The Red Dress

Posted by Soumya Priyadarshini
March 10, 2017

NOTE: This post has been self-published by the author. Anyone can write on Youth Ki Awaaz.

There she was, standing with her hands on her waist, head tilted to one side and her light brown tresses to the other side. From time to time, she was shifting her hangers in the closet. Every morning, she used to ponder over what to wear and amid her plain, dull clothes, a red dress always drew her attention. And like every day, she ignored it today as well.
She had never worn that dress because she thought that the scarlet red color dress on her milky white skin would make people notice her, and she didn’t like attention. But, she loved the cute little red dress, just like many other types of clothes that she loved but never wore, out of the fear of being noticed.
And, this red dress, her love at first sight, reminded her of the adorable red frock that she got on her 12th birthday, the birthday she’ll never forget, the frock that she never wore again. But, her friends gifted her a similar red dress on her 23rd birthday, and she loved it as much as she loved the red frock, but still the red dress never came out of the closet.

She is still standing there, confused as ever, trying to choose between the gray or black trousers. Finally, she takes out a gray shirt and black pleated trousers reluctantly, thinking that this boring formal color will camouflage her and no one will notice her.

She is now walking on the road, on her way to the office, from the point where the shared cab drops her. A fair, tall and pretty girl with a fresh morning glow on her face, a beaming smile, and dreamy eyes. As always, she is conscious of the eyes on her and she is wondering that why people look at her is it her skin color, her height or what is it that people make her uncomfortable with the constant gaze. She, on the other hand just loves seeing buildings and animals, so much so that she sometimes forgets that she’s walking on a road, alone.
Although she is just another girl who had her own share of bad experiences, like many others, so she knows that this is common and that she needs to be careful on the road because there aren’t just cars but also people.
She is now passing that sutta point where there are way too many men, she thinks. She is fine with people admiring her beauty, but she hates it when people start scanning her, her movements, and her body following a lewd gesture about it.
However, with practice, now she has learned to ignore people and their stares on the street. She just looks straight and walks, she sees no face, no eyes.
But she is still scared, cautious and aware. Her ears open, trying to hear every footstep closely, sharply. Her eyes constantly checking at the back. Like every day, she is hoping that no one is following her. She isn’t a cynic, she has friends who told her their experience of being followed, so she is just being careful — preventive measures you know. It’s her daily routine and she hates it. She hates walking alone because random bikers shout something and go.
A sweat trickled down her temples, she is nervous and vulnerable. She still remembers that evening on her birthday when she was returning back to her house after dropping her best friend who lived just one block away. She was jumping and running on her way back in the same red frock when suddenly a hand appeared and grabbed and squeezed her breasts and went away.
She still remembers the pain, but back then she didn’t really understand what it was, why it happened, she couldn’t understand why someone just tried to hurt and run away, that why someone touched her new developing fatty tissues. She understood when her mom told her. Since then, her mom became over protective and careful and since then she missed her freedom. Her mom was extremely worried about her early puberty and since then she was convinced that she would never wear any body-hugging dress if she wanted to avoid anything unpleasant.
She has followed this learning religiously because she doesn’t want to go through all the pain and the shame again. Nothing like that will happen today because it’s neither a dress nor it is red.
But, suddenly a hand appears out of nowhere that scratches her arm, tears her sleeves and disappears. There is a noisy crowd surrounding her, she is flummoxed with tears welled up in her eyes.
She can’t blame her clothes now, nobody can. And the hand this time didn’t even touch anything that only a girl has. This time the hand again hurt her and went away. She felt like an animal, a poor animal, who is hunted for fun and killed for no reason. She was broken, hurt and betrayed.
But, she had always been strong, she recovered.
A few days later, she was back, on that road, walking to her office, alone, but in that red dress that she loved, that she never wore. She had now found a new courage,
She thought that she’ll anyway be stared at, molested, eve-teased and touched, then why she shouldn’t wear what she loves at least.
This time she also stopped at the sutta point to hear what they had to say and laugh about. She didn’t bother about the glances that she was getting, she was just careful with the hand that might come, and it did, again, suddenly, out of nowhere. And this time too there was blood on the arms, but not hers. The hunter had fallen down, hunted by his own prey.
He had been wailing and groaning as he had been kicked in the groin.
Again there was a noisy crowd with hush-hush whispers because she knew that this time they could blame her, her dress and she could also blame herself for the demon crying in pain, in the middle of the road.
She knew now that it was never her red frock or her skin color.
She knew that such hands, comments, stares are unbiased and that it would keep coming because she is a female, because ‘Now’ isn’t the safest or the best time to be a woman.
But, she has faith that someday it’ll be. That someday she’ll be able to walk as freely on the roads as these guys.
But, till that time comes, she’ll have to fight, she’ll have to be bold and courageous.
And, she’ll fight, she might get hurt and fall down, but she’ll rise up again, higher.

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