I like the word firm. It imitates its meaning almost teasingly, as if by standing sincerely next to other casually thrown words, it is holding on to last minute dignity but still dignity. I first registered the word when I was reading a story in which a man moves his hands inside a woman’s blouse while they are kissing. Her breasts were firm, it said.

I’ve never quite figured out that way of understanding breasts. But I grew more attracted to ‘firm’ after I began noticing its use in the way people held back opinion, thought, action. There is an extremely desirable edge to it when people refuse to give in and perform the unsavoury act of withholding. I have never been a fan of withholding. It reminds me too much of first-rank brahmin girls from school.

But that is not the firmness we are thinking about today. This is the kind of firmness that comes from having been bitten twice, thrice. The kind that is not sure of itself but only knows that it must do what it is doing because it doesn’t know any other way. A firmness in the way of thinking like slow-walking, of talking like mindful-chewing, of decisions to not give in to gossip even when it is tempting, of refusing invitations kindly: a weak back bone that is bending but also standing.

After all this, I only want to know if I have it today or not.


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