Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Article in the Indian Express - September 21, 2010

The following article appeared in my Sunday column 'Un Intended' in The New Indian Express on September 21, 2010.
Armoured Assassins With Fine Features
Harimohan Paruvu
The other day I witnessed a young girl driving her scooter in traffic. Nothing unusual about it except that she was draped up completely from head to toe in cloth. Nothing wrong with that either but you could not see one square inch of skin anywhere. Now don’t get me wrong – I am not the kind of a guy who goes around looking for skin on women riders. It’s just that I could not see her eyes, her nose or her mouth – damned suspicious, I thought. How would she breathe, see, talk or hear? Why was she dressed up as if some nuclear disaster was taking place? Was she a suicide bomber? Was she a she?
Maybe, the girl was very culture conscious I thought. But what culture is this where she suffocates herself to death? I looked about. Several such specimens were going round the town in that elaborate gear. My antennae went up. Was some big attack being planned? Some secret cultural revolution going on? Was this some new Egyptian fashion where girls were dressing up to look like mummies? What was all this?
The mummy I was following stopped her bike at a restaurant close to a college. College kids! I got myself a place at a table. Soon a group of mummies entered the restaurant and in the melee, I lost my mummy. Thankfully one of the new mummies walked to a table near mine looking like an astronaut from outer space. First she took off her goggles revealing the smallest slit in the cloth near her eyes. She then undraped a long scarf that ran into a few kilometers from around her head. Ah, such a nice pretty face. Why would she want to hide that? Then she slowly unplugged a couple of ear phones from her ears. Next she unpeeled a pair of elbow length gloves and kept them on the table. And then she took off a jacket that ran from her collar down to her knees. All this stuff must have weighed about twenty tonnes. Inside it was a petite young girl of the finest features and lovely complexion.
Why would she want to hide herself thus I wondered. Why wear this armour? Sun, pollution, dust, protection were all possible answers but there seemed to be more. I waited quietly, lurking. After a while all the mummies headed out. They walked to the parking lot where a group of youngsters waited on their motorbikes. The mummies got on to the pillions of these motorbikes and they all headed off happily.
Aha, I thought, smiling to myself. Young love! Ingenious. As a disguise that protects their identity, this was a fantastic costume. It also serves several other purposes. It enhances our culture, protects health and certainly hides one’s identity from prying eyes. These new gen kids were smart.
Satisfied that our culture and nation were not under threat from beautiful bombers I was about to remove myself from the scene when I got a doubt. How will the motorbike guys know who is behind the mummy costume? Some code? Maybe, since the girls could see the guys, they would approach their own boys. Trust is of essence here. Good, everything seemed to be in order. I was almost out of the parking lot when I saw something that stopped me cold. I saw a couple of the motorbike guys dressed up like mummies themselves. Now, if both parties were dressed up like mummies how will anyone know who they are making off with?  I draped my head in a scarf and scooted.

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