A portrait of his wife, Jeanne Hebuterne, by Italian painter Amedeo Modigliani

Recently, I showed up at my cousin’s wedding without a bra. The A/C was blasting full, and still the panoptical eye of public judgment made me flush hot, deeply deep. It pains me to think I am not yet entirely immune to self-flagellation. 

Being tall and thin, they expect me to look pretty. But carrying a chest that is flat as pancakes makes that difficult without a bra. So going around braless is an absolute no-no. 

Eerie, isn’t it, this dispassionate disposition towards bras? And are you not thinking: what can be so damn rebellious about a piece of lingerie? Well, everything. Because doesn’t so much about the female destiny depend upon the kind of clothing we choose to wear (or not)? My problem  with bras is that I really feel I don’t need them; yet have to keep wearing them. I have breasts, sure, but they are small and not the kind to feel full around a bra. My small (read: underdeveloped) breasts shrink even smaller when the bra pads shrivel into the clumsy void that inevitably blooms between my fleshless front and their fake-fleshy cups.  

But, here, I wouldn’t want you to get me wrong. I do love my boobs. Just hate my brassieres. This hate is not a reaction-formation or even a peremptory defence strategy. Abstaining from bras is how I wish to project an image of myself that is mine, and not just an image. Now (that I live alone) whenever the time is nigh for intercourse, I both dread and devour that moment when I’ll have stripped down to my real, anti-bra-cketed breasts and come out to my lover with my mammary glands. For so long, my mother drilled it into me that stuffing up (like ‘normal girls’) was the best compensation thin and tall (and small) specimens like me had for what we lacked. What do we lack? She never explained, only pushed me into the trial room. I even had to wear layers of slips to compensate, in turn, for my AAA size cups. How many times did I not tell her (never a word spilling out of me) that what I needed were –AAA cups i.e. that I didn’t want anything that felt like chastity belts around my chest chastising me for having something I didn’t have.  

Enough was enough; but this only after my twentieth birthday. One day, I went up to the gayest girl in my urbane-college and begged her to initiate me into the art of smoking. She gave me a look as smouldering as my first ever Marlboro. Good girls don’t smoke. Well, after taking my first puff, I stopped being one. She liked that. And I liked that she liked it. It didn’t take me long to realize that I was a gay girl myself. Something else good girls aren’t. (When’s the list ending)? Later, as we lay together, with my bra flung out on the heterosexual street where she lived alone by the tracks, a train thundered past us. And I thought: what is good is also free.

Nupur Shah (she/her) lives with her body in Mumbai, India, while her mind travels through the language-country and her soul is a universe unto itself. Simultaneously, she manages to exist on the fringes of a culture that will deny the existence of women like her who dare to desire everything there is under the stars–even the stars themselves. 

Nupur Shah

Nupur Shah (she/her) lives with her body in Mumbai, India, while her mind travels through the language-country and her soul is a universe unto itself. Simultaneously, she manages to exist on the fringes...