Bra, brazen and bolti-bandh

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.


Never Mind!! said...

We had similar discussions in college innumerable times when we had restrictions imposed on the way students dressed to school.

We Indians are in a very unique position of having a variety of outfits to choose from. Not many countries in the world still have their traditional clothing as part of their mainstream fashion (I may be wrong). Taking full advantage of it, I would say we should change what we wear based on what the situation demands. I wouldnt mind wearing a skimpy western outfit for a night out but would rather die than to be seen in such clothes say at a religious ceremony or a family gathering. For everyday, I wear watever makes me comfortable. In that context I think there is nothing comparable to a pair of jeans and a comfy tee and I would kill if someone questions my patriotism for my choice of clothing. But if you are hot enough to be comfortable in tights and a tank, go ahead and flaunt that body. But like Mishraji complained,please don't wear something that makes you look fat and inappropriately dressed. And about fashion, being open minded enough to accept another person's choice is what constitutes being fashionable to me!!

I think all these arguments boil down to the fundamental freedom of expression. Why should you stop if someone wants to smoke their lungs off? Who are we to moral police anyway? Dont the same people that argue against women wearing western clothes be seen gawking at the very same women?

I know two radically opposite smoking couples. One N stopped smoking because his wife ask him why she couldnt smoke when she makes as much money as he does. Another S, encouraged his partner to smoke when she asked him to quit. Not relevant but thought was interesting to share.

Anonymous said...

thanks for the photo of rambha!

ha ha

i had forgotten she's still alive


"Sidd"ius Maximus said...

I am nobody to judge what anyone wears and doesn't wear.. but all would like to say is.. dress for the occasion..

Let me elucidate it in a better manner..Being fashionable doesn't mean flashing skin all over the place!! I came across a common acquaintance who,on one fine sunny day, was wearing a spaghetti strap along with red tights and as JB likes to call it-hooker heels.. exposing her heinous cleavage along with a springing show of thunder thighs and a belly!! Boy!! that WAS a sight!!

And then there are those who absolutely overdo it.. and as aforementioned by "pinkiji" in the subject@lara croft..some people look like they've just popped out of a video game!!

I wonder how the guys get away with wearing jeans and the grotesque worn-out t-shirts(those faded mettalica tees.. those things should be banned) and the ladies are cajoled to wear something more "Indian".!!

Similarly.. the mindset of the populous(in specific areas) should also be considered vis-a-vis the level of skin show for obvious safely reasons..

As for me, even if a wear a pair of kurta-chudidar or the usual shorts and long tees.. I get stared upon as if I've just landed from a Mozambique zoo!!

It's funny how people derive a fall sense of national integration by compelling ladies to wear "ethnic" dresses... and that integration disappears when they ogle at the slightest show of skin and strip a poor lady naked with their greedy bare eyes!!

rambler said...

lol lol lol..I can imagine what poor Pinky must have looked like dressed like that,but these are fashion faux pas not moral faux pas.The number of comments I have had to endure for having the shamelessness to walk around showing my legs in a skirt or shorts,mind you-not a mini skirt,would compiled be a heavier and longer read than the complete works of Shakespeare.I chalk it down to character- building,to have the Chutzpah to hold your head up and walk down a street knowing what's coming your way requires Thatchers balls of steel.Eventually it was not just the comfort of wearing sensible clothes in the 40 degree heat but the stubborn pride which dictated that I was not to buckle under the social pressure to look and dress 'Indian'.Wonder what my detractors would have said if I wore the khajuraho-classics instead of the levi classics..

Anonymous said...

'please don't wear something that makes you look fat and inappropriately dressed.'

fat and inappropriately dressed are the same thing nowadays? are they?
what exactly is wrong with looking fat?


Never Mind!! said...

@N: Nothing wrong with being fat. Just dont show it because it really isnt a pleasant sight. Also I dont mean to curtail a fat person from skin show but I think it is a fashion faux pas more than a moral issue.

I should've worded it differently!

Anonymous said...

but never mind, telling people what they should or shouldn't waer because it hurts your subjective aestetics is actually worse than moral policing by parents.
parents/elders might be telling the girls not to wear certain kind of clothes so that they are safer (yes i know, wearing even the most chaste of salwaar kameez in dilli will get you sexually harassed) but wearing something that reveals will definitely double the unwanted attention.
so maybe the moral policing does come from concern.
but wanting/communicating that a person shouldn't show skin because she/he is fat is really akin to saying that a bengali woman who is dark shouldn't wear yellow, or pale pink or whatever because dark skin also might be unappealing to someone, or maybe a long nose hurts my sensibilities and i wouldn't want a friend with a long nose to wear a nose stud. is that really acceptable to you?
you know criticising someone's dressing sense for having the audacity to show fat is exactly like an idiot right wing hindu saying he/she doesn't like the kaajal in eyes look because that is so Muslim looking.
and besides, a lot of fat people end up wearing awful clothes also because barring the ethnic clothes (in that too, Fab India is the only place that gets it right) the desingers don't have the brains to make clothes that will flatter fat bodies. so the poor fat people are trying to uncomfortably squeeze into clothes that are meant to flatter thin people. so that could be a reason why fat people are not wearing what suits them.


JB said...

Interesting, given the demand should there not be MORE brands catering to women of different sizes...especially in our country?

Anonymous said...

yes. Revolution that caters to plus size women has bizarre clothes. fat women have faulty eyes it seems.


JB said...

bwahahahahahahahaha @ "fat women have faulty eyes'
awesome. that's the quote of the day

rambler said...

