About 10 days ago, I returned to the site of an early trauma. I was doing this because I thought it was the only way to reconstruct my narrative (in simple words, create a new habit of how I responded to attack). It was an unnerving experience, with bullying, ganging up and slut-shaming (for my saree-wearing). But this time I was able to discern how it came from people’s limited ways to express themselves & relate to each other. I was able to walk away rather than internalise the hate piled on me as I used to, when these people last knew me.
That doesn’t mean the burns didn’t sting for awhile. Over a week later, I found myself thinking more than I have in recent times about whether I should wear a saree or not, considering the level of hate it attracted in that week. I finally went ahead with it, albeit very nervously, my delay making me late for the writers’ event I went to, with Ms.Shanta Gokhale.
I’m glad I did, anyway because it was a reminder of where I find my true tribe, my identity and my home. It’s with other people who love words and stories. It’s other women who persist in the face of gendered aggression, but in steady, non-combative ways. And it’s with people whose lives are filled with purpose, rather than self-loathing and misplaced hatred (which is what all bullying is).
This is what I wore. Mom called it ‘a freedom fighter look’ which made me laugh. Later in the evening, a reader commented “Aren’t you one though? You are always ready to fight for our rights as humans.” Another person in an unrelated conversation on the same day, called me one of the most empathetic people on Twitter. Both of them were balm for my emotional bruises and they helped me articulate why I like sarees. It’s because the saree expresses the feminine and the individualistic with strength and without aggression. It feels right so it sits right.
#IWear: South cotton ikat saree with a cotton peasant blouse & obi belt. The necklace is a 25 year old minakari set that wasn’t very expensive even back then.