Thursday, August 8, 2013

The naked truth - 1

Dear Arjun and Anirudh,

I know you get bored of hearing about your growth stories all the time. I wanted to tell you about other interesting things also from a long time. But as usual, the days are still having only 24 hours and a third of that is still reserved by my sleepy mind. Few days back, I looked at one of the articles shared by a friend of mine. I was very surprised to see that the author has somehow stolen my thoughts that I haven't shared with anyone. I could see my thoughts being framed as stale copy by not sharing them soon enough. So, came back quickly to put things together, but soon realized that the very thought of a fresh idea itself is an illusion. There is absolutely no way of proving that no one had thought about an idea earlier. So, there is no point in thinking that an idea or a thought originated only from one person. They are more like our software patents. Many would have thought about it, but only a few would go about expressing it outside.

If you haven't noticed already, one of the common fights that I have with your mother is over the selection of dresses. I don't have to explicitly say that it is over my dresses, and occasionally yours! I have a very clear expectation from my dresses. Its primary job is to make me feel comfortable, rather than to work on enhancing my looks! You can assume that it is due to the realization that even the best dresses can't help much with my looks! So, logically it doesn't make much sense for me to invest much effort on my clothing. Selection of a good dress is one of the most complicated tasks. Most of the time, what looks good for her looks absolutely horrible for me! And what looks good for me doesn't go well with her tastes. To complicate things, what she is really after is the appreciation from others looking at those dresses. And I have no idea how difficult it would be to know their taste and start dressing as per their interests. That is why I go with one simple rule. I don't put any restrictions on her dresses neither I take any restrictions from her on my selection!

Being an engineer, I continuously look for ways to save time by optimizing  my day-to-day routine. Some people see that as my laziness. I don't see much difference. Optimization is all about getting rid of unwanted things. I have stopped wearing formal dresses from years. As a side effect, I have also stopped ironing my shirts. I only keep one belt as searching/changing them is a pain. Whenever I wear some other pant without the belt, I end up holding them while running as they will also start running otherwise. I don't really care much about that as it is a fashion in England to wear the pants very low to show the underpants! I don't know whether the underwear companies pay for that space for advertising or it is just a not-for-profit service. Whenever your mom sees those teenagers, she will start scolding them with everything she has in her dictionary. On the other hand, I am in full support of them. If showing the back with deep cut blouse is a fashion in traditional India, why should she hate these teenagers still covering their body parts at least with underpants! Why do we even treat the underwears like a low class citizen. One of my friends used to wear multiple short pants inside his pants! How can she be so sure that what they are really showing off is their underwear? It could be a short pant inside the pant like my good friend, in which case she has no reason to blame them! If we go with that logic, even exposing the underwear isn't a wrong thing. They might be wearing more than one underwear or something in that category. Thinking more and more about that, I really fail to state clearly when she will get the right to blame them. In order to understand that, we need to define clearly some of the very basic things about dressing.

There was another argument we had related to this subject. When we shifted to our new apartment, I observed that the large bathroom window was very different to the windows from rest of the rooms. It was sufficiently tinted so that people from outside won't be able to see the bathroom. So, I never used to put the curtain when taking bath. After having the mould problem in bathroom, I went one level up to open the upper portion of the window as well without putting the curtain. Without much thinking, one might argue that I was taking bath with the window open! But, the angle of opening and the position of window is such that, unless someone really tries hard to see me taking bath, it wasn't easy to do that. Ashwini had fought with me several times against me taking bath without pulling the curtain. She also challenged me that everything would be visible very clearly from outside during the night with lights inside the bathroom. That was a fresh news for me. I couldn't buy that argument above my own instincts. The people who have designed the flat must have surely thought about that. Otherwise why would they take the pain to have a different window only for the bathroom. If not for Indian standards, at least for the UK standards! Even in India, the standards are very low when it comes to males. It is quite common to take bath in public with only underwear! So, there wasn't anything I needed to worry here. Still, I wanted to verify her argument. So I checked how it would look in the night with lights on. I could see few things that were very very blur. I could identify moving objects, but it was impossible to know clearly what I was seeing. But things were very clear for her eyes. So we went with the third party to resolve the conflict. The third party gave the verdict that the bathroom is partially visible, so it is not acceptable for ladies, but gentlemen may chose not to worry. That small edge from the third party was sufficient to ignite the flame. The war of words continued. Naturally, I like to win the arguments like any other human beings. But at the same time, I do want to realize my mistakes. If not at that time, atleast after the heat of argument was reduced! I was only arguing against her opposition of my freedom to take bath with open curtain. The third party judgement was technically not against my stand. Still, it was against my perception of the matter in general. We continued the argument for some more time and then Ashwini asked, 'if you are acting so liberal, why don't you walk naked in the streets?'. It came as a shock for me. I don't generally get such quality response back from her. I didn't have an answer ready this time. I just told 'I know what was expected of me in this society, so I act accordingly. I don't see any issues taking bath with open curtain, but I do see issues walking nakedly'.

