Editor’s Note: This month, that is August 2019, FII’s #MoodOfTheMonth is Travel, where we invite various articles narrating bitter-sweet travel experiences. If you’d like to share your story, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Being born in a middle class Bengali family, yearly trips were like a ritual right from childhood. Inheriting the traits from my parents I guess, I have always been a beach person. Of course, family trips were fun, but then there were few restrictions, based on body stereotypes of society, that I had to follow, mostly regarding my choice of clothes. I think during adolescent years, I had asked my mother a couple of times as to why I can’t wear a strappy top or shorts, at least on trips.
The standard answer would mostly revolve around the presence of our family-friends, and that my father would not like me wearing clothes that exposes my body in front of outsiders. Well, the answer did not make much sense to me. But I didn’t dig further. After all, children from respectable families have to fit into the societal norms!
I also distinctly remember this topic of body shapes and types being brought up on different occasions by peers and acquaintances.
I remember bringing up again the topic of clothes after moving out of home for college. I mentioned to my mom that in metro cities everybody wears anything they want, so why could I not try something new? This was the first time the issue of body stereotypes came up from my mom—not all clothes look good on all body types. I also distinctly remember this topic of body shapes and types being brought up on different occasions by peers and acquaintances. Thankfully, getting a degree in Gender Studies started to get me question all of these body stereotypes that I had been succumbing to all my life. But then again, I was not a very brave soul to go against and hurt the sentiments of my near and dear ones.
However, later on in life, the most fortunate thing happened—my first trip without family (Note: school excursion in a convent school doesn’t count for freedom!). It was in 2017 when I joined my first job. And like most school friends group, we had a bucket list, one of which was to go to Goa together, once we were adulting. Going through a messy love life, I wanted to explore so much more about myself by just letting go of unnecessary baggage and simply going with the flow.
The trip was indeed a life changing experience for me from a personal point of view. When it came to clothes, I wore shorts, crop tops and basically anything that I was comfortable in. If I am comfortable in my imperfect skin and body, then people around me shouldn’t have any problems either! After all it’s my life and it should be filled with my choices too. All I can say is that there should not be any relation between clothes and body types.
We should do and wear whatever makes us happy. The journey of self love, acceptance and exploration that started in 2017 has been continuing even today. This year in March, when I took a second Goa trip to Palolem beach with my colleagues, I wore bikini tops for the first time. However, it is here that I feel pushed to mention that the one thing what made this coming out of my shell possible in Goa was the lack of frequent male gaze.
If I am comfortable in my imperfect skin and body, then people around me shouldn’t have any problems either! After all it’s my life and it should be filled with my choices too.
Ever since I have started working, I keep travelling whenever I can squeeze out some time out of my hectic schedule. One often asks, out of all places, why do I repeatedly choose to visit Goa, even if the trip only lasts for 2 days! The answer is pretty simple. A temporary escapade into non-judgemental space even for a couple of days makes it worth revisiting.
I have never felt so safe anywhere, as I have in Goa till date. I only wish and pray that one day, every nook and corners of our country can be free of male gaze. Now when I reflect back after getting acquainted with the theory of male gaze by Laura Mulvey, it just saddens me to think how hopeless most of our families still are that they try to control the sexuality of their own daughters because patriarchy will always privilege male gaze and the only way left to protect ourselves is to hide our skin from the ever so “good” society!
Featured Image Source: India Today