Brushing their long hair and applying mascara on their long eyelashes, Mruga Kulkarni and her sister Sanya are like any other young women.
Except that these pretty sisters have something most young women covet – very,
very, very long legs, which is really no surprise as they are daughters of the second tallest couple in the world.
Standing at 185cm, Mruga, 22, is the envy of all of her friends, while her ‘little’ sister Sanya, 16, is even more so, at 193cm.
And thanks to their good looks they hope to carve out successful careers as models. “It’s great being tall and I love being part of a tall family,’’ says Mruga. “I really feel proud to be a part of the Kulkarnis. My sister and I are applying to agencies and want to build up a portfolio. We’d love to be models."
That’s not their only dream. The girls, along with their parents Sharad and Sanjot, from Pune, India, hope to be crowned the World’s Tallest Family thanks to their combined height of 786cm.
If successful, it won’t be the first record in the family. Sharad and Sanjot were crowned India’s Tallest Couple by their country’s own Limca Book of Records after they married back in 1989.
Sharad, 52, stands at 218cm and Sanjot, 46, is 190cm tall, totalling more than four metres.
They hoped the Guinness Book of Records would one day come calling. But an American couple, Wayne and Laurie Hallquist, from Stockton, California, have beaten them, standing a combined 2.5cm taller.
Growing with confidence
Growing up, Mruga and Sanya were confident about their height. They laughed at anyone who tried to bully them or make them feel different – quite unlike what their parents underwent while growing up.
Mruga can remember being stared at by the other children at school. “When my parents used to drop me at school all my classmates would stare, amazed to see us stand together so tall.
At first it was difficult to make friends because people were a bit intimidated by us but once they saw my friendly side it was easier.”
At school Mruga and Sanya used their height to their advantage – always playing basketball and netball. Both are also keen dancers.
Sharad and Sanjot remember being extremely uncomfortable while in public due
to their height and both say they faced a lot of teasing and ridicule.
Sanjot, who grew up in a small village in the western state of Maharashtra, says, “I grew up feeling alienated as most of my friends were all shorter than me. I was also sure that I’d never find a husband who would be as tall or taller
than me. You see, it’s quite uncommon for a woman to be taller than her husband in India.
“The man holds a more authoritative role in the family and there is a cultural perception that he should be taller than his wife... he should be quite literally above his family and in control of it. I would never have wanted to
marry a man who is shorter than me because he would then be ridiculed. It was a big possibility that I’d never marry really.”
Sanjot met her match
But she has to thank her grandmother for spotting Sharad – which perhaps might not have been too difficult given his height – while walking down a street in Mumbai one evening.
Sharad recalls, “This elderly lady came up to me and asked if I was married and when I told her I was single and also looking to get married, she quite bluntly asked me if I would like to meet her granddaughter, who was over 6 feet tall."
Initially a tad reluctant – “I couldn’t believe there would be a girl that tall’’ – Sharad was about to refuse the lady’s invitation until his friends persuaded him to take her telephone number and give her a call.
A few weeks later Sharad’s parents called the number and a meeting was arranged for the potential couple, which is very traditional in India.
Sharad adds, “As soon as I saw her I knew she was the woman for me. She was the perfect height and I knew we’d be very happy together.” They married in December 1988.
A year later India’s Limca Book of Records declared them to be India’s Tallest Married Couple. But that’s as far as it’s gone. Until now, when along with Mruga and Sanya they have the chance to become the World’s Tallest Family.
Sharad and Sanjot always knew they would have tall children. Coming from a tall family generally, it was pretty obvious but they had no idea how tall. And Sanya set a new record at birth measuring 66cm long.
She was the longest baby in India at the time of birth. “I’m so excited when I hear that,’’ Mruga says. “We love being tall. So many people would love
to be taller, I hear girls moan about their short heights every day... we’re so happy and content."
Going to great lengths
Mruga, who is pursuing a Master’s degree in Business Administration, still sympathises with her parents when she hears of their struggles growing up. She and her sister have only experienced positiveness around their heights.
Mruga adds, “At the moment we’re studying and working hard on our exams at college but we’d love to be models. I know height is important so we hope it gives us a huge advantage in the industry.’’
Despite their good looks, many of their extended family worry the sisters will find it difficult to meet good husbands who will either match or accept their heights. Marriage in India is very important and staying single is still
conservatively seen as a failure.
“There’s plenty of time for husbands,’’ Mruga says. “Many relatives ask my father how we’ll manage to find a good match and I think he does worry sometimes. But we’ll be fine, it’s not something we spend much time worrying
about at the moment.’’
Instead, the family has more routine things to worry about – like finding shoes and clothes to fit. Shopping on the high street is impossible.
Their shoe sizes range from 8 to 12 and they often order footwear online from Europe. A lot of their clothes they have to customise to fit.
Their family home has had many alterations over the years and been adapted to meet the family’s heights.
They had to change all the doorframes from the regular 1.8m to 2.4m high. And they’ve had to customise their furniture including beds, wardrobes, and kitchen shelves because they’re too low.
The Kulkarnis avoid using public transport buses as often as they can. When flying is a necessity they ask for a front seat or the emergency exit row so they will have enough space to stretch their legs. They commute on scooters.
Despite their travails, the girls are revelling in all the attention they receive.
Mruga says, “One day I’ll have my own tall family and it fills me with pride. I love that we’re different to everyone else. Who wants to me normal?’’
However, Mruga and Sanya believe life would be a lot easier if India wasn’t so traditional.
“I love our home but it would be easier for us if we lived in Europe and lived around European open-mindedness. Being tall and different isn’t always seen as a good thing here even though we like it."
The Guinness Book of Records does not currently have a tallest family but would consider the Kulkarni family.
Press officer Anne-Lise Rouse says, “We do monitor this category so we’d like to know of any family that could potentially set this record and we’d then advise them.’’