Diary of a Little Woman | The Underwear Anthem

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Young Nila pledges allegiance to every human being’s closest companion, and then realises that one mustn’t allow society to dictate one’s best fit.

Be they chuddies or buddies, it’s important that we never hang them out to dry in public.

July 3

 

Dear Diary,

 

I have been so cranky these past few days. Snapping at everyone for no reason. They’ve all been surprisingly tolerant. Except Shanky — who snapped back — literally. But I don’t blame him. It was actually funny. The usual remote-control fight during every cricket match, where he wants to continue watching beyond his 30-minutes slot. I gave him 5 minutes of my TV time, then got annoyed, snatched the remote and pushed him off the sofa. He jumped back and bit my arm.

I’ll never understand why the male species is so obsessed with sports. You should see Shanky and Appa during cricket matches. It’s as if their eyes and the TV are opposite poles of a magnet. He doesn’t even lift his bums during important matches. Some nonsense superstition about lucky seats. The last three times he changed seats Dhoni got duck out, it seems. Appa also has his favourite seat. And they both have a favourite banian — which is now so faded and full of holes that they actually wash it themselves because they’re afraid Amma might throw it out.

Men. Such strange beings. Sometimes, they are exceedingly smart. Sometimes, exceedingly stupid.

I asked Sandy if he had any such dumb superstitions. He rattled off a long list. Thankfully he doesn’t watch much sport on TV (is really good on the basketball field though). But he has a list nonetheless.

* While taking bath, Sandy always washes his underarms first. That way if he has to cut short his bath in case of an earthquake, he would have cleaned his smelliest body part.

* Sandy never sits directly under a ceiling fan. He once saw the pattern of a fan when he peppered his soup. Now he thinks he’ll die a ceiling fan death.

* Sandy’s favourite colour is grey because it is associated with gloominess. And now that he has pledged allegiance to grey, the colour will take mercy on him and not haunt him with sorrow.

* Sandy does a chicken dance every morning before stepping out for the day. That way, no road accidents. Why? Even he couldn’t explain.

In the end, he took my hand and said, “You know what, Nila. I can finally give up on all these superstitions because I found my lucky charm.” I started blushing even though it was a cheesy line. But then that idiot pulled out a rosary-type chain from his pocket and dangled it in front of me — his lucky charm. Aaargh. How could I fall for it. I should have just laughed it off but I got all cranky and stomped off instead.

Next day was worse. I didn’t talk to anybody. Couldn’t even concentrate on the murder that Hercule Poirot was trying to solve. Ignored Sandy all day even though he sneaked a bar of KitKat into my lunch dabba. (I know it was him because our first big fight was over an improperly shared bar of chocolate. And we’d made a pact to only eat KitKat in each other’s company henceforth.)

I guess he was a little worried about my crankiness because the next day, he asked me to stay back after school and meet him in the vegetable garden. When I reached the tomato patch, I heard harmonica music from behind the banyan tree. The tune was new yet familiar. I ran towards the tree. And guess who was behind it? Actually, no points for guessing — the answer is pretty obvious. But guess which song he was playing?!

The Underwear Anthem!

All my crankiness vanished. Poof! I don’t know what made me happier — that he remembered the song, that he was playing it for me, or that he actually learnt to play the harmonica just to woo me. I asked him why he was being so nice. “My dear Nila, you are precious. And I’m going to do everything I can to make myself a worthy boyfriend,” he replied. He was definitely mocking me but somewhere deep down I think there was a bit of truth in it. That’s how it is with everything we say — good or bad. We might claim to not mean it but deep, deep down we do.

Oh, the Underwear Anthem. We wrote it in Class 5 during an extremely boring Substitution period. Maths Ma’am was absent and the super strict substitution lady made us sit in pin-drop silence and do our homework. She had a slight accent. Throughout the period she kept saying, “Children, concentrate on your chuddies”. So, Sandy passed me a sheet of paper with the words Underwear Anthem on it. And the first line. I wrote the second and passed it back. By the end of the period, an anthem was born.

The next day, we set it to tune. And for the next three months, we sang it at every opportunity. After that, we had our summer holidays and the anthem was forgotten. Lost the sheet but I remember a few lines. Here goes...

Don’t you forget your underwear

If you don’t have those you’ll get nowhere

You might have a million buddies

But your BFF is your pair of chuddies

 

When the song ended, I gave him a hug and said sorry for the crankiness. We shared a bar of Kitkat. He kissed my head and asked me to take care of myself. He makes me feel so special, Diary.

Back home, pomegranate juice with Poonguzhali Akka. I told her that I was going bra-shopping with Najju Paati. She screamed. “Nila! Save yourself from that monstrosity. Najju Paati of all people! We must fix this now!” And she grabbed my hand and we marched towards Najju Paati’s apartment while I blinked in a daze over Akka’s strange behaviour.

By the time we reached Paati’s place, Akka had calmed down. Paati was drinking tea and reading Tintin in Tibet.

Akka cleared her throat dramatically and said, “Paati. Nila tells me you are taking her bra-shopping.”

Paati cackled like a hyena. “Oh, the things you have to do to save our little women from the clutches of those monstrosities. I have been meaning to have this bra conversation for a while. Good you brought it up, Poongu. Let’s figure this shit out.” Yeah! Paati watches too much Hollywood and swears like a pro.

Now Akka started cackling. These two are the best but also strangest women I’ve ever met.

Then spontaneously, they walked towards me, grabbed one arm each and marched back to Poonguzhali Akka’s house, into her bedroom, opened the closet and started pulling out clothes.

All her clothes were soft, flowy, cottons of all colours. For the next two hours, they discussed women’s garments while simultaneously bombarding me with unfamiliar words and phrases. Feminism. Suffrage movement. Patriarchy. Capitalism as a tool to enforce slavery. Female Victimhood. Sexism. Objectifying the female body. Mansplaining.

I have actually copied down all these phrases because I want to read up about them. But the main takeaway from the evening was that we women pay too much attention to clothes. That bras are horrendously uncomfortable. That it is possible to wear clothes that don’t require a bra. That if you must wear bras, then go for comfort over style. That tight clothes suffocate the body and mind. And that Poonguzhali Akka and Najju Paati are THE MOST peculiar-amazing-weird people in the Universe.

Akka wears cotton slips under her kurtas. She gets most of her clothes stitched in patterns that make bras unnecessary. And when you wear a saree, your blouse is like a bra.

I feel slightly sad because I was looking forward to bra-shopping but going by all their horror stories, it might be good to put it off for a while. Amma will be happy I’m giving up on tight pants and tops. She’s right, they are mighty uncomfortable.

I feel better now. Got my periods so feeling slightly tired but better than the last few days. Akka said I was PMS-ing. Should remember to ask her what it means.

Information overload.

Must sleep. Now.

Yours brain-fried-ly,

Nila

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