So, last week, I went and bought myself a skirt. Which, if you know me at all, is just mind-boggling because my legs haven’t actually seen the light of day since, oh about 1995 which was my last year in a school uniform.
I don’t know whether this is a result of spending all those years in rape-capital Delhi, but the Skepticus sisters have always been modest (and I’m being kind here – the correct description would be ‘severely retarded’) dressers. If you have ever caught a glimpse of above-the-ankle Skepticus-girl-leg, it is almost certain that you are either a spouse, a sibling, or a parent of the sisters (and we shall not mention the boyfriends of the youngest Skepticus girl (aka, yours truly) because even in those cases, as LONG as her clothing stayed on, it was perfectly modest, thankyouverymuch).
Now while this bizarre sense of fashion would've had the sternest Taliban elder brushing away proud tears from his rheumy eyes, it rather confounded everyone else. The Skepticus parents had never imposed a dress-code on their daughters, so this concerted effort to drape themselves in shamiana-size attire was quite a mystery. They consistently wore shirts three sizes too large, skirts that routinely swept the floors and salwar-kameezes that would have sent maternity-wear-designers rushing for their sketchbooks.
”Show some forearm, woman!” was the kind of exhortation a Skepticus girl got from friends, when she was worrying about boys not noticing her.
This extreme modesty also parented the invention of the Emergency Skirts that prevailed in the Skepticus household through every summer through the ‘90s. The thing was, Delhi summers were non-conducive to the sisters’ Victorian ideas about dressing; sweltering limbs do not a comfortable Skepticus girl make. Now there was no choice as far as public appearances went (because the world couldn’t EVER know they had legs!), but within the confines of their home, they felt liberated enough to don shorts and t-shirts, provided there were no non-family people around. But this created a curious problem, for if all the sisters were thusly attired and the doorbell rang, how would they answer it? So the girls procured a bunch of ankle-length, elastic-waisted skirts in various patterns, with the single common feature that they were all uniformly ugly. Their only redeeming feature was that you could slip them on in half a second over whatever you were currently wearing.
Now the Skepticus mom, being the Skepticus mom, found this fervent modesty hilarious, and proceeded to tell all her friends all about it. Which might’ve been okay, if said friend-list had not included Mrs Chauhan – a lady with the lung power of a particularly accomplished Wagnerian valkyrie (with a pucca UP accent, that too) and a complete and utter lack of tact.
The aforementioned Mrs Chauhan one day decided to call upon the Skepticus household. Finding the door locked (unusual for the Skepticus home), she stood at the doorstep armed with her iron lungs and yelled, “Arre kapde pehenne ki zaroorat nahiiin! Main hi hooooon!” simultaneously scandalising and deafening all of F-block, the sisters and particularly poor, grey-haired Mr Satija (their neighbour downstairs) who forever after looked at the sisters with suspicion and a wee bit of wonder. (The man had four sons – enough to worry about without the disturbing revelation that the house upstairs was home to wanton nudists.)
But age, perspective and the absence of loudmouthed neighbours are slowly bringing about a change in this attitude and it is no longer so unusual to catch a glimpse of Skepticus-girl calf (as in, part of leg, not baby bovine) or even inch-above-the-knee leg. You might even run into a Skepticus girl who is actually wearing a top which leaves no ambiguity (!) as far as her gender is concerned.
And then yesterday, I went and bought myself a halterneck top, effectively laying to rest the ghosts of Delhi in the '90s, four completely daft sisters and the very loud voice of one Mrs Chauhan.
Say hello to the world, shoulders (and legs)! You're going be seeing a whole lot more of it.