My Burqa Doesn’t Make Me Different

Posted by Mehwish Siddiqui in #BHL
September 16, 2017

Self-Published

Editor's note: This post is a part of #BHL, a campaign by BBC Media Action and Youth Ki Awaaz to redefine and own the label of what a 'bigda hua ladka or ladki' really is. If you believe in making your own choices and smashing this stereotype, share your story.

It was Saturday and we had to submit the assignment on Monday. I didn’t have enough photographs for the submission. The fear of poor marks again led me to travel and find some good clicks. So, I found myself in a Community Centre in one of the posh localities of Delhi. I avoid public places because I feel uncomfortable. I used to think that sometimes my attire becomes a hurdle in interaction.

There were many glass windows in the restaurants and outlets. But almost all of them have used covers in the window blocking the view of the inside. Probably, it was done to block the view of the poor pedestrians who beg at the same market. I found a good spot for my photograph inside a coffeehouse. I had to click the picture from the inside the CCD. I was hesitant to move in due to my Burqa. I had been conscious of not being at a place where people are uneasy with my Burqa. I hate when people stare at me as if I am something weird. It irks me.

When I came to the college I had chose to wear a Burqa. It was not imposed by my parents. My family did support my decision. It was my personal choice. But, I had been more conscious. To me, Burqa came as a liability. I had chosen to “endure” it. I avoided events and public places because I thought it made me different. I had to stand apart from the crowd. But, it was my misconception. When I went inside the coffeehouse I had the similar feeling of anxiety. I was the girl alone wearing a Burqa. I wasn’t allowed to photograph the people in the coffeehouse. So, I had to finish my coffee before resuming the work.

At length I started practising with my camera while drinking coffee. Adjacent my table there was a girl and a boy who were talking with each other. They looked what the generation would call today as “modern” in outlook. While I was taking some snapshots, the girl on the adjacent table looked at me and smiled. I thought it was a mocking. But, the girl asked for my visiting card and asked if I was a photographer. I told her that I was learning photography but I would soon be a photographer. What I considered as a mocking smile turned out as a compliment for the passion I was taming. I thought what made the modern girl to talk to me, is having something which she lacks.

The small event was significant for me. It’s not that the word is a prejudicial to me. It is more about our choice and co-existent. As long as you are good and true to yourself, people would come forward to respect you. You can’t stand apart just because you are different in outlook. The world is there to listen to you. You only need to go out and speak out. In a cosmopolitan atmosphere like India, individual choice is respected by most of us. Even if someone finds it awkward it doesn’t matter. You have the choice to ignore. Though you look different or dress different doesn’t make you stand apart or make you annoying.

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