The Sanguinarian

The Sanguinarian

Thursday, 26 May 2016

Tall Tales Thursday: Short fiction- Strangler Lingerie

The first time Raja's mother admonished him for looking at 'those ungodly things' was when he was almost thirteen.
He was with his mother at a big, plush boutique. While Mrs. Kataria bantered with the saleswoman about the various salwar-kameez she put on the counter with alacrity, Raja was bored. Sulking, he moved around, looking at the mannequins and clothes on display, occasionally glancing at his phone and texting.
Somehow, without consciously realizing, he wandered off into the lingerie section. The saleswomen stared at him, goggle-eyed, or looked at each other and giggled. What was a lanky, pimply teenage boy doing looking at lingerie? Raja, at first, was blissfully unaware, texting away to friends.
When he did pocket his phone and look up, he frowned. This seemed new, unchartered territory. Skimpy, oddly cut garments of all shapes and sizes, in different colors and designs. Some were designed to look like the skin of a leopard!
Intrigued, Raja strolled in between the aisles, inspecting the goods on display, fleetingly running his hands over them occasionally, enjoying the soft silk or the plush velvet, when he thought no one was looking. At the end of an aisle, he reached a mannequin. The mannequin was built voluptuous, just like those actresses he kept seeing in the movies. It was dressed in a leopard-print brassiere and underpants and posed in a way that Raja found alluring.
He turned around to face the aisle and saw that the same two-piece was displayed on a hanger nearby, with a transparent golden slip covering it.
He walked over, and hesitantly reached out with his to touch it.


He turned around and saw his mother standing there, hands on hips, her eyes two burning, yellow hot coals.

"Haramkhor! What do you think you're doing, you idiot? Touching those ungodly things!"
"But I was just..."

"Don't you know these things are evil and against our culture?" she shouted, and slapped him hard. Hearing her, two saleswomen ran to where they stood.
It is normal for a boy of Raja's age to be curious about women's underwear and lingerie; but his mother was unlikely to understand that. Even more unlikely was that she would talk to her son about what he was feeling and why; and what lingerie was. And how it was okay for him to be curious about girls and their undies, but still have a healthy relation with them.

Raja stared back at his mother, tears in his eyes, reeling more from anger than embarrassment. Now they were surrounded by a group of saleswomen and other customers, who'd dropped in for some free entertainment.

"These things are evil, you moron! They will strangle you in your sleep!"


"Yes...these things are the work of demons! They will come and strangle you in your sleep! Never touch them, or as much as look at them. Do you understand?"



"Yes, Ma."

Fast Forward: Ten years later 

"Make yourself at home, Rajan!" his girlfriend shouted from the bathroom.


Rajan looked about the room in the large, plush three-bedroom apartment. Nina was his first girlfriend; and the first woman he had ever meaningully connected to. Ever since he had moved away from home, to come as an undergraduate to DU to study English Literature and Linguistics, this was the first time he came really close to a woman.

Rajan believed it was because he was away from his overbearing, obnoxious mother and his distant, taciturn father that he was finally breathing free. Ever since he'd come to Delhi, clinched a scholarship and also found a part-time job to support his studies and living expenses, he had vowed never to go to that hell-hole he'd been forced to call 'home' for years. He wasn't 'Raja' anymore.

And yet, he'd found it difficult to talk to Nina when he'd first fallen for her. Both of them were classmates in the Masters in English Lit batch; both were, again, scholarship students. Nina was a young, blue-jean-and-T-shirt-and-funky-accessory wearing, outspoken, intelligent, well-read young woman from Chandigarh.

It was she who had approached and befriended him. He'd glance at her during classes or when she was with friends- not stare, just glance.

"In a city where men stare me down like I'm sex on a stick, while mentally undressing me and probably having the wildest sexual fantasies, your admiring glances are a welcome surprise," she'd told him. He'd opened up to her. After days of cajoling and seducing, she got him to kiss and make out with her.

And then she brought him to the apartment she rented with two girlfriends, both of whom weren't at home.

"Hey!" she whispered in his ear, grabbing him by the waist, from behind.

"Hey!" he replied, holding her hands with his. And felt the soft, tantalizing touch of silk on his skin.

"Are you wearing lingerie?" he asked.

"Yes, Raj." Only she called him Raj.

He turned around to look at her. She looked ravishing in a grey brassiere and underpants that both highlighted her curves and left little to the imagination, clearly visible under a transparent black slip. She had applied kohl to her eyes to make them look smoky, and it somehow made her face all the more aluring.

"I'm...I'm sorry...I can't do this," he said. The horribly vivid vision of his mother slapping and berating him in the boutique all those years ago came back to him. So did the memory of how he had woken up, for days after that incident, in the middle of the night, covered in sweat. He woke up from nightmares where hundreds of brassieres and women's underpants snuck up to him in bed, and strangled him.

"What...why not?"

"I just...can't. I'm sorry, Nina."

"Oh, I think I know the reason. You don't think I'm desirable enough, perhaps? That's why yyou won't as much as look at me?" she asked, hurt.

"Oh no no. It's not that, not at all."

"Then what is it? Please explain before you leave!"

"You look...amazing. I like you. But I'm...I'm afraid of those things..." he replied, staring at the ground, his hands pointing to her bra.

"My breasts?"

"No. I meant your underwear."

"What? You're afraid of my underwear? Are you serious?"


"But why? They don't bite!"

Rajan looked at Nina, and tears came into his eyes. Tears of exasperation. He thought he was free from that vile woman who was his mother...but distance couldn't cure the curse she had given him- undie- phobia. He couldn't as much look at women's underwear, should he be so unfortunate so as to encounter them, without getting the urge to pour kerosene over them and set fire.

"Okay, that's it. Tell me why you're afriad of my undies. What's wrong with them?"

Rajan told her about the boutique incident, and the nightmares. It was a test of strength of Nina's character and her feelings for Rajan that she didn't burst out laughing.

Instead, she got dressed, ordered pizza, and they spent the night eating and talking.

A few weeks later

Nina took Rajan to a prominent psychiatrist, who he visited once a week for his 'problem'.

They did get together on Nina's insistence, but she simply built up the tension by dressing in a flimsy robe.

Slowly, because of the shrink's therapy and Nina's support, Rajan started overcoming his phobia. The doctor advised him to face his fear with information- by researching the objects that terrified him, he could convince himself that they couldn't  harm him.

So he did exactly that, with help from his girlfriend. It involved visiting the lingerie section of boutiques, all by himself; the first two of these visits had him almost freaking out with a panic attack. But he didn't give up.

Nina hoped he will grow free of his fear, one day.

Note: This story came to me while I was reading an article, on the prominent feminist blog, The Ladies Finger, about how, in public, display of women's underwear is considered a taboo. As a feminist and observer of human behavior, this mentality both amuses and irritates me. Why do we women have to hide our undies from view like they're some disgusting little secret? Or worse, some weapon of mass cultural destruction?
This story is merely intended as a sardonic take on sexist attitudes regarding us women and our clothes and sartorial behavior. It's not meant to tantalize or tittilate you.
You can find the link to the original article here: Why do Bras in Public Terrorize Some People?