Three Students Examine Modesty
– a Maratha Empire story –
Version for “Tales of the Veils” website.
Not for reproduction on other websites or in any other publishing format without author’s permission.
The office shows to be in a side street right off the Bhagat Road where Divya has passed many times. The building houses offices of many companies and in the entrance hall is a reception desk. The receptionist is dressed like a young woman, but it being Punyanagari she is of course completely covered with a long scarf wound to cover her entire head on top of a piece of white gauze over the eyes and long gloves covering her hands and forearms.
The office building receptionist
She watches as they approach her at the slow pace of Gunjan. When Gunjan is just about to reach the desk the receptionist says, naturally somewhat muffled
“It is Mrs. Shenoy, isn’t it? And you are bringing guests today? You know I have to see your id anyway, and your guests have to sign-in.”
Gunjan nods to both and opens her bag to produce both an id and her phone. While she writes on the phone the receptionist puts a guest list on the desk and holds a pen forward which Ira takes. It doesn’t take long before Ira holds the phone in front of the receptionist who responds by saying
“Certainly Mrs. Shenoy. Do they need to borrow a silencer?”
Gunjan nods while turning to hold the phone for the other three to read
‘Please put my guests on the company VIP-list to be sure they can see someone without a prior appointment or me being present.’
Divya says “That’s very kind of you G . . – Mrs. Shenoy. I pass here now and then and might like to have a word with you in relation to our new co-operation. But it doesn’t seem to be orally it seems?”
Divya is referring to the three black ball gags the receptionist has meanwhile placed on the counter. Gunjan gestures ‘I’ll explain in the office.’ The straps are elastic and to be clipped together at the ends so that they are easy to get up under the head scarf without having to lift it all way round. Divya has worn gags now and then and automatically opens her mouth as wide as possible when her hand with the ball approaches her lips, but is a bit surprised when the ball is only just able to pass and her teeth clenches the ball the moment she relaxes her jaws. She doesn’t think she has worn a ball this large before.
While the three guests have muted themselves Gunjan has started moving towards the lifts. They all catch up on her before the lifts and Madhur presses the call button. Inside the lift there is a row of small signs next to each floor button. Gunjan points to the sign saying ‘BSS Internet Marketing’ before pressing the button for the fourth floor. Upon exiting onto the landing the guests see there are two doors on each side with a sign with the company name to the left of each door and a keypad to unlock the door on the right. Divya sees they are not sufficiently high enough up for a decent view as Gunjan slowly heads for the furthest right hand side door.
They enter a short corridor with two closed doors on each side without any signs. Gunjan points to the door at the end for Divya to take a few normal steps to open the door just before she gets there. The next room is a large open office with four desks on each side of an aisle going straight through the room. Only half the desks are occupied and those sitting at them are women. They are all dressed similarly in neat salwar kameez in a style indicating they are in their early twenties but, unsurprisingly, this can’t be visually verified as none of them show an inch of skin. They are all busy working at computers, but the one closest to the right raises her head to see them and gets up to greet Gunjan cheek to cheek. Gunjan doesn’t introduce her though and she greets the guests with a nod before seating herself again. Gunjan moves towards the door at the far end of the aisle and two of the other three women seem too preoccupied with their work to notice their passing and the third just turns her head away from the monitor for a moment and nods. Behind the next door is a small corridor more or less identical to the first with all doors closed but here are signs next to the doors. Divya reads ‘Executive Director S. Bhat’, ‘Marketing Manager G. Shenoy’, ‘IT Manager B. Khemu’ and ‘Executive meeting room.’
Gunjan knocks the door with ‘Executive Director’ next to it and within ten seconds it is opened by a person who has to be a secretary. For an executive secretary it is to be expected that she is a little more modest than the ordinary office workers and this woman wears a shawl around her head matching her kameez and under the white scarves covering her face she wears a purple see-through silk scarf to cover the eyes. She seems to recognise Gunjan as she doesn’t object when Gunjan goes directly to her computer to write. Meanwhile the three guests look at the woman seated behind the large and expensive desk who presumably is Executive Director S. Bhat. There is nothing but a ghunghat, printed in mainly red and orange with two cut-outs for viewing to be seen, and the fabric apparently is opaque.
Executive Director Shipra Bhat with her secretary
Mrs. Bhat doesn’t get up from her chair to greet her visitors, but after turning away from a monitor at the left side of her desk to take a look at those who have entered she turns to face the monitor again. Divya realises her monitor shows what Gunjan is writing on the secretary’s computer and the moment Gunjan turns away from the computer Mrs. Bhat gets up from her chair. Divya gasps as Mrs. Bhat shows herself in full next to the desk. She has never seen anyone dressed like this before. The ghunghat is all that shows. It reaches all the way down to sweep the floor with no other openings than those at the top for the eyes. Mrs. Bhat is completely covered in one large sheet of fabric, making Divya think of the old style burqas which were not tailored much either but had a skull cap to prevent it slipping on the head so the eye holes did not get misaligned, but these are always white or beige and made of undyed fabric.
The surprises aren’t over to the guests. Just as Mrs. Bhat and Gunjan stand facing each other ready to greet each other in some way the secretary bows down to reach for the hem of Mrs. Bhat’s covering and raises it up to waist level and then Gunjan bends so as to be able to get underneath Mrs. Bhat’s covering. The lower part of a neat ochre sari with a little silver embroidery is revealed but nothing else. When Gunjan stands straight under the ghunghat it lifts at the front but apart from being lifted away from the face of Mrs. Bhat to hang from Ghunjan’s head and down her back it doesn’t slip or move much, and the guests all take a step forward and lean over to find that it’s firmly secured to the back of Mrs. Bhat’s head with some kind of buckle. Less than ten seconds later Gunjan pulls out of the ghunghat and turns to Ira pointing between them to indicate that it is her, as Gunjan’s sister, to be presented first. As the secretary lifts the covering of Mrