“Baby! I have been wanting to go swimming in the lake, ever since we had been to Strandbadhorn (a bathing beach in Konstanz, Germany).”
“Okay! We can go there when you say. We stay here only. Do we need to really plan?”
” No, of course we don’t need to plan. We just need to pickup a day and go. That’s about it.”
” Yeah. I agree. And, it’s just about few km from here. We could have gone anytime. Anyways, let’s plan it now! Seems like, this too needs planning. Phew! By the way, we could have gone swimming last time as well, had we not been the only ones with our clothes on. Lol”
“We weren’t really prepared, to go take a swim. At least Mayra (my daughter) had a good time.”
“Prepared? You just need a swimwear, and of course, must know – how to, not get drowned in the lake. Haha”
“Haha. Very funny. Don’t take a dig at me, please. See, of course we can go anytime. But we are never really here, in Konstanz, at any of the weekends, to go there.”
” Yeah I know, but isn’t that awesome? We travel so much, that we never here. We should be happy about it. Anyway we can go on any of the weekdays too, if not weekends.”
“Really? That would be awesome. I am really excited about it already.”
“Haha! But, what will you wear?”
“A swimwear, like everyone does.”
“Yes, of course, but you don’t have any, right ? The last you went swimming was, in Goa, way back in 2010, when we had a complete beach to ourselves and a small private swimming pool as well, with barely anyone else around, unlike here in Konstanz, where you would have a sea of people at any side of the lake. Are you telling me, you are still carrying it along, since the last 8 years? Lol!”
“Of course not, but you are right, its been so long. I don’t even know, if I can swim anymore. Well, no one ever forgets to swim. I know. I know.”
“Forget about that, go buy a swimwear first, baby.”
“Swimwear – You mean a bikini right? I did see all those fat women carrying it so gracefully. Why can’t I?”
“Who said you can’t ? It’s you who always says – that women should be comfortable in their own skin. But, you don’t seem to be the one yourself. You are always worried about your bulges. Flaunt it babes! You have birthed a child. Be proud of it, like a warrior is proud of his scars.”
“No one ever did. It’s me and my own inhibitions. You are right. I am a lot preachy in that sense. I just don’t get it – Why do we women think so much?”
“If only I had an answer, you wouldn’t have had so many questions in the first place and so much to worry about. And, I don’t understand – why are we even having this conversation ? You over think and you do over-complicate too. Now don’t get upset with me just because I added one line from my end in your honour. Hahaha!”
This is a snippet of an hour-long conversation, I and Sandee (my better half) had a couple of months back, while sipping through our evening tea, on one of the weekends.
We discussed at length about women – their complexes, fears and the world around them – which is so quick to throw a judgement, irrespective of, they being an ordinary girl-next-door, or a celebrity. No one ever, even thinks twice, to impose their thoughts and actions on them. No one really cares about their – “CONSENT” – the most abused word today. It hardly seems to matter to them. But it has mattered, and always did, to all those beautiful women, who were judged and paid a price for it too – it impacted them heavily, in shaping up their personalities, after being hurt over and over again, by a series of scathing unsolicited remarks of judgement, passed on to them.
Cut to today
As I slowly waded through the cold water of the lake, at Strandbadhorn, today, wearing a swim suit- A one-piece and not a bikini yet, walking fearlessly with my head up, carrying my daughter – without worrying about being scrutinized from all angles and getting conscious about it, not having anyone ogling us, I felt utterly liberated. There wasn’t anything that I wanted to put my mind away with. I was in the moment absolutely and savoured it like never before. It wasn’t about what I wore or where I was. It was about being who I am, and what I wanted to do at that very moment. It was, about being completely with my own self, at the time, when may be, I needed myself the most. Isn’t this all what we need – Freedom to be ?
When I had come here the first time, I was awed. All that everyone did was – swim in the lake, soak some sun up, play with the kids, watch some FIFA and eat and drink away the complete afternoon – It was so refreshing, to see everyone, so comfortable in their own skin, with almost no clothes on their bodies, even when they weren’t really swimming. All the women wore bikinis, irrespective of their body types, carrying it with all their grace and poise. Men were in their swim briefs and shorts.
While I was busy looking at everyone going about their way, and my daughter played with her father, my mind went several years back, in the memory lane, and I started to wonder –
What is really making me feel so good about this place ?
Is it the weather, the lake, the people, or just their relaxed attitude ?
Why am I so taken aback ?
