I feel like I’m a different person out in the world. I enjoy dressing up because I love the reactions of the world to my style. It’s not always positive. I also find ridicule, envy, shaming & other things. Each is a reaction, a conversation with society, with humanity in general.I’ve dearly missed that this pandemic. True, I’ve been trying to compensate by dressing up for videocalls, for Instagram Lives & the like. I won’t say they’re lesser experiences. They’re just other experiences.

In the 7-odd years I was a stage regular, I incorporated my clothing into my performance as much as my voice modulations, body language & writing. When you go up on stage, everything you carry & everything you are, is part of the performance.

And it is a political act too. South Indian culture villifies a woman who dresses up, correctly identifying that vanity is an act of self-expression, of self-confidence, of agency & yes, sexuality. When did patriarchy ever allow that easily? The rest of the world adds to this quest to control a woman’s body, with ageism, slut-shaming, colourism. And always, that catch-all, “You’re such a show-off/attention-seeker.” They say I’m seeking attention as if that’s a bad thing. My style is a joyous shout of “I AM!” & response is my connection to the world around me.

The pandemic bubble has made this clearer to me. But it also sometimes makes me forget this primal source of joy. I’ve gone so long starved & cut off from this connection that it’s easy to forget it once existed. Still, I try. When one morning, my window garden adorns itself with a bright set of flowers, it reminds me to be flowering, graceful & beauty.Vanity is love. And that love is power.

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