Of Metaphorical Bras, and Patriarchy

On a Monday in the mid of May, Maya made a promise to herself- to check patriarchy whenever it made her feel uncomfortable.

This year, the Kaalbaisakhi had been relatively a lot less severe than usual making summers unbearable. Thanks to global warming, and the entitled ignorance of the privileged seated in AC rooms, Kolkata had already touched the 45° C mark. The day started with stickiness all over the air, noon was dry and hot, and night even more humid and stuffy.

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“Even bathing in summers is such a nuisance. Look at my hair all drenched in sweat”, she snarled at her mother, a 48-year-old housewife. Her mother indifferent to the challenges of daily chores, glanced at her and resumed with the task at hand. “Dadu is looking for you” she said. Downstairs, a cough confirmed the same.

Aascheee…” Maya shrieked.

Dadu sat impatiently on his arm chair. His daily dose of news was six minutes late today.

“Petrol price hiked by ₹3.13 per litre and Diesel by  ₹2.71 per litre. This was the second hike…”

“Bloody rogues! What else?”

“Woman chokes and dies in Ballygunge lake, Doc says bra strap too tight.” She read out in a single breath. Maya bit her tongue upon realizing later what it meant. Cutting the awkward silence with the flip of another page, the news reading session went on for another hour.

By eight o’clock in the evening, Maya had set two bucket full of clothes to dry on the terrace, collected them at sunset and ironed them, done with the daily tuitions she used to give to three neighbourhood children, came back home, helped her mother with dinner making, and finally sat down to finish reading Lolita on which she had to submit an essay on the following day. After thirty minutes of reading and another thirty of a futile brainstorming session, which included wiping the sweat off her face every three minutes, her mind was bursting with random ideas, none of which she could metamorphose to something constructive, and the heat was not helping.

“I think I should change the direction my desk is facing; maybe that would help” Maya thought. Just as she did so, she felt something biting her shoulder. “Stupid bugs!” she said brushing viciously. To her utter surprise, there was no bug at all. In fact, it was no living thing ‘biting’ on her! She searched frantically under her camisole and what she found out next changed her entire life upside down.

The strap-length-adjusting clasp of her bra had been sitting inverted all this time! What had happened all this while was that the smooth, leveled surface of the strap was on the top while the coarse, bristly clasp sat stinging on her already prickly skin.

She analyzed how painful it was. She moved her shoulder clockwise and again anti-clockwise just to examine the pain. She did not mind feeling sore deliberately as she knew she was going to fix the mishap as soon as she wished to, and not just fix it for this time, she would also always keep in mind to never let her bra strap sting her anymore in future. She must also let her fellow females know of this cataclysm. She should let no other woman fall into this tragedy, that too, for this long, ever again.

Maya heaved a sigh of relief as she fixed her misshapen bra strap. Her shoulders relaxed, Eyebrows unknotted, and the 45° C seemed less bothering. “Should I just get rid of the bra already?” Maya pondered.

Scratching the red mark it had left behind, she chuckled to herself, and began writing, “Some women choose comfort before norms, some bend the norms according to their comfort. There is no right or wrong. The choice is completely theirs…”

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Sheetal Harumalani

Eighteen year old passionate about fiction, poetry, and other unearthly things.

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