Of Borrowed Bikinis

It’s what families do to me. It’s what my family does to me. This feeling that they are taking away from me what is mine – my body, my space, my idea of who I am and who I want to be like. It feels the way bodies sometimes react to danger. Like how 5 seconds before your body knows it’s going to touch concrete, it cringes and you taste blood in your mouth, like air squeezed out from your lungs.

I am 14, puberty and all. We are out on a holiday. I spend most of the night thinking about touch and sex and love only to be woken up rudely by mother at 6:30 in the morning. I have barely slept and not fully recovered from fantasies. We have to go out for a walk, all of us together, with the family. I don’t want to go, I say sleepily. I don’t have a choice because they can’t leave a girl alone, all by herself in a hotel room. The reason makes me slightly mad. Now I really don’t want to go even though I am wide awake because mother is being stubborn again.

No, we have to go because we have to see the sun and anyway I get to sleep at home how much ever I want. I fight, they shout, we leave. On the walk, they have a new problem. I am not looking happy ‘enough’. I have to enjoy because I am out with family. I didn’t want to because I didn’t feel like I had control over my body anymore. I had wet the bed, with no time to bathe or change, I was out for the walk with wet panties stinking from between my legs. I felt sicker because they were all watching me, forcing me to look happy.

I am 17, I have PTA. Mother gets there 30 minutes early and stands behind a pillar to watch if I am talking to any of the boys. Fast forward to 5 years later, my sister and mother joke about dad’s expression if he were to find out that she gets dropped home by her male friends on their two wheelers.

I am 20. I have a bad headache. Mother wants the grinder repaired. There are 3 other people at home perfectly capable of getting it repaired. But mother is convinced that I have to go. Maybe because she is mad at me for being in love (which I was), maybe she is mad at herself because she didn’t have enough evidence to prove it, maybe she is mad at me for lying, but for now she is mad at me for not waking up soon as she screamed my name to get the fucking grinder repaired.

I am 20. I want to go for a sleepover. She throws her plate of food away because I asked her why I can’t go. Every one at home is mad at me because she hasn’t eaten that night. I didn’t go for the sleepover.

I am 23. I get a job in Mysore, which isn’t too far away from home. Surprisingly they agree. But mother has cried thrice already because I looked ‘too’ happy to go to another city. I can’t find accommodation. Mother and father have BP issues so I have to quit. I spend more than a month at home, unemployed and depressed and now I have to stomach the fact that my sister is going to Pune to work. ‘They have people we know there’ ‘You’ll get a job soon, don’t worry’.

I am 23. Another sleepover. Dad yells, I yell back, he says he is going to slap me, mother lets me go.

I am 24. I have lied enough to learn that I don’t have to deal with any of the drama at home if I keep lying. So I keep lying.

I am 25. I have to wear a Saree for a cousin’s wedding. I don’t want to wear it but she looks tired and unhealthy and apparently her menopause becomes worse when I don’t wear a Saree. So I say ok. My sister doesn’t have to wear one because our clients only like chubby girls. When she puts on enough weight, she will be forced into a saree and made to stand in front of strangers who will rape her with their eyes. But now it is my turn to be raped.

I feel naked in a saree because I don’t want to wear it. I might wear a bikini and feel more clothed so long as I have decided to wear a bikini. I can’t talk to them about this. I don’t think they will understand.

I am 25. I am going to travel alone for the first time. I am excited. I don’t care that I had to lie to be here, doing my own thing, paying with my own money. I am glad I am here. They can all go to hell because for 3 days now, I am the master of my time on a holiday that I am paying for, where I will wear bikinis and run on beaches. I will think about the Saree later, when I have satisfied my body with a bikini.

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