She wore harem pants to a Hindustani classical music concert. In an assemblage of cumbersome saris and silk kurta-pyjamas, antique jewellery glinting from robust necks and rounded bosoms, and kohled eyes and vermillion foreheads that looked like they belonged at the court of a decadent Rajah, her ikat harem pants should not have stood out, except for the tube top she wore above them, like a sheath over her bust, and an excuse for a dupatta draped over her shoulders.
I was a girl of sixteen then and still it fired my imagination more than tempered it. So I knew exactly what those other eyes roving over her form were feeling. Some spewed disgust, some shock but most had unmasked lust. She stuck out like a sore thumb in the crowd with her harem pants and her henna-dyed hair. She knew it and she sneered at their sensitive pride by wearing a leer on her reddened lips. But what a beautiful sore thumb she was!
When the concert got over, I sought her out from the crowd to make an obeisance to my goddess of defiance, but I never got the chance, because a mad drunk that night shot someone and a stampede ensued. The people ran amok in fear for their lives and for their jewellery and everyone seemed to have forgotten that someone needed help… but not she, not my goddess of defiance, who had dragged the bleeding man to a side and was tending to him. She had scratches herself that bled from places but her sole attention was devoted to the man. I noticed her ikat harem pants were torn as if ripped away by force, and in the next instant I saw ribbons from her pants bandaged across the wound on the man’s arm. She was already on the phone, calling for help. This man would be saved after all.
And so that night I received a lesson in humanity – It’s not the looks or the raiment on your back that makes a saint, it’s your actions. And that night the only saint in a melee of prudish aristocracy and unchecked terror was a red-haired woman wearing harem pants.
Copyright © 2018 Pradita Kapahi