What is fashion? Is it what we see on the ramps? Is it what we wear? If we say that Western clothes show off a woman's body, what about the sari: Does it not show more than it conceals? Do we stop being Indian if we prefer wearing western clothes? And if that's the case, how come no one says anything about men wearing dhotis? "Indian women don't smoke," is something bloody autorickshaw drivers have said to me. My response has always been the same: "What about the village women who smoke hookas and beedi?" So far no one has given me a fitting response to that. Smoking is a bad habit and clothing is a personal choice, why is 'Indianness' threatened by all this?
Mishraji’s Musings: Chapter 7
Brazen and bolti-bandh
(bolti bandh = speechless)
After the last debacle in the Mishra family where 33-year-old Catrina Kohli and Mishraji’s 22-year-old son, Tinkuji eloped and left Mishraji fuming, everyone seemed to lay low, yours truly included. The direct result of the Mishraji-yours truly face off was to stop blogging on ibnlive.com; one wasn’t too sure if he was reading that blog or not.
However, one has received news from Reliable Sources – read Colony Maids Grapevine since they trash everybody unlike your daily newspapers that have hidden political agendas and capital allegiances – that put off by the alleged media influence on his family affairs, Mishraji has sworn to NEVER get on to the Internet. “Too much unfiltered information, without any responsibility,” is what he thinks of the Net. Truth be told, it suits one fine. Since one’s last encounter with the Parivar (family), one had secretly missed the constant drama and had been waiting for something to give way.
As one completed the quick crossword over the second cup of coffee and took in the early morning background soundtrack – various scooters and motorcycles being kick-started, the swoosh of the brooms on the colony roads, dogs barking at waking cars and an assortment of vendors hawking their fares as they wheel-barrowed through the colony lanes – there was a distinctly alien sound emanating from the Mishra household. Even as one tried to put a name to the indistinct but familiar tune, someone turned up the volume and DON’T YOU WISH YOUR GIRLFRIEND WAS HOT LIKE ME blasted through the neighbourhood. Even the dogs stopped barking.
There had been no sound of music from the walls beyond ever since Mishraji had thrown Pinkiji’s tape-recorder out the window and thus it was with much justified curiosity – yours truly is a trained journalist after all – that one peeped into their courtyard to see who had dared let the music play. The vision was… a fashion disaster and reminded one of thunder thighs specialist, south-Indian actress Rambha (her fans lovingly call her ‘Rambo’).
Pinkiji was wearing tights, a noodle-strap top, had blonde streaks in her hair and was cat-walking on her verandah in five-inch heels at 8 am in the morning. She had a remote of some sort in her hand, was sipping from a bright red mug and her nail polish was a screaming red. Before one could duck behind the wall Pinkiji spotted yours truly. As one quickly schooled one’s expressions – rule of a good investigative journalist is to never show apparent shock – and blurted a hasty greeting, Pinkiji shouted over the music, “Hello-ji sex writer, what is the latest in your world of orgasm?”
All attempts at nonchalance went out the window and as one stood with an open mouth wondering what had happened to the salwar-kameez-clad Pinkiji, Mishraji walked in the gate carrying bananas, bread and milk in a packet.
“I was just saying hello,” Pinkiji and yours truly screamed out the same words, in chorus.
“Can you shut that awful song?” demanded Mishraji, his eyes fixated on yours truly. As Pinkiji turned the volume down and there was an eerie silence. Mishraji was still glaring at yours truly when Pinkiji started walking towards her father… CLACKETY CLACK CLACKETY CLACK. As Pinkiji’s heels clattered on the verandah floor, Mishraji turned to look at his daughter; she froze on the spot.
“WHAT are you wearing Pinki?” asked Mishraji with evident disproval.
“Tights Papaji, I…”
“I can see they are TIGHT. WHY are you wearing these hideous clothes and…” Mishraji would have continued if Mrs Mishraji had not stepped out of the house at that moment.
“Arre, you’ve come back, good now I can make some breakfast, would you like some p…” her voice trailed off noticing the scowl on her husband’s face. Mrs Mishraji looked from her husband, to her daughter and unsure of what to say, turned to yours truly and said, “Hello madam. Pinki and I came back from Bom… Mumbai, this morning only. Hope you are keeping well.”
“You don’t have to ask about her well-being. As long as people are suffering, the media will do well. LOOK at your daughter,” said Mishraji, wincing at his daughter’s tights-clad vision and before anyone could respond, “Did YOU buy her these clothes?” he demanded of his wife.
“Diya mausi gave me,” replied Pinki, in a small voice, “She said I would look good and that I should stop hiding behind a bedcover.”
“What nonsense is your aunt feeding you, what bedcover?” asked Mishraji, quickly losing his patience.
“Diya mausi calls a dupatta a bedcover and says salwar-kameez does not flatter an Indian woman’s body. Today’s modern woman does not wear bedcovers. Look at Lara Croft,” responded Pinkiji.
“Clothes are not meant for flattering, they are meant to cover your modesty; and who is Lara Croft?,” asked an irritated Mishraji.
“Lara Croft is a comic book superheroine…” responded Pinkiji.
“Comic book? ‘Comic’ means funny and you want to copy someone who..” Mishraji looked confused.
“Indian clothes aways try to make a woman look fat and feel as if she has to hide something… says Diya mausi and…” replied Pinkiji.
“Your Diya mausi thinks she is a Bollywood actress and…” said Mishraji.
“…and I think she is right. I am not naked,” replied Pinkiji and both Mrs Mishraji and yours truly gasped. She was answering back to her father! .
“You are not naked? Are you answering me back? What do you mean by THAT? Go change your clothes,” Mishraji asked and ordered in the same breath, with a sudden chill to his voice.
“I am not naked. I like these clothes. They make me feel free. Freedom of expression is my constitutional right. Ask Media Madam,” defied Pinkiji and one’s heart sank.
“ASK MEDIA MADAM? FINE. Madam, tell her these clothes are bad, tell her she looks fat in them,” demanded Mishraji. One was stuck and didn’t know what to say or how to get out of the situation when Mishraji turned on his daughter.
“And what do you mean freedom of expression? I have let you do whatever you feel like, have not been like other fathers. Maybe I should have been stricter. Just because I have never laid hands on you, you have…”
“You dare not,” said Pinkiji softly and everything went hush.
“PINKI,” said Mrs Mishraji.
“What?” asked Mishraji.
“Let it be, she doesn’t know what she is saying,” cajoled Mrs Mishraji.
“No, you dare not. You cannot hit me. I am an adult. You dare not touch me,” declared an unrelenting Pinkiji. Diya mausi had obviously had a strange influence on the girl.
“Dare not touch you? What are you saying? What is she saying Meenal?” Mishraji asked his wife and it was the first time one had heard her name. “She says I can’t touch her? This is the child who sat on my lap as a one-year-old. This is the girl, I… I taught her to walk. What does she mean I cannot touch her?” He was looking at his daughter askance.
Even as Pinkiji stared back at her father defiantly, Mrs Mishraji looked torn between her husband and her daughter and Mishraji looked as if someone had punched him in the gut, the cellphone in Mishraji’s pocket started ringing…
To be continued.