I had no idea that ripped jeans were some kind of statement until a few days ago, when Chief Minister Rawat of Uttarakhand bemoaned women wearing them. This “culture of the scissors”, as he called it, is apparently shredding the fabric of society.
This made me remember the sad fate of my favourite pair of jeans ever. They were from GAP’s Curvy range, and fit me perfectly. I bought them abroad around a decade ago and they weren’t cheap. I put them aside when an illness made me lose a lot of weight. I pulled them back on again with joy once I gained my health back, and wore them constantly for a few years. One day, while crossing a road, I was hit by a person on a motorbike and fell. Thankfully, I was not injured, but my beloved jeans tore at the knee. I continued to use them, anyway. I wore them to the office. I wore them to temples. They were just bottomwear, no big deal.
I was even wearing this pair in the author photo in one of my books because, well, I just hadn’t thought about it. I had been quite stressed out and uncomfortable about my appearance at the time, and the kind and talented photographer still managed to create a good portrait out of my tense face. Ripped jeans on my folded legs? They were just what I had under the very unassuming white shirt I’d settled on.
If someone were to see that photo and think I was trying to make a statement – well, I feel very sorry for how sexually repressed they must be. Nice of them to overcredit my styling skills that day, though.
I stopped wearing those ripped jeans not because they were ripped, but because my body changed again. They’d survived several years, my physical fluctuations, that incident with the bike, but I felt we’d come to the end of our journey together. I gave them away then, with sadness. They were packed off along with kurtas and other items of clothing that someone could make use of at a polite job. Now that I know that ripped jeans are scandalous to some, I wonder what the woman who received mine did. I’d like to think that she at least wore them happily out at home or with friends with whom she felt free. Or maybe they were just given to a boy, since no one seems to be afraid of boys’ and men’s knees.
I never found another pair as perfect again, and I stopped wearing jeans for the most part because of this. This is almost a moot point in the Zoom era of course, when one can deliver serious lectures wearing a pressed collared top over a lungi and unshaved legs, without anyone knowing. But if I ever find such a pair again, soulmate jeans that feel like they were made for me and enhance my ease in my own skin, I’d wear them all the time. Even if they they tear at the knees. It’s my comfort that matters, not someone else’s seedy gaze or their assumptions about me.
An edited version appeared in The New Indian Express on March 25th 2021. “The Venus Flytrap” appears in Chennai’s City Express supplement.