How to Traumatise a Young Girl, or Why it isn’t safe to let Patriarchy into Kerala
Young NS was in her teens and had come to her “native place” in Kerala for a family wedding. There were aunts, smelling of fresh flowers, and rooms smelling of coconut oil. Everything began rather soberly but dignity and restraint went gently down the backwaters once the bottles of rum was unscrewed. Within a couple of hours, there was a reverend singing Shammi Kapoor songs on the piano while his brother berated him for not playing Malayalam numbers. A short distance away, there was a loud and furious debate about the future of the Communist Party and how it was no longer a party for the proletariat. It was during this wedding that NS realised that the old wives’ tale that claimed that the more a Mallu man respects you, the more he raises his mundu was actually the old wives’ experience. All them white wraparound skirts with golden zari borders were perfectly decent to begin with but before you knew you it, the wearer lifted the hem, turned the mundu around and curly leg hair was being revealed. The first lift bared till the knee; next stop mid-thigh and the final destination turned the mundu into hot pants that would make Katy Perry blush.
As is inevitable in such occasions, at one point NS found herself cornered with one jovial uncle who decided it was his avuncular duty to make his niece more familiar with language, culture and tradition. His zari-bordered mundu flapped lazily against his upper thigh. “Kutty, you know why they call them family jewels?” NS was too busy hunting for an escape to reply but Uncle told her anyway. “It’s because (and here he points at his hemline) there’s a gold lining.”