However delighted I was, I didn’t feel like, I was a part of them. This kind of blurred my mind with even more complex questions –
Why am I not like one of these women?
Why am I not confident of my physical appearance ?
Who stopped me from, wearing a ” BIKINI” ?
And i started, linking everything back, to a variety of issues in general – Cultural, Social & Gender related – that I have grown up seeing all around me – Almost everywhere.
Despite a modern upbringing and staying more than half of my life in the metros, I had my own share of inhibitions about everything with respect to being a woman.
I was born and brought up in a small, yet modern, town in India, in north-eastern part of Chhattisgarh. I studied in a missionary school and then moved out of my home, to pursue higher studies. During my higher education and working years, I was fortunate to have stayed in almost all the metros and the B class cities. Everything sounds ultramodern and contemporary right ? Then, why did I ever have, any kind of complexes, within me ?
I would say, i just got extremely lucky, to be born to parents, who were very liberal in their mindset, and always treated me as – just as a child, and not someone who simply by the virtue of being a girl, should be deprived of her fundamental freedom – of expression – I was free to express myself through my words, emotions, feelings or clothes. They unlike, many other parents of that era, didn’t take away my basic rights – to education, equality or way of life – i was always free to have my own way of life, the way I wanted to – marry if I wished to or never marry at all, have a child if I wished to, or to stay childless forever, to work and chase money if hat made me happy, or take the plunge of following my finally-found-passion in writing and forget about money.
They have always stood like a pillar besides me, supporting me unconditionally in all my endeavors of life. And I am truly blessed to have them.
But is a ” Great Family” just enough to instill infrangible confidence in a person ?
Of course not. There are a variety of factors that influence you at all times and mould you into a person of future. Parents can instill values, but how one takes it forward after mixing it up very gracefully with what the external world has to offer, depends upon that individual. And I would say, I got carried away, and succumbed myself to becoming a people pleaser – who hated being judged. So the best way she could fight it out – was to give in, and wear a smile, and kill her inner voice for time indefinite.
While growing up in my hometown or pursuing my higher studies or even while working, I witnessed gender biases almost everywhere – in the families living in the houses next to me, at workplace, in media – just everywhere.
Where girls were forced to learn all household work from a very tender age, while the boys could play their way, through out their childhood and no one really cared if they grew up to be useless sons – After all, they were sons – the privileged gender – rather just a random selection of the Y chromosome over the X ( it’s random- that’s the only difference nature made between the men and the women. But the most intelligent craeture on earth, used his intelligence against himself to create unnatural biases for his own selfish motives.)
There were married women in few castes who had to pull their ghunghat( Veil) in front of the men in the house, as they weren’t supposed to make any eye contact with them.
A few of my batchmates from school were married as soon as they finished college. They were all quite bright in studies, however unfortunately, there were no precedence in their families, of woman having a career, a future, or a dream, outside of being a wife, or a mother.
A family friend of ours, had 4 children – They were blessed with a boy finally after three girls. They did love them all equally. But I never understood, why this obsession with having a son?
One of my very dear friend was forced by her parents, to stay in an engagement with a man who asked her for dowry in many indirect ways, forced her to sleep with her before they got married. She could at last, come out of it, only when she said, she can’t continue to be exploited. And the engagement was called off.
I have been a party to this menace several times in my life, before I did realise- I shouldn’t, in my own little way- In all the places i have worked, we did always gossip about, women on the top sleeping around with the bosses. Else no one could ever wrap their head around the fact – How can a woman achieve anything on her own ?
I personally have been body shamed by a lot of people outside my family, for most of my life, when I put on weight. Well, it’s quite amusing – When Miss World doesn’t get spared by the social media trollers, on carrying her post pregnancy weight around, who am I and what right do I have to not get judged?
But, who were these nameless, faceless, worthless people who hid behind their self egos, sat and judged everyone around them, but themselves. – They were in the form of everyone around me. They were everywhere in the least expected places too.
All these incidents – direct or indirect, did inflict a lot of self-doubt, low confidence, inferiority complex and self guilt in me. Whenever i was eve teased, or passed a sexual remark on or was body shamed because I wore something that dint look good, or because I was overweight- due to a variety of reasons that none of these onlookers had an iota of idea about, I always ended up putting myself down, to be blamed – crowning myself with the trophy of being the “root cause” of everything that people did to me.
