I am capable off, decapitating you if need be….
The Madras mail left the Mangalore platform. Sheela sat by her window seat if you stretched her you would max-out at 4ft.9” since she was extremely fair she kind of came across as frail. She also had a disarrayed hair which would give any temple priest a run for his money, and when it came to her saree, she was rather sloppy since it was a train journey she had draped a nylon saree that would not crease when she got off the trains
Those days book vendors came into the train to sell books and newspaper and people bought them unless they carried their own brand of favourite books. Phones and mobiles were found only in science fiction.
In trooped a bunch of college boys from KREC, they were the final year students and they kept passing were having a laugh at the frail women sitting with her head in the newspaper. Their conversation of course flaunted that they were into reading books… and were part of the cross word club.
As the next vendor came in wanting to collect dinner orders, they were commenting about the man asking did not know Kannada, and wondered if the Ajji knew anything other than Kannada.
Sheila sat through the entire conversation. The boys had picked up the Indian express, and were solving the crossword easy clues. When dinner came Sheila had carried dinner so she ate her sandwich, wiped her hand and went into the rest room.
She then picked up an Usha Navaratnaram, Kannada novel. By this time, the boys casually picked up the Hindu, looked at the crossword section, daring each other to tackle the Hindu crossword, to their surprise the crossword was solved. they asked the gentleman in front, “Uncle how did you do it” the man replied,”idu auntydu paper” that is the paper belongs to aunty,
They were kind of confused,
“Any problem” asked a voice and the boys turned around, it was the frail aunty
‘Someone has solved the crossword and we were wondering’ the boys asked Sheila still in Kannada,
“Yes I did,”
“But the clue is different”
“Check the cryptic clue”…. the boys were aghast that this mousy woman had solved the Hindu cryptic clue crossword. Not mention her British accented English made them run for cover.
Sheila had a ball of time, laughing at the boys, for she was physics and math teacher and toured quite much round the world.
Yes people do tend to type cast, short hair
69% of men agree that their judgement of women is based on their looks.
b. 64% of women agree that the judgments passed on them have affected their ability to reach their true potential.
c. 70%of women agree that majority of judgments on women are from family members or friends rather than strangers.
d. 72% of women agree that working women face more judgments on their looks or their clothes than housewives.
Sheila in this blog is my mother, her mother was an MSc. In mathematics and was a family planning counsellor. Neither of them cared a damn about how they were perceived. Because they were comfortable being who they were and they knew the kind of power they wielded. The survey could say anything, but my fifty years of experience has been, yes people do form an impression on the way you are clad, but it is the way you break that impression is the ”ah! Brand creating moment.”
What I find interesting, is the campus that I grew up in refused to perceive me as a capable adult; I was perpetually treated like the cute girl next door. But the minute I got acknowledged in international platforms for my work on Ramayana suddenly the very same teachers were and community member were looking at me with a different eye, there was more respect and even wonderment.
One particular personal experience was when I wanted to write a column for Tarun Bharat they had just launched their English version. I went to meet the editor, a very interesting peer, of mine with a beehive on her head, and smoked quite bit when she was not sprouting four lettered words. she made a comment to someone inside, ”one more housewife, ” hell hath no fury let loose than Parwati labelled, when we start the interview, I kept my voice very formal, sat with my legs crossed not lady like or the British gentleman style but right square, looked her in the eye,” good evening I am Dr….I presume you are….”
“Oh! Yes…” she calls me by my first name
“I don’t recollect giving you the permission to call me by my first name, I am Dr… Until we earn each other’s respect.”I
Now this woman looks at me, here I am draped in a handloom saree; I have hip length hair, a huge bindi, traditional diamond earrings, and mangalsutra. “Your English is pretty good,”
“Of course it is”
“But … you know our values are very contemporary. We want a very modern attitude” she was squirming and I felt so vindicated, I told her, “Listen, I am fat, forty, happy married with no intentions of divorcing my husband, I practise dentistry, when I choose, I teaching dancing when I choose, I write when i choose, I have an attitude and from what I see you have a problem, By the way I don’t use foul language though I can out swear you.“
I took out a colleague’s card, this colleague is a psychiatrist, and told her, “Just in case you need and in case you need inputs from me, your Marathi edition chief knows how to reach me.”
That was it, three days later the office called I had a contract I did series of articles for them the editor never stepped on my toe again. We have met on women’s forums and I have been on the panel discussion on live-in relation legality, lesbian rights my sari and bindi in place.
At the end of the day, it is not just the dressing, there is something about the persona that comes out through the dressing, and it’s that persona that elicits opinions and reactions. People might observe your clothing when you are static, but the minute you start your verbal and non-verbal communication it’s your zone.
below me in conversation with ShubhaVilasji at GALF