I consider my daily travel a theatre project, far from the real me: I cover myself from head to toe and wear sunglasses double the size of my face. Why? Because most of the male passengers look at all the women in the compartment as if this is something they get for free along with their ticket.
The nurse looked me up and down and asked about my last period. I responded that it had been recent and regular and that I wasn’t there about a reproductive issue but rather a potential stomach bug. “Mmm hmmm,” she responded, with more than a hint of dubiousness in her voice, and said, “Take this cup, pee into it and bring it back to me. We’ll run a pregnancy test.” I stared back at her. “I’m not pregnant!” She responded, “Well, we’ll see about that. Is that your mum outside? Young girls like you are always coming in like this.”
Personally, I don’t know if it’s because of how Instagram has evolved, or the people using it, or, well, me. Among its most wonderful sights – jaw-dropping beautiful travel destinations; delicious-looking home-cooked South Indian food neatly arranged on a stainless steel plate; doodles and handicraft – what I love about the platform is watching people, mostly women, dressed up.
I did my schooling and higher studies in Delhi. Thanks to a compulsorily uniform attire at school, the differences in socio-economic backgrounds of students were successfully erased. But as one enters college, one’s attire gets significant attention, especially for a person from a weak socio-economic background. This transition period from school to college is also the age of sexual anxieties, experiments and experiences.
The women taught me how to navigate the city, as I learnt about the different ways the body is marked in public (and in private too). I often tried to discern when ‘bold’ became ‘reckless’, and what the underlying politics of this rhetoric shift might be. How arguments were stacked up pre-emptively determining who was deserving of protection and whose transgressions left them out in the cold.