My Body, My Dress

A steady line of women poured into the Nutrition Centre at the intersection of 90 Feet Rd and 60 Feet Rd. In the ground floor, about 20 of us had gathered to discuss our bodies and draw them. The exercise named Body Mapping facilitated by Dr. Nayreen Daruwalla was a jovial method to understanding one’s own sexuality.

Long sheets of paper were generously spread on the floor on which three women lay down regardless of their sarees and onlookers. The rest of the women formed groups and huddled around the comfortably stretched women who acted as models. Minutes later, every group produced an outline of a woman – unembellished, jelly like, naked.

We had to do the hard task of thinking.

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What brings pleasure to my body?

When I am pregnant and my husband takes very good care of me.

When my husband asks whether I chatted with my mother or not.

The romance of the initial days of marriage: “Jawani ki khushi”

When my husband caresses my breasts.

When a look at my child makes all my pain disappear.

When my child drinks my milk.

What brings pain to my body?

When my husband ignores me.

When an unwanted stranger touches my breasts.

When my husband forces me to have sex.

When a child is born out of wedlock.

What is the difference between a man’s body and mine?

Breasts. Womb. Anatomy.

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Each question and its answer took into consideration a relevant body part as well. Most women chose to talk about their breasts or their wombs – a very obvious and strict manner of understanding sexuality. Sexuality, however, is a construct of gender, spaces and relations as much as they are designed by anatomy. So, other body parts can also lend themselves to comprehend one’s sexuality.

The exercise was an entertaining means to define the way in which we relate to our sexuality. Consent was seen as a factor that defined pleasure and pain to the body. A woman determines who can access her body (such as a child she is nursing) and who cannot (such as a person who makes unwanted advances) and also when (such as a husband forcing her into the act of sex). The body then is much like a house, with accessibility being controlled and varied.

As time passed, the drawings became more decorative. Feminine jewels, bindis and lovely locks of hair adorned what were once blobs of womanhood. One participant named Gayatri realised she had drawn buttons but forgotten to sketch the blouse. Riotous laughter followed.

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