This is a post I’ve been planning to do since long, because it was after a long time some event had made me introspect and analyze things with utmost depth possible, and yet leave me, possibly, without answer. Also, this post is going to be very, very frank. Everyone tends to push the innermost workings of their minds under the carpet. But quite the opposite of that, I’m going to reveal it as explicitly and plainly as possible. So, in certain ways this post is going to be EXPLICIT. So, the reader’s forbearance is requested. Also, I’ll try my best to set the sequence of my thoughts in an algorithm-like structure. So, it’d be easier to dissect it, and discuss the same.
First, I’ll have to tell something about myself to establish a proper context. As of now, I am preparing for postgraduate (PG) medical entrance exams, for which I’ve joined a particular coaching institute in a city different than the one indicated in my profile. I stay in a hostel, which consists mainly of other PG-aspirants just like me. We have a mess, where we have our meals, and at other times, it serves as the reading room.
Before I describe the very trivial incident, let me make it amply clear that the fact that I’m blogging about it, only implies that I’ve thought a lot over it. And I urge the reader to be patient, and specifically ask me where something that I try to explain remains unclear. This disclaimer is necessitated because I suspect apppreciable number of readers, if they read this post would be tempted to send me pink chaddis! But, I’m not giving my postal address! 😛
There is this girl in the ladies’ hostel (just next to the hostel where I stay), owned by the same owner as my hostel, who attends the same coaching institute as me, but in a different batch and schedule. My interaction with her has been nil. And she uses the same reading room and the mess. This girl, as far as I’ve seen, interacts only with boys from her alma mater, which is in a different city from where I’ve been staying. And, I hadn’t taken any special notice of that fact, though it had registered in my mind. I wouldn’t think much about such issues, for simple reason–they don’t affect me, and moreover, there is fundamentally nothing wrong with that. Just that the event I’m about to describe made me think also about all this. As to what’s her opinion about other fellow female hosteliites to be not interacting with them at all, or conversely what do other female inmates think about her.
The incident was this: I had gone to the mess to have my lunch (I don’t study at that particular study room, but do so in my own hostel room), and I was at the table where the food is laid for us to help ourselves, the girl was ahead of me in a sort of short queue that was formed, and my gaze fell on her flank. And I felt such an intense revulsion that I turned away my gaze with disgust. What I saw was her exposed flank because of a triangular ‘side-cut’ in her shirt. The area exposed was more than 50 centimeter sqaured, with part of her innerwear’s elastic band visible. Now for those wondering how did I reach the magical figure of 50 cm2, just think of a square of 10 cm sides (100 cm2), and cut it half at the diagonal.
Actually, for someone with perfectly normally working hormones like me, I should’ve stared on. My female readers might be disgusted by this suggestion. But then, I believe, I’m going to do full justice to all the moral considerations involved in this particular event, which is prototypical of what one gets to see day-in-and-day out. All this got over in a less than a second, and nor must have I turned away my head in a violent motion to draw anyone’s attention. Basically, no one around noticed what had happened.
But this got me thinking as to why did I feel disgusted, as afterall what she wears is entirely her prerogative.
I’ll make a few clarifications here, right at the outset:
1. I did not gossip about it with others.
2. I did not give her a ‘look’.
3. I would never think of harming her in anyway on account of what she chooses to wear.
4. If I were to ever interact with her, I’d do so with utmost courtesy that I would reserve for anyone I’d be talking to for the first time.
Of course, to clarify, her dress was in deed out of the ordinary for what other girls wear at this place, especially when coming to study or eat. Moreover, she herself had worn that dress for the first time, and to the extent I remember, she never had repeated it.
I drew this conclusion–‘she wanted to expose her flank and elastic band to draw attention to herself’. Of course, I’ll first try to address the concern as to why did I draw the above conclusion. I had an argument in my head in attempt to make maximum possible allowance for that girl.
Allowance 1: She must have not realized that the dress was revealing.
Answer: She has always been meticulously dressed even on other days, when she used to wear Salwar-Kameez. Most of the people when the buy their clothes, try them. This girl used to wear relatively costly dresses, and it was unlikely that she must have bought it from some street-side hawker and didn’t get and an opportunity to try it. Dressing is a skill, and she had been good at it, so it’s unlikely that even if in an unlikelier event that she did buy the said shirt from a roadside hawker, she wouldn’t know that the dress would be at least 7 to 8 cm short of the trouser’s waist.
Allowance 2: She must have dressed in a hurry.
Answer: Didn’t look like that. Her dress was well-ironed. Her hair wasn’t disheveled or anything, and she was taking her food quite leisurely, and also eating it equally leisurely.
Allowance 3: She must have been comfortable with that sort of dressing.
Answer: Possibly, yes. But that had got me thinking as to why we choose the kinds of dresses that we choose? We buy clothes such that they cover those parts of our bodies that we don’t want others to see, especially strangers. I wear a shirt/T-shirt whenever I move out or my room, for simple reason I’d feel embarrassed to allow others to see my bare chest and back, etc. Likewise, I wear trousers that cover my groin area completely! Sorry, couldn’t help it. Had to bring in the last example to clarify. So, I reached this conclusion that she did not mind revealing her flank and the elastic band of her innerwear.
Allowance 4: So what? What if she’s comfortable with revealing her flank and the elastic band? That does not establish intent to reveal.
