Shall we play a game? Everybody knows how to play this game. For you, it is too simple – child’s play.
You have a box of board tacks. Of assorted color. Some plain and round, some fancy and star-shaped.
Attached to each tack is a label. To win, push the correct tacks – one round, one star – when given the correct visual cue.
If you push in all of them, quickly and correctly, you can go back all smug and smiling – to the winner’s spot – moral high-ground.
All that you have to do is sit and watch for me. . or even stand around – anywhere you please – the roadside, college corridors, mall benches, office cubicles, market places, temples, homes, even my own home!
Wait for me to dress up and then swiftly push in the correct tacks – at the right places.
Each round tack goes along with a star tack – they carry ‘correlated’ labels. Pairing them is a breeze. They are even color-coded for ease. Brown to purple. Stable blue to Fun Orange. Inviting Green to Pink that pulls to Seductive Red.
There I walk by – in over-sized salwar and kameez and hawai chappals, clearly trying to hide flab. ‘Aunty’ tack goes with ‘Drab’ tack. Push in the tacks on my back. Because, no one is interested in looking elsewhere.
I walk hesitantly in a well-fitted kameez with a shaped and embellished neckline and feminine transparent dupatta. ‘Homely’ round tack looks good with ‘Submissive and boring’ star tack. That goes on my wrist – along with the bangles that cling-clang attractively – Bhabhi-ish.
I try on denim and some safe Kurtis to go with them. Safely treading towards comfort, cautiously retaining the ‘character’ so that people do not notice the ‘change’. ‘Modern yet traditional’ is obviously made just for ‘Wife Material’. Tack goes on the neck – along with the thin gold chain.. or the mangalsutra when it comes. Why? Because you tend to look only at the neck of such a respectable woman – to see if she is married or available.
I get comfortable with my body and discard the difficult to wash and iron Kurtis in favor of bright and light t-shirts and comfortable, pretty shirts. ‘Youthful vibe’ makes the ‘Girlfriend Material’ pop. You can pin those on my arms – just below where my sleeve ends, just above my elbows. You can parade me among friends, arms linked, and show off the labels.
I have matured as a woman in my own eyes. I hold a healthy body image and find skirts more comfortable than pants, capris easier to run around in than full-length denim, and spaghetti tops just so helpful to beat the summer heat with. Do I see a smirk there? You see a green signal? ‘Babe’ appears all sexy when paired with ‘”Easy” [wink]’. You may help other hopefuls – for some action of course – by pinning those tacks where they look – on my breast or on my butt – the shapes so well-defined by the material that covers them.
I am blossoming as a person – I am exploring life, my surroundings, my city, my country. No longer even conscious of what I am wearing or whether a bra strap shows, I carry a nice camera and walk aimlessly, wide-eyed, sometimes lost in thought – around touristy and non-touristy spots. I wear a beach dress while at the beach, cargo shorts and tank-tops while trekking, a flirty dress to savor the night-life. I no longer feel weird about my clothes making me “stand-out”. ‘NRI’ naturally goes beside ‘Experienced [wink] [wink]’. Pin that to my cheeks – the NRI types hug and kiss anyone and everyone anyway.
You wait impatiently to push in the last two tacks – on to my forehead – for the world to see bold and clear. ‘Slut’ obviously screams ‘Free-for-all : Public domain property’. You wait – eagerly – for them minis, plunging neck-lines, micro minis, tube tops, bikinis and G-strings to come out. That’d give you enough – to look, to reach out & touch, to wag tongues about, to be helplessly ‘provoked’ by to do all that and more.
The pricks hurt – a lot. The pins and labels irritate the skin – a tad too much. I sometimes want to escape them all – I embrace the ‘Nerd’ style – over-sized men’s shirts, loose pants, unisex sandals, hair cut short or tied high up in a careless knot. Invisible unless you look closely. One of the boys unless you look more closely. Blending into the background.
But I look at myself in the mirror. Those painful, insulting, demeaning pins – they have made me colorful. Don’t they give me an interesting character profile?
I earned all those labels at some or the other point in my life. I flaunt all those labels – all at once – proudly, unabashedly.
With these, I can now play with you – color, color, what color am I?
Confused? Do my colors blind you with their intensity?
Well, I am beginning to like this game – NOW!
I have got new tacks – big black ones – for You. They read ‘Narrow-minded’, ‘jobless’, ‘uncivilized’, ‘hypocrite’, ‘hopeless traditional-and-culture fanatic’, ‘Chauvinist Pig’.
And I have hardened. I am no longer a soft cork pin-board.. I am strong stainless steel. Doesn’t my shine make your eyes hurt?
That’d make the game more interesting wouldn’t it? Care for another game?
Please? I really want to watch you get frustrated over not being able to hurt me with the pins as before. . at not being able to ‘label’ me and laugh obnoxiously as before. . at not being able to protect and uphold holy mighty tradition and culture.
Pretty please? I really want to slap that hand that reaches out and make it sting. I want to see the humiliation on that face that is so used to smugness.
Can we play just once more? So that I can watch you seethe in helpless rage at my confidence, and feel intimidated of my spirit? So that, finally, I can throw my head back and laugh? Laugh out loud?
Just once more please? Just so that you look up and notice. That I am a big bright rainbow – unreachable, unattainable, appearing and disappearing solely by my moods. That now, I am an unbreakable bow – no matter what you try. Stronger than the Shiva Dhanush – I am the elusive Indra Dhanush which no Rama can snap into two.