In what looks like a strict religious diktat at first sight, the ‘all covered up’ city women happen to be their own creations, thanks to the heat and dust of the ever-enlarging megalopolis
If you thought that women are forced to cover themselves from head to toe, including even finger nails or less than just one mm of skin, only in countries like Afghanistan or Saudi Arabia, think again!
There might be religious reasons for that and even the Muttawas or the moral police in those countries force them to don the all-enveloping piece of cloth. One slip, and you are whipped!
But for me, coming from a “liberal” Gulf state of UAE where these things were not largely bothersome, I was shocked – rather amused — to see a lot of women in Hyderabad covered from head to toe.
And this coverage had nothing to do with religion! In fact, it was interesting to note that these women were in the best of their choice of haute couture; but yet, they were covered from – pardon me for repeating myself — head to toe!
Socks and gloves included. Of course, there are women who freely drape themselves in the all-enveloping burka: many women of this city of the Nizams. But I am not talking about this section alone.
Wherever you travel, you will find a woman or two on the scooter or bike next to your vehicle, or even at bus-stops, covered fully.
This phenomenon is not just limited to Hyderabadi women alone: When my wife comes to visit and when we travel on the city roads on my scooter, even she chooses to cover herself with her dupatta. And become unidentified!
Like the women from Rajasthan (for example), or somewhere else in the northwest, they even cover at least their heads with their “pallu” in front of elders or strangers.
With so much debate raging on all over the world about the way a woman should display herself: either like alleged commodities on billboards or television ads or else as morally correct and covered fully, these enveloped Hyderabadi girls left me a bit confused.
In France, for example, wearing the burka – or hijab – is officially banned. And Sarkozy is challenged by a woman for presidency who prefers to fully cover herself (though she may not receive any vote in a continent shrouded in a phobia against one religion).
And then I lifted the veil off my mind: light dawned upon me!
It is neither religious nor about moral values. It has got nothing to do with modesty.
There is only one reason. Pollution.
The heat, the dust, the smoke here is unbearable. That’s why. And I have noticed, not even the women, but many men too prefer to cover themselves up while riding on Hyderabad roads. Me too.
(Photos courtesy Abbas of The Hans India)