Safe in dupatta!

By Anupama Chakraborthy   |   Published: 13th May 2017   8:31 pm


Sitting idle in the office one day (hope my boss won’t find this an ‘excuse’ to fire me!), I remembered a recent WhatsApp chat with a friend (male), who was my classmate in school.

Well, he insisted on a video chat as it was eons since we met and he wanted to check how much I had changed since…. (Hmm! I have this gut feeling that he failed to recollect my face). And I refused his so-called request for the time being, not because I was shy, ashamed, embarrassed, ugly, blah, blah…

The reason was different. A few years ago, I had chatted with a former woman colleague on Skype and during those 10 minutes of communication (one-way of course, and you guessed it right! from her side only) what I received was a lecture on ‘not covering myself with a dupatta’. But I was decently dressed, as I am on formal occasions.

After that one and only video chat, I refused to take any more lectures on anything from anyone, particularly during video chats (at least, when I am in a mood to show off my newly-acquired saree to someone whom I know will go green with envy! It feels good, you know, unless you get to hear a lecture, instead).

Anyways, this recollection of those two conversations made me think hard: can this piece of cloth popularly known as ‘dupatta’ protect the dignity of a woman? Will men stop ogling at her if a woman wears this?, Am I making a safety blunder by not wearing it? Should I listen to my colleague and my elders?

If  ‘Yes’ is an answer for all of these queries than why on that chilly December night ‘Nirbhaya’ was raped and killed in such a barbaric manner, why there is a ‘Nirbhaya’ every second in India, why the upward arrow in the chart of ‘Crime against Women’ in the National Crime Records Bureau data every corresponding year, refuses to turn downwards? Why everyday headlines on TV channels, newspapers bring to us images of molestations, rapes, murders ….?

This simply shows that the problem lies with the mentality of men, not in the way a woman conducts herself. She has been a victim either ‘with or without a dupatta’. “No matter how many layers of cloth you add on to a woman’s body, she still endures harassment, in some form or the other,” I heard this during my mother’s daily dose of interaction with a neighbourhood aunty.

So, I came to this conclusion: A duppatta or ‘ being fully covered’ in yards and yards of cloth cannot protect a women. Thankfully,  I liberated myself from dupatta long, long ago with no regrets.

With these thoughts when I reached home after work, my seven-year-old daughter held me from behind and uttered, “Look Ma! I have covered myself completely while playing with Varshit. You know, he is a boy and I am a girl.”

“Did I tell her this?” My pulse rate raced as if to beat all world records. “Am I setting double rules — one for myself and another set for her.” “Then what should I teach her – cover fully from top to toe or dress as you like?”

I hugged her tight.  “I want you to be safe,” I told her.  And my final thought was “Live and let her live”.