The point isn't whether fat women have the right to wear skimpy clothes,of course they have the right,whether they should is another issue.The problem is a lot of lumpy women believe that squeezing themselves into too-tight clothes makes them look slimmer,the result is the 'bulging sausage' effect,which is embarrassing for them and embarrassing for me to look at.They always say live within your means,I say always live within your width..

Anonymous said...

hmmm now the point is that fat women are forced into squeezing themselves into clothes to look slimmer because unfortunately with the zero size crap gaining acceptance only thin is valued.
you know it is EXACTLY the same thing, dark skinned women DESPERATELY trying on fairness creams to look fairer because ONLY milky white complexions are accepted.
do you also have problems with dark skinned women wearing pastel colours which are apparently only meant for lighter complexions?
and it is embarassing for fat women to be seen in those clothes (i am assuming at the mo that we are not talking of discomfort ) ONLY because a whole lot of judgemental people (unfortunately like you right now) think they shouldn't wear something this, that and the other.
it is kind of interesting and perverse that proponents of liberty and democracy and individual expression are so insensitively judgemetal of how a certain person should look, lest he/she offends their fragileand convinient sense of aesthetics and comfort levels. sorry, it is not really a personal attack because N has no issues with rambler per se, and it is really a fight between two POVs, but this kind of attitude is hypocracy.
this attitude is AS BAD if not worse than moral policing.
BJP tells me i shouldn't wear jeans because i am a good indian girl and cosmo and it's fans tell me i shouldn't wear jeans because their oh-so-precious peace of mind is ruined. sorry, but what exactly is the difference?

and er, if you are embarassed by what other people are wearing then...ummm....maybe you are more clued in to their lives than your own perhaps?


Never Mind!! said...

N: Yeah I agree that asking fat people to not wear revealing clothes is worse than moral policing. But that is one of the rules I use to pick what I want to wear apart from being appropriate enough for the occasion. If fat people want to wear skin tight clothes or dark people want to wear rani pink, so be it. I have the option of looking away but no right to prevent them from wearing. Like I already said, fashion for me is to be open to another person's choice without letting my prejudices judge them. Its very hard to do it and I rarely am
fashionable that way.

Can I include petites in the plus size revolution? Designer clothes or for that matter most of the ready to wear stuff cater to those tall and slender bodies. Since you already mentioned plus sizes, I say ready to wear should also be made available in petite sizes. And no petite does not mean short and wide!!!

aluchaat said...

ha ha ha
yes petite should be included. i used to be stick thin and small and now i am happy fat. and i have not been able to find decent clothes at eithe sizes. so i think i think the conspiracy is not so much against fat people. the conspiracy is against normal people with normal sizes and normal tastes, maybe

aluchaat said...

sorry, the earlier N has not reclaimed her identity and is now aluchaat!

and JB, i don't see that follow up to comments ka option here, at the moment. do some posts have and others don't.
i mean i tried logging from my google/blogger account also and couldn't see that dollow up option.

silbil said...

i meant has NOW reclaimed her identity. Not not. what a stupid type, i think i need coffee, home and in general a life. i don't need office.

rambler said...

why are they 'forced' to squeeze into clothes that don't suit them?because the magazines tell them to?but on the other hand you believe that people should wear what they want despite those very magazines telling them to dress in what flatters them and not what's trendy JUST because its trendy..hmmm a bit hole-y that argument there 'N'
I believe that people should wear what their particular size says they should wear,I dont think they need to be kitted out in Vintage Dior,Jimmy choo's swinging a Louis Vuitton city bag to look good,they could be Hippy,Avant Garde,Punk,Preppie or salwar kurta,but whatever they wear it should be them and not gladrags worn just to impress the world with their being hip and trendy all the while looking like the backside of a DTC..If the anthem of the day is "Be yourself",how exactly are these women achieving that??

silbil said...

they are nor forced to wear particular brands, rambler. they are forced to look thin! and to look thin you also wear 'thin' clothes. 99% of fat women i know buy clothes that are small for them in an attempt to look thin.
and which magazines really are suggesting flattering clothes for fat women? Cosmo, no. Vogue, no. Elle, no. so which magaazines do you refer to. ALL THESE magazines are catering to the barbie doll size aspirants. diet diet diet...excercise (ONLY TO LOSE WEIGHT), lose weight to keep his attract, lose weight to feel good (not physically but mentally and that is a HUGE problem)...
i specefically mentioned a plus size store called Revolution...which mainly has LOUD, psychodelic prints...assuming of course that ALL FAT women like exactly the same kind of style...

and i am not 'N' anymore, i am silbil now :D

maxine said...

Oh wow!
Gatorade available at the toon corner.

rambler said...

Well Silbil,it seems like this argument can veer off into a hundred directions if we want it to.I cant say that i agree with the kind of articles or the kind of 'look' that is being held up as the 'Ideal way to be' either but I refuse to feel sympathy for people who would be so influenced by what the magazines have to say that they would them blame the very same for forcing them to lose weight and/or to dress ridiculously.By this yardstick we could excuse any behaviour by any group of individuals if they are in a position to be influenced by the written word.Where does the self come in?Where does personal choice come in?Where does individuality come in?These are beauty and fashion magazines,its their job to sell clothes,cosmetics,fads..why blame them and not yourself?
Its not as if I am a a size 0 and that's why am being so vociferous about this topic,its just that I don't like people playing the blame game looking for someone else to bear the burden of their own choices..
One thing I do agree with is that there are definitely not enough shops selling clothes for larger women,at least in india

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