That Girl In Short Pants

“These short clothes are the reason for rapes” he announced as he sat beside me. Through his already receded hairline, his nearly bald head twinkled as light fell on it. He totally resembled that classic specimen of perpetually frustrated mid-50s men portrayed in popular media. His pinstriped white shirt’s buttons barely holding his bulging tummy. “This all rape thing that is happening, is totally because of such girls”, the gentleman reiterated. I was reading a book in Mumbai Central’s waiting room, expecting my train in few hours. I looked at him, then the family sitting on the other side of the hall. His eyes fixated on that ‘short’ cloth she was supposedly wearing. I felt like standing up and punching him while asking him to keep his rudimentary opinion to himself and understand that it was just a half pant she was wearing. In the end I could only manage a sheepish smile to his exceptional thoughts. “Isn’t that true, right paaji?” he surely felt I was on his side. I tried going back to my book. The gentleman now had new crowd. A dozen of ladies sitting right next to me on the other side. “Isn’t it mataji? Look at that girl’s short clothes, all wrongs happen because of such ladies and then they blame men. Men will obviously get excited.” he addressed his philosophical ramblings to the oldest of all those ladies. This group of ladies had just returned from Haj, and this was the only moment I wished that Hindus and Muslims have a disagreement on something. She didn’t say anything. “Look at her” the gentleman pointed at a young lady from that group, “Doesn’t she look good in full clothes? Does that girl in short pants look too good with them?” He laughed, being the only one, on his distasteful joke. It was an awkward moment, talking about decency but still having the audacity to point how beautiful a woman looked in full public view. I barely managed to control my laughter.

I was getting used to his sustained lectures on archaic philosophy and suddenly he opens his belt, his zippers, pulls his pant down. Takes a new pant from his bag, and wears it in full public glory. I always loved how much the word ‘Irony’ could express with those 5 little characters. That day I learned how much more it could say. The restroom was just 5 steps away. I wanted to ask him how does he get the right to take his pants off but that teenage girl can’t even wear what she feels like? But I was too exhausted. Too exhausted discovering and questioning the deep rooted mentality to oppress weaker sections like women and dalits all in the name of ‘preserving our culture’.

Before I left that waiting room to catch my train, I asked him about his life to see what brings him to such conjectures and convictions. He proudly told me he had been a lawyer, much to my hatred. Then he gleamed when he told me that now he is employed in the railway as some officer and how he manages free Rajdhani Rides and 1 lakh a month salary. That family, along with the girl in short pants had left long before. Secretly I wished they would have heard what he was saying. Secretly I wished that father would have punched the gentleman’s pan–stained teeth out. Would that have made any difference? They say that people might be killed, but ideas can live forever. I think of it and realise that maybe his ideas are not dying anytime soon. He will die in 20-30 years, but such ideas keep getting disseminated at more and more waiting rooms, more and more pan shops, more and more free Rajdhani rides…

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