This realisation dawned upon me yet again, yesterday, at the sari party. It was held in my house, even though, it was not technically 'my' party. I had my eyes on one my mum's saris that I wanted to wear for a very long time, even though its old, faded and frayed around the edges. Its black, white and red, has a very old design, and is of a very comfortable material. Being very disorganised, it wasn't until last week that I realised that I don't have a black blouse to wear with it and its far too late to borrow one and none of my black tops are suitable. So I went hunting in my mum's cupboard and I am glad I did so! I found a beautiful red and white sari, another very old one (but very well taken care of). In about ten minutes, my excessive enthusiasm drove me to match all the bits and pieces and have a trial run. White alone looks horrible on me, but I realised that white and another colour changes things completely! Next time I buy a sari, it shall be white-and-something-else.
My mother's beautiful sari; the bangles I wore. See why I love red?
We had so much fun! All pinned up, walking around, getting our make-up done by those who can (while the rest of us became amazed at the wonders of those chemicals; even though I am a girl, I cannot apply make-up like it should be applied. Let's just say, I like it natural?), stuffing ourselves with delicious food brought by everyone, playing silly games, taking more than a thousand photos (literally). We are so used to wearing glamorous saris, every time there is an occasion to wear one, because these occasions are very occasional! But yesterday was a chance to bring out the beauty in simpleness. I realised yet again how beautiful my friends are. We usually don't see each other in makeup, jewellery or hair. In times like this, we learn to appreciate our hijab a little more. Our beauty is so special, only a very few have the right to see it.
I think, every girl with respect for their bodies has some form of expression of modesty through their clothing - a line that they never cross. Regardless of whether you refuse to pull your skirt higher than mid-thighs, or refuse to show any part of your body except for your face, or whether this line is much further or much closer, the point is - there is a line. For most people, their culture dictates this line. In some parts of the world, revealed knees are taboo, while revealed cleavages are normal in some other parts. When you break out of this cultural boundary for one reason or another, say, by growing up in a family where culture is not greatly valued, or rebelling against parents who are tightly bound by blind following of absurdities, there is a chance that your line will disappear. There is a chance that you will go to any extreme because the concept of having a line would not make sense to you. That is when you lose respect for your body.
Since we live in a global village, it is very normal that all of our cultures are slowly becoming one, especially in the western world. As a result, the lines that were drawn by cultures are slowly becoming blurred, creating confusion about what the 'norm' is. Some people call it 'freedom' - this blurring of lines. The attitude that says 'you can wear whatever you want, which can be nothing if you like'. The attitude that does not recognise clothes as an essential means of respecting one's body.
Once the line is completely gone, some begin to miss it. They want to draw a different line. It started with France (lets ignore Turkey for a while). I remember the long campaigns I took part in around 2004, trying to stop the hijab ban. The ban went ahead anyway. Now it is being debated in many other European countries, including Italy, which currently has 1.2 million Muslims. (I don't know why some people still believe that these countries are doing it for 'security reasons'. There are MANY other security measures that these nations can take, without touching religions. Ever heard of female security guards?) The French spokesman on Insight's debate on the burqa clearly said that this ban goes against French values. He initiated the bill to ban the burqa. People like him decide that they are the ones who can say what defines a nation, a culture, a person. The funny thing is, there are many nude beaches in the same country. So, let me get this straight. Some people in the world believe that there is nothing wrong with failing to recognise that their bodies should be respected, yet, something wrong with those who don't fail to do so.
And they call themselves intelligent human beings!
And then there are some of us who could not care less. We are so selfish! Unless something directly affects us, unless a disaster strikes, we think its okay to live our sheltered lives and forget about the rest of the world. Sometimes, we think its okay to destroy our own lives - that is how selfish we are. Snap out of it!
N was here yesterday. She is in her third year of university, and has been through quite a lot of what I am seeing myself and my friends go through right now. She lived a perfectly happy life in school, with her close friends, who never crossed their boundaries, living their sheltered lives. Then they got to university, turned eighteen, discovered alcohol and men. N was never drawn into the traps of alcohol, but she did try to fit in in other ways. She eventually figured out that its not worth it, that the 'image' does not matter. M once told me that she wanted to spend her 18th completely drunk. Yet, even at the young age when she told me (I think we were 14? 15?), I remember asking her if she really wants to spend such a special day of her life in such a horrible state, from which she won't remember anything later, and might regret a lot? Her 18th passed this year, I don't know what she did.
M, N, D, S, D, A, T - They were such good friends of mine! I remember the surprise birthday party they threw me when I turned 14. M took me around the school in order to steal some time, they took me to the hockey field when I was almost sure that 'something fishy' is a 'surprise' party. M was the most responsible person in our group. Coming from a fairly religious, close-knit catholic family, she became the 'mother' of our little group. I remember her telling me that she is not allowed to get a boyfriend before university. She still doesn't have one (I'm yet to prepare myself for that day when she will) but she has been out partying a lot. She still has not completely lost her head, but I admit, I am a little scared for her. I feel like I am losing her as she loses herself. (Now I know how parents feel when their babies grow up!)
I have not yet seen T (except for once, from very far away) since 2006. A have changed for the better - into a mature, beautiful young lady. D and N - As expected, I guess. The other D - has lost her vehement passion for science and is now earning a lot of dollars.
S - We've grown apart and then became closer. I know how much you have in you and I don't want to lose you to this irresponsible world. In ten years, I hope to visit you in America, see you in your dream job, with the love of your life next to you (if you've found him, otherwise, don't worry about it :P). What everyone else thinks is 'fun' does not have to be 'fun'. I hope you figure that out someday, soon, just like N. :)
I thought I was talking about colours in the beginning! How on earth did I end up on such a depressing topic?
Anyhoo - I must nerd it out until the 11th of November. Please tell me to go and study if you see me online from now till then! I shall leave you with a cow's lens.
PS: I do not believe in cultural boundaries either. I believe in religious boundaries, because, if you believe in God, you believe His way to be the truth. And once you believe that something is the truth, if you are an honest person, you will follow it. But 'cultural boundaries' can vary and are not based upon a single 'truth'.