Yehi Hai Right Choice Baby! Or Is It?

Saturdays With Shivani

Every time I shop for clothes, I instinctively go for collars, high necks or cowl necks if I am feeling too adventurous. I am told I should try V-necks or atleast slightly deeper round necks. The trouble is that my confidence plunges in direct proportion to the depth of plunging necklines.

Trial rooms are a trying experience for me and my personal stylist, my daughter. After major eye rolls, she finally gives in saying, “Don’t buy it Mumma if you are going to be consciously tugging at your clothes.”

If you’re wondering where this is going then please don’t worry I shall not bore you with my wardrobe struggles. Over the years as I have wrestled with my rigidity, I can say I am getting better. I am trying to be less conscious but my struggle is very real. Most girls go through what I have and we are all trying to put that behind us, some doing a better job than others.

My choices and my fears are rooted somewhere in my growing up years. The subtle and not-so-subtle groping, the male gaze and raucous eve teasing makes one want to disappear. No place feels safe, not even our educational institutions. I am sure a lot of girls have dreamed of that invisibility cloak long before Harry Potter introduced us to it.

Recently some videos started making rounds showing girls being made to take off their hijabs and some women taking off their burqa. I felt enraged and triggered. Suddenly the visual disrobing that most girls are accustomed to felt so real to me. I reacted from a place of sisterhood and expected a similar outrage from women. There was some noise but to my horror there were a lot of women who vociferously defended it. They claimed it was about uniform and went on to recollect how during their school years, they weren’t allowed to wear bangles, bindis and mehandi. Some even claimed of freeing the girls from repression.

Isn’t that a simplistic approach reeking of a total lack of empathy? Without understanding what hijab means to these girls, the women jumped to their own conclusions because it suits them fine. Why do the hard work? This presumptuous behaviour helps them escape from being in someone else’s shoes. They know the shoes would bite so it’s easier to toss them away. Since it came from women, it hurt more.

For me personally, it wasn’t about religion either because truth be told I don’t understand religion; mine or anyone else’s. Hijab is especially difficult to understand because while growing up, I don’t remember having any Muslim girls in school. In college there was a close friend. She was a strong and opinionated girl from a very open and progressive family. When I saw her wearing hijab after marriage, I admit it wasn’t easy for me to understand why a girl would be willing to wear it. Knowing my friend, I trusted her with her choices and left it at that.

Now I am trying to understand what hijab means by reading and talking to women who choose to wear it because they want to. I find it relatable because if someone asks me to wear a slightly revealing dress, howsoever fetching it might look, I would refuse to. I would be conscious and awkward but if and when I do it that would be my choice.

Hijab ya kitab may be Hobson’s choice for some. Those who choose the former (or their parents making that choice for them) would be denied of their right to education; that one thing which would have empowered them to make the choices.

Whatever instigated the entire circus, religion and uniform were just facades. It should always have been about choices- what to wear and what not to?

Dr. Shivani Salil


  • H.C.Verma

    Agree it should be left to choice-to wear or not.
    To me,it appears to be politically motivated.

  • Urwashi Indrakumar Parmar

    Yes, its all about choices.

    1. The parents & their kids who choose to wear the Hijab, had a choice to select & enroll themselves in a school (educational institute) where everyone wears a Hijab, means wearing Hijab with choice is allowed & thus uniformity is maintained.

    2. The parents & the same kids who choose to wear the Hijab still have a choice to leave that school & join a school (educational institute) where everyone wears a Hijab.

    I have studied in an all girls Convent school run by Chrishtian missionaries having students from a mix of both Hindu, Muslim, Sikh, Jain communities who wore the uniform recommended by the school authorities.

    If you & me are comfortable today with a certain dressing sense, its because we have changed over years & we are no more in that school going age group. Your & my dressing choice cannot have a comparision with school girls uniform in schools.

    Uniformity & uniform is recommended in schools to avoid discrimination, thats it.

    Hope the same parents & their kids are ok with the subjects, textbooks & lectures taught to them in that same school because it is taught compulsorily & what will be taught was not asked to them previously.

    My response is my perspective & the above post is yours. As you have a choice to put your views on a public forum, so do the people responding to your post have, a free choice to respond and/ or put up their views.