana Azad National Fellowship was launched in 2009 and provided financial support for five years to students from six notified minority communities: Buddhists, Christians, Jains, Muslims, Parsis and Sikhs who were pursuing MPhils or PhDs.

While the government has claimed the decision to roll it back was taken because it overlapped with other schemes, opponents have argued that this justification is invalid, as students cannot benefit from more than one educational scheme in any case. They have also pointed out the discontinuation of other government aid such as the pre-matric scholarship for SC, ST, OBC and Minority students. They see this decision as part of a larger attack on minority scholars.

Shakir, a PhD student from DU, and a recipient of the MANF, told that following the decision he will essentially have to stop my research, or rush through it to submit it soon.” 

My academic journey will stop here. There are costs associated with being a research scholar that I cannot bear without this scholarship.” – Shakir, in conversation with

The protestors have alleged that they were manhandled by the police, being dragged across the road and shoved into buses despite demonstrating peacefully. Several students sustained injuries, and over 100 were detained at the Mandir Marg Police Station.

As far as I saw, all of the policemen at the protest were men and they seemed hostile right from the beginning. They soon began to push and shove us around, including the female protestors, and even those who were not seriously injured came out of the experience battered, both physically and otherwise.” – an MA student at the demonstration.


The student is not a member of any student political organisation, but attended the protest as she fears that the discontinuation of the MANF and other schemes like it will prove disastrous for her career as a scholar.

Feature Image credits: DU Beat

Shriya Ganguly

[email protected]