Answer: When she must have bought that particular shirt, she must have had the option of buying one that did not reveal her flanks. It must have not been very difficult to buy a shirt that would be just 8 to 10 cm lower, and jeans that would be an inch or two higher. Afterall, all other days she had been wearing clothes that were not revealing in the same way. But yes, there is indeed a subtle difference between ‘not minding’ revealing and ‘wanting’ to reveal. How do I know it was the latter and not the former? I concede, this is difficult to answer. But, I’ll give an example. If at a tea stall, you order Pepsi, and the waiter comes and tells you they don’t have it, and offers you to have Coke instead, if you say, “Okay, alright!”, then, that’s what is ‘not minding’, but if you ask for Pepsi in the first place, then you ‘want’ Pepsi, and does not amount to ‘not minding’ it. So, I believe, this adequately establishes the intent to expose, so to say.
Allowance 5: Okays, so what if she wanted to reveal? How does it make me conc
lude that she wanted to draw attention?
Answer: This is most difficult to explain, but if I’ve to assume that she did not want to draw attention, how do I explain someone carefully choosing clothes that precisely are going to reveal one’s flanks and the elastic band? I could attribute random behavior to, maybe, a small child doing things on whim, like wanting to stand on a table and not wanting to climb down, or children of 2 to 3 years not willing to eat their food, but how do I do that for someone in their twenties? It’s either random impulse or it’s well planned attempt to draw attention. And considering her age, it was much likely to be the latter.
Allowance 6: Okay, so what if she chooses to wear revealing clothes? What’s my problem?
Answer: Nothing! Honestly, I have no problems with what she wears. What all I thought about the issue till that point, and for a few minutes beyond did not affect me in any way!
Now, I’ll point out a few things that people do. Do ask yourself if you find them disgusting or not:
1. Picking of nose in public
2. Scratching of groin (in public)
3. People making lousy noises while eating, or licking their fingers passionately while eating
Do you find all or any of the about disgusting?
Yes? What’s your problem?
But they disgusted you, right? Isn’t it precisely their prerogative to likewise to use their fingers, nose, mouth and other orifices the way they want to?
No, but honestly, what I saw about that girl disgusted me beyond reasons involved in above three examples.
Now I will try to explain, why.
The other three examples I gave–what do they tell us about the people concerned? That they are coarse, possibly unhygienic, inconsiderate of others’ attention, and lack a sense of aesthetics.
But why did I feel more disgusted at that girl?
Because that attitude is representative of things fundamentally so wrong with any human being. Picture this:
You’re talking with someone. Possibly, the person is talking something grave, and a part of you wants that person to be distracted by you if of the opposite gender, or if the same gender, to be envious of you! This is hypocrisy of highest kind. Not being truthful to oneself, as well as to one’s present. Also, such a person is living their life on others’ terms, wanting their approval. And approval from any random person, not specifically the people they themselves value.
I have to make many more clarifications. I’ll feel the same kind of disgust if I see someone trying to show off their knowledge out of context, or status or wealth. Or those saying “yes” all the time to please others. Or considering themselves as much worthy as gauged by just about anyone. All these things have one thing common to them–lack of truthfulness to oneself, a lack of certain kind of straightforwardness. Honestly, I wouldn’t have disrespect for someone plainly going and asking someone–“Do you think I’m attractive enough?” What I don’t like is the subliminal influencing through any means. At a much larger scale, it’s the same kind of hypocrisy that makes our politicians do things subversive to the interests of the country in name of benefit to one ‘community’ or the other. Also, how little or high is the chance that persons not averse to wearing revealing clothes to attract attention of just about anyone, wouldn’t do so at the workplace to get promotions, or colleges to get extra marks (something I’ve myself noticed happening)? Is this honorable? Of course, the one giving into such distractions and extending undue favors would be deserving of same blame of indulging in immorality (click).
But, what had really agitated me was that once there was a spat between one of the coordinators of our coaching institute and the owner of the hostel regarding quality of the food served, and coincidentally, when the aforementioned girl was present their, she had been labeled as “characterless” by the hostel owner, because she had been going out alone with guys at night on walk. I was really disgusted by the owner. Afterall, he had no right to interfere with her personal life, who she moved out with, what all she did, and I too had made all the right noises as to how, the girl is a mature, grown up adult, and it was very, very mannerless of the owner to have said that. But a part of me was wondering, did I not also conclude the same thing a month back (then)? That was my hypocrisy. To have something with utmost verbal strength, but just half strength of actual conviction behind those words. And quite obviously, the girl left the hostel to live elsewhere in some days.
Some more clarifications:
1. I never felt even once that owning to her dressing, she deserved to be badmouthed, or eve teased, or molested.
2. I think a saree can be much more revealing than what she was wearing, if so intended by the one wearing.
3. I’m no fan of idea of “preservation of culture”, something I might discuss in one of my coming posts. I’ve not even mentioned the Indian culture perspective above.
4. What all I’ve analyzed for the above girl applies to males, as well as to all other spheres of life.
5. I’d try my best to not be judgmental about the girl, if were to have any interaction with her. But, my above conclusions will definitely weigh heavily on me. If I find her a nice, upright person otherwise, I’d really be forced to do a rethink on my criteria for judging people. Maybe, I’d try to know her better, and understand, why would she like to wear those kind of clothes, which would make people notice only the superficial aspects of her personality, and maybe, not value her emotions, thoughts, words, deeds, or innovative ideas? But on the whole, in my life, whenever I’ve tried too hard to make allowances for others’ acts that I would find objectionable, I’ve ended up on the wrong side of judgment, meaning, those people have indeed turned out to be unreliable and opportunistic.
The crux of this post is, if someone has right to wear whatever they want, or behave however they like, I have equal right to draw conclusions about them. Of course, I don’t have any right to impose my beliefs on them. And such conclusions are bound to have bearing on how generous would I be with them, or how sympathetic I’d feel if they’re troubled. And most important, how much would I respect them as fellow humans.