A RED DRESS AT A FUNERAL

red-dress-1149534_1280

(This is a RANT… not a verse!)

I happily grew right up
In my happy Parsi world…
A world where there’s seldom difference,
Whether you’re boy or girl!

Neither judged …..
Nor ever seen…
As an object to be coddled…
Or preened like a queen….

When I fell in the mud…
And began to cry…
Mum gave me that look…
My cry stopped shy…
Of a bright wide smile!

I was always told,
“You’re a person first!
So go ahead,be yourself!”
And with that very dictum,
I’ve lived with confidence!

But now when I do think back….
I remember I was told this,
Look around you and ask yourself,
Are you in ignorant bliss?

Be aware of who….
And what surrounds you…
For in isolation we do not live….
And that’s what the crux of society is….

Now I’m forcing myself….
To rewind to my youth …
And I will now admit….
And I will tell you truth….

Someone wanted to wear
A crimson little number…
To go to a party? No!!
To a funeral, I remember!

And that was just not done…..
What would people say?
Context influences some rules ….
That we may choose or not to obey……

I could’ve worn that hue…
Because I was only four…..
But even at that tender age….
There was a norm of sorts….

And even as I grew….
From a babe, to a girl,
To a teen….
I was always self assured,
Never thought I was seen,

As an object of desire…
Or an attention getting siren ….
Oh I wore mini skirts alright!
But that’s because I liked ’em!

I wore them for myself!
No matter what people
must’ve thought…
I wore them as I felt …
Skirts looked better, short!

Now when I tell people
That, at 15, I wore a mini…
Some look at me aghast!
What!!?! I carried it off,
I was skinny!

“No, it’s not so much,”
They say, “the skinny!
We’re worried about the skimpy!”
I never would’ve thought,
A pair of legs could be
So risky!

“Well, would you let,
Your daughter today,
Wear what you did ….
In your heyday?”

“Yes I would , if …
She wanted to
But I’d talk about consequence
And safety issues,
Of surrounding and..
Of circumstance….”

(Now don’t go doing
That judgement dance)

Yes I’m “guilty”today,
Of thinking of others,
And the way things are perceived….
We live in a much more insecure world….
Than we’d like to admit
Or believe…

And whether we like it
Or not…come on,
We’ve got to face some facts ….
The environment really does matter….
There’s no getting over that….

It matters today…
And it mattered, I think
Always …

Let’s face it, in any country,
People may stare at a bit of skin….
And form all manner of….
Hallucinations in their within!

It’s not just about class,
Or caste, or cadre,
Or society or community….
It’s just plain human behavior!

It has to do with laws too….
Civility comes with rules ….
So if leering and jeering
Is a crime….
A person must be caught
And do the time …
Examples must be made
And publicly displayed….

If people know they can…
Get away with murder….
Crimes will be repeated….
And justice goes far and further!

And it’s not always
Restricted to men….
Women stare, make innuendo,
But then….

The heterosexual male
Is caught when …..
His androgen rises
Again and again!

I’ve lived abroad and seen….
Some princes walking on streets….
And these biker gangs of women….
Wouldn’t let them be!

The men walking past…
Actually quaked with fear…
And when one looked at biker girl….
He was met with a leer!

There are some men who like the attention…
There are women who like it as much…
But that doesn’t mean that all….
Like the attention as such!

I’m not justifying abuse…
As a crime that people may do….
I think you SHOULD accuse,
A crime doesn’t have ANY excuse….

My feminist liberators say,
I’m living with compromise
But it’s how you see it, is it not?
For me, I’m just being wise!

And you think men….
Don’t negotiate life?
They’re doing that a lot!
Just being with a wife!
But let’s leave jokes aside……..

My sisterhood mums please….
Cast your dilemma away,
Tell your children to be…
Individuals in every way…

But also tell them this…
That when, a parent you chose to be….
You’d made an unspoken promise …..
To look after their well being!

So situation-wise,
And atmospherically……
I think we can still be
The people we want to be,
And have an identity…

Every country has a society,
That characterizes it as it’s own….
That’s why the phrase exists,
“Do as Romans do in Rome!”

Many I’ve met say this,
“Oh abroad, you can wear what you like!
Oh abroad no one looks twice!”
Well, ABROAD, there are far worse crimes!!
And by the way, they do look at you and leer abroad…
If you’re in your halter and shorter than short shorts!

It’s not an apple to apple correlation….
And norms for people exist….
In terms of dress and propriety,
And this you cannot miss….

The stereotypes that exist today….
I’m talking about the Indian way….
Are all because they’ve been here for years….
And you can try with your sweat and tears….

To change as much as you can….
And change will come ….
Oh yes, it will…
But not just by changing the man !

The woman has to change too…
Leave aside superstition by the multitude!
Leave aside poor self esteem…
The woman has to change to be the queen….

We’re a country steeped in religion…..
Where we pride ourselves with tradition….
And this is part of our history…
How to liberate ways, then, is something of a mystery….

So we must keep tradition and history alive….
And yet emancipate….
If we’re to survive….

The only way today….
Is to reach and educate…
Because education is empowering….
And not depending on fate…

How do we reach so many?
We can’t, so we reach who we can….
And hope and pray, we’ve changed….
Even one woman…
Even one man…

We want change…
Yes we do…
But you’ll only get that….
By untaming the shrew….

And it’s all about letting go….
Of a perceived fear that exists..
In most women, there is this…
Feeling of inadequacy…
It can be a veritable death kiss!

At the end of the day ….
Whatever you may say….
You want your child,
To JUST BE SAFE!

By Scherezade Mansukhani

Scherezade Mansukhani

Scherezade is a Clinical Child Psychologist, Part-time mother, blogger, French teacher and IATA teacher. She has worked with the differently abled, and now works on and off as a teacher.

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