I don't know whether that convinced her or not. But definitely it wasn't convincing to me. It was a very poor answer to my standards. It was just an ordinary answer to win the argument for the sake of winning, not the one that could give me a satisfaction of winning. I had always been taught that 'food, clothes and shelter are the basic necessities of all human beings'. Without food we can't live. Without shelter we can't bear the scorching sun, chilling cold or the pouring rain. But, can't we live without the clothes? We are not born with the clothes neither we wear them after the death. So, why are we so mad about them in between. It makes sense for people living in UK or other cold countries. But not much to people in India and other hot countries.  So, I started thinking very seriously on that question. Somehow, it didn't look as important as the other two basic necessities.

My recollection of the childhood memories doesn't show me or my friends with much clothes around. Perhaps we were wearing even less clothes than that of bollywood actresses! When we were kids, we only used to get 1 pair of clothes per year during deepaavali. That is one of the reason why deepavali was so special for us! I don't think we were really wearing anything when we were like you. Untill 5 years of age, roaming around naked was very common in our village. We used to get clothes once in a year, but there were few who didn't even had that luxury! Up to 10 years, we used to take bath naked, publicly. It was very common, atleast in our village, so we never felt that was unusual.

But, that is not the case with you! The only time I see you naked is while changing the nappy and giving bath. Other times you were always covered. That makes sense as you are living in this cold country where being naked isn't as exciting and encouraging as it was for us. We visited India for the first time after your birth when you were about 6 months old. Since it was very hot, we had to strip you to the nappy most of the time. And for some reason, that looked quite odd for us! Whereas seeing you in full clothes was quite odd for your grandma and others over there. They were used to seeing babies of your age naked. So they weren't quite getting the feel of you as 6 month old infants! Since it was very hot and the nappies were expensive, we happily gave you the freedom for few more days, which also made them happy!

That also reminded few other incidents of my childhood. When my sisters were in high school, one of my uncles brought two chudidhars as a gift to them for his marriage. My father was very furious to see those dresses. It was very uncommon for girls to wear chudidhar's in our village. It took more than a week of drama for my uncle and mother to convince my father. Even though he gave his permission at the end, I don't think he really liked them wearing that dress for the marriage. Later, more and more girls started wearing that dress and it became the de-facto standard for ladies dress in the entire village. The scenes were pretty much similar, but probably with less drama when my cousins started wearing jeans. I don't think they still wear that in our village. Forget them, I don't think even your mother wears jeans in our home, though I have told her repeatedly to wear that many times. I don't see much point in trying to pretend in order to please others. But, that could be just me!

There is a tribe in our village called 'kudubis'. The traditional kudubi ladies don't wear any blouse like other ladies. They just wrap the sari slightly higher to cover their chest area. Any of the film actresses wearing that kind of dress would surely attract a lot of attention. Unfortunately, in our village, it was mainly their older generation who were following that traditional dress code. The younger generation found that little uncomfortable with the society and switched to the dress code of the majority.

These incidents really made me think hard about this subject. Why those younger generation should feel ashamed about their dress code of the tribe. There is so much of nudity in the temple scriptures, still why people feel so shameful about the nudity? If we are not having the dress during our birth and death, why are we being so paranoid about these dresses in the middle? Why people even go to the extent of judging a person based on the dress they are wearing? I started thinking hard on this subject on the very same bathroom that ignited these questions. With the curtain and the window open, all the foul smell went outside and the cool wind started blowing some fresh ideas to my head. I finally came out of the bathroom enlightened!

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