Apart from when we are hurling expletives at each other, or when I attempt to surprise her in mid-sleep (I generally, prefer doing so from a distance – for she has a tendency to swing whatever she finds at arm’s length), my girlfriend is an incredibly polite creature. Her politeness reached a crescendo by the time we were a few weeks old, and I was still endeavouring to make the brisk, yet complicated leap from her heart to down under. With every encounter she’d thank me, as I watched her confidence soar and her overalls evolve from that of a giant green rattle (in my defence, her churidaar was more metal than cotton) to chic party-wear (much to my pleasant surprise.) Like a grateful partner I obliged – as it served the dual purpose of affirming my status as a progressive feminist and satisfying my primal desire of watching a sparsely clad, incredibly hot woman off screen for the first time. From time to time, she asked for my advice – and I led her further astray, until one day, I could not hold back my curiosity any further.
“You know, you don’t have to thank me every time you wear something that sexy, when you come meet me.”
“Well, you allow me to wear such stuff. I think that’s an exceptional quality about you” she gushed.
I could hardly believe my ears. For the first time in my life, my perversion had been rewarded. I could not be more thankful to her.
But as I returned home that night, I went over her words. I picked up my archaic fluorescent orange phone (my friends have unsuccessfully tried, over a very long time, to convince me that it’s pink), and dialled my grateful lover’s number.
As my ex-lovers have always agreed, I have this obsessive need of clarifying things, of analysing the obvious until it were threadbare.
“Hey, what did you mean, allow?”
“Well, you know. Most boyfriends don’t let their girlfriends wear what they want to. My ex would never let me wear what I wore today.”
“Honey, I don’t pay for you. It’s your frigging life. As long as you are careful, you may very well wear anything you want.”
She could barely believe what she was hearing. “But, don’t you hate it when people stare and comment? I mean, he’d do that all the time to other girls, but he’d hate it when it happened to me.”
“Look, it’s not your fault that the world is indecent. I mean, I might have probably (I used the word deftly, so as to not arouse her suspicion) noticed other women as well. But I suppose they would not consider me a creep. Look, there’s a certain way, to look at a woman, to appreciate her if she is beautiful.” I went on to very elaborately dig my own grave, and forever affirm my status as a person of interest.
A couple years later (after we had finished experimenting with clothing or its lack there-of), when she returned from her party sober, I asked her what the matter was.
“You know, I didn’t drink tonight.”
After two years of togetherness, there’s only that much you can lie to your friend and partner. I struggled to come to terms with the notion of a sober Sampriti where vodka flowed more freely than opinions.
“You know how most people are! They think you are easy, if you drink and socialise at parties! They are always judging you. I mean, imagine if I had a couple of pegs!”
“Well, what do you care what the world thinks of you?”
“It’s not that easy, you know. It’s not just college – it’s everywhere! The workplace, the society, in the fucking family as well!” She dolefully flopped on her bed.
Men have come a long way since dealing in women like property, burning them at the stake, branding them witches, tying them up and drowning them in wells. As mankind has evolved, so have the tenets and traditions. Yet, exemplary husbands and boyfriends continue to uphold the highest standards of stewardship, strictly monitoring the schedules and boundaries of the incompetent fairer sex. The experienced mothers continue to guide their sons on their noble paths. Social interactions with the opposite sex, is still frowned upon by these virtuous men. These days they are allowed a little leeway here and there, a few hours on their own. They have even been allowed to demonstrate the tiny skills they have picked up at college – kind gentlemen give them tiny tasks and encourage them at their workplaces. A gentle squeeze, a well-intended comment about how their bottoms look exquisite in their overalls – often serve as encouragement for these women, who are being slowly introduced into the society. Careful though, you can’t let them outgrow their guardians, the honourable men. Official ceremonies, where the achievements of a few of their ilk are celebrated, are still being debated upon in several households. As such, most women are still not allowed such honours, lest they spiral out of control.
Yet, like most good things on earth, the social system is sadly not watertight. A few rebellious women have educated themselves beyond the normal – venturing into sciences and philosophies that are branded lethal for the society. A few of them have even had the gall to grow independent – they have had the nerve to finance their own belongings, when most women are gifted gracious offerings by their families. Some of them have gone as far as to attempt to balance their precious family-lives and the time spent at the workplaces! Rightfully and swiftly, they have been branded outlaws – outlaws who have dreamed of living a life of travel, of fame and power – gained through sheer cunning and skill – and courage – often having dared to choose their own partners. Some have even ventured out to lead a life of solitude, mavericks who have had no respect for the strictures of a society.
Well, I would know. I was birthed by a maverick, grew up among a few, and now I am in love with another.