I am 26 years old and currently applying for a PhD at a renowned institute. Till date, I have to question myself, “Why should I carry a dupatta or scarf based on what others think is appropriate?”
I was a happy kid and loved everything about this world. I was good at academics, dance, music, sports, debates and almost everything, but I was forced to come out of that bubble when I got promoted to Class VII. I would not say that my parents are orthodox in any way or that they impose anything on me or my siblings, but yes, they are very social and what society thinks matters to them a lot.
My paternal relatives are very orthodox, and some of the raging questions for them are of how a decent girl should be dressed, what is appropriate and what is not? Even though I never wore clothes that were bold or, in any way, revealing, my aunts would always tell me that I should only wear salwar kameez and carry a dupatta along. And this was the scenario when I was just 12 years old. Whenever I used to visit my grandmother’s house, I had to wear what was acceptable to my relatives.
However, the problem started when I was asked to do the same at my home. I was expected to carry a dupatta or scarf whenever I had to step out of the house. Initially, I was excited to try the traditional ethnic clothes, but soon, it became really difficult for me to fit in, mainly because that was not the way I was raised until then. Till then, I was happy and carefree, but suddenly, everything changed overnight.
I did not stop wearing jeans or shirts completely, but still had to carry a scarf. The situation was disturbing for me; whenever I was not dressed according to their expectations, I could see the disappointment on their faces. When I was in Class IX, I was sitting in my coaching class and waiting for the teacher. The students were talking to each other about something and I heard someone calling me ‘Amma and Aunty‘. I cannot even explain how humiliating that was for me.
Many similar incidents took place and I would cry for a while, but eventually, let it go. There came a time when even a kurta and jeans became unacceptable. I don’t know what the purpose of that dupatta was when I could get molested even after wearing it. I was wearing a dupatta one day when a guy on a motorcycle came near me and molested me to the point that I was crying and shouting on the road. I escaped from him that day, but realised one thing that dupatta or no dupatta, until one teaches their sons to behave like humans and consider women humans as well, there is no way that one can protect their daughters.
I still wear one even when I am standing on the main gate of my house or going for a walk in my colony, basically everywhere beyond the boundaries of my house. I am not saying that there’s any harm in carrying one, but it should be my choice, and a dupatta cannot protect me.