But, there came a point in my life, when I had to shed all my inhibitions and set myself free – to erase my past of being caged in my own thoughts, eclipsed under my own towering guilt, though all of it wasn’t self-inflicted, in fact was offered on a platter by some unworthy people. I felt like – ” if I don’t do it now, the time would never be right enough.”
I took this up on myself, to fight my inhibitions, when my daughter was born.
I just couldn’t let my fears define who I was. She was watching me constantly. She would look up to me, when she grows up, for what i stood for. If I wasnt standing for my own self, what message, would I have really passed on to my own child. These thoughts worried me to hell and I decided to take the charge in my own hands and promised myself just one thing –
No one will ever be able to make me feel any way, without my consent.
And I haven’t broken this promise yet.
Gradually, when I was at my heaviest best – during my pregnancy period, I wore everything that I would have hesitated otherwise. I let me hair down, smelt the coffee, and just enjoyed being comfortable in the most outrageous clothing, carrying my huge baby bump all around. And it did feel amazing, believe you me. Those few months of home arrest – when I was at bed rest before delivery and just after a C-SECTION really gave me a lot of time to introspect – to become truthful to my own self.
While I had begun to accept my physical appearance exactly the way it was, there was a lot happening in my life outside of it as well – After a long hiatus, we finally came to know that my husband would be staying back in Germany for time indefinite. We two too, got lucky with our visas, packed our world and came to Europe.
After coming to Europe
I saw a drastic difference in the way everyone looked at everyone else here. No one cared about the superficial. Whenever I went to places like Strandbadhorn, I had jolts somewhere deep down inside, which forced me to ask questions like –
Why in India, we do not have places like these, where everyone comes together irrespective of their sex, caste, creed, religion, and community and just express themselves openly – everyone is free to do what they want, wear what they want, whenever and wherever they want.
Where in India have we seen women swimming in the open carelessly, let alone wearing a bikini and that too irrespective of their body types, bulges and stitches on their lower abdomen?
I am in absolute complete cultural awe of the Western world. They do not give more importance to the skin and the body beyond, what it truly deserves. The body is just the physical dimension of our existence – which means so much more than just how we look, and what we wear. Even a hefty woman is comfortable wearing a 2 piece bikini or may be not wear anything at all and just walk without any hesitation. They are confident and it’s a no big deal. There is no such thing called body shaming that exists here.
Such is a place where everyone can thrive and grow healthy – both physically and mentally. You are free to be yourself.
I just keep wondering, why are we so behind everyone else and conveniently trapped within our deep rooted thoughts generating from patriarchy and gender biases ?
What does freedom really mean ?
I am not complaining about anything and it is only unfair to compare a country of 1.36 bn + with so much diversity in every respect to any other developed nation. We have our own set of issues, however my heart cringes to see the respectable other half of our population being denied of some basic human rights. This is not freedom. Are we really independent so to say?
Don’t get me wrong here – I don’t mean to say that wearing bikini is equal to freedom. But, freedom definitely should mean freedom. We attained national freedom 7 decades back, when do we free ourselves from this narrow mindedness? When do we see a change? What are we exactly waiting for?
The change is happening, but too small and too slow to even notice. Even today, I come across posts on few closed groups for women on Facebook, where Indian women, married to NRIs, settled abroad vent their anger, about being questioned on birthing a girl child. I mean, is education helping us at all? Or, it is just a medium to bag bigger paychecks? The higher the degree, bigger the salary, however we still proudly carry our feudal mentality everywhere we go.
Let’s wake up and be the change, ourselves.
When was the last time we ourselves didn’t give a stare to a woman who was dressed comfortably and confidently ?
When was the last time, you were not worried about your own daughter wearing scanty clothes, being oggled by men, double or triple her age ?
When was the last time you dressed as per your wish and you let your daughter do the same?
When do we get to see this openness in our country?
When do we gift a safe haven to our next generation of some wonderful women, who women like me feel very proud to give birth to?
So next time, when you find yourself stuck in a quagmire of self inflicted guilt because you wanted to wear a bikini – just go ahead and wear it.
What a group of few women in Delhi did a few days back was phenomenal and that’s what is needed today – They all very comfortably, ran wearing their sports bra.
Do we need more examples?
Why can’t you and me become an example for others to follow?
Do you agree with me? Please do share your thoughts in the COMMENTS.
Love and light to all of you. Thank you for stopping by. Keep coming back for more.
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this post are my personal views. The word ” bikini” has been used in this article, more as a metaphor for Freedom.