It was forced on me when I was 12, and since then I’ve never walked-out without it. Like a curse impossible to wash off, the bra is an indispensable part of a woman’s life in India. Nipples are a big deal there, not that they are not a big deal in London. But in India nipples are “reserved” for husbands and children. They are to be sucked, not to be shown-off. They are your husband’s “property” and children’s “right”. Hindi language doesn’t even have a word for nipples, it seems they’re not even to be spoken of, or written about.
I always liked mine but I was asked to hide them, not just cover but to cover it so that they seem non-existent. And in some moments of excitement even a bra can’t hide it’s benign presence. Oh! But girls don’t get excited. I forgot! If they do, hide all traces of it. Wear a padded one, or wear a duppata. Don’t let the world know that you are as much a human as the “other” sex.
I don’t understand the logic, of being ashamed of what I think is an essential part of my body. But even a peeping bra strap was stared at and commented upon. So for social nights, to wear stylish tops, we girls hunted the market for strap-less bras, and transparent straps. They are there, but they shouldn’t come in sight. Just like a child labor in a millionaire’s house or a widowed female relative in a wedding. There, but not-to-be-there!
I always feel tied down in a bra. First thing that comes off me when I enter my home is that godforsaken “thing”, even before my shoes. I would unhook it, manoeuvre it out from the sleeve, and hide it under the cushions! And breathe. For me home is where bra comes off!
While I got dressed today to go out in London, I chose not to tie myself up. I went bra-less. The feeling was inexplicable! To be able to walk out without a bra in India was impossible. And if you dared to take the leap, you will be inviting trouble. If you get molested, which is very likely, you will be blamed for “inviting” it on yourself. You will be blamed for “attracting” the predator!
I was conscious for the first ten minutes, but with every step I took, I shed my shame, I shed my cultural-baggage and became a lighter being. The gaze here was not violent or aggressive instead it was admiring and flattering.