This story is not about undermining a woman’s choice to wear or be what she wants.

…It is about perceptions and generation gaps.

So, a couple of evenings ago, ma and i were gluttonously popping pani pooris at that famous stall in GK1’s M-Block market. We were also silently indulging in our second favourite pastime in markets (no prizes for guessing what is at number 1) : Voyeurism of the Venus-ites. It is by now common knowledge that while men check out women everywhere, women, too, check out other women more often than they size-up the mans on the prowl. And what is it that we’re checking for? A quick 5-second once-over can take in clothes, make up, hair, shoes, accessories, nail color, waistline, other lines and sizes and come to conclusions as to the nature and character of the studied specimen (speciman? speciwoman?). If you add another 2 seconds, judgements can be doled out if you have the ‘right’ company: all you need to do is raise eyebrows and make eye contact at the right moment. The smile is passed, the shoulders are shrugged in a it-takes-all-kinds-to-make-a-world way, and some bitchy part of the soul is satisfied at the one-uppance. There is nothing monumental about this process – it happens everywhere, all the time. But, I theorise, and thereby digress from my story.

So, ma n i have moved on to aloo chaat and somehow look up from the plate to take in this sight: three young women whose figures suggest they practice anorexia regularly, doddering up the street in painful high heels. The shortest of them wearing what seemed to be only a corset ( of the undergarment-of-yore variety, and therefore decidedly not classy ) and tight, terribly low-slung jeans, poker straight hair, heavy eyeliner, thick mascara, a peachy pout. Extremely conscious of herself, she has the air of one whose feet are barely making contact with the ground, she’s so high on how good she thinks she’s looking. Frantically gazes down at herself to check that just the right amount of skin is visible. Comes off looking like a brainless tart.

The mother and i quickly look at each other, smile. Grimace is more the word actually. We’re both tch-tching in our heads till the tittering trio are out of earshot.

And then, ma says, she’s clearly a small-town girl grown too big for her boots. Iske toh par nikal rahe hain, aur dekho kaise!

I say, yeah, well, what can one do? more tch-tching happens.

And then it occurs to me, hah! look at us, how arrogantly we talk, like we were born into the big-moneyed, big-city ranks. 11 years here and just look at us!

We laugh at ourselves. But then comes the punchline from the learned one: True, we’re middle class people, belonging to small towns. We’re bourgeois to the best of our abilities, but we never EVER behave like that. Never have, never will.

Point noted, O mother. There’s a lesson in decency to be had somewhere in there.

On a related note, I urge you to walk the talk, get down and dirty at Slutwalk Delhi on June 25. Talk about inverting roles, taking to the streets and taking back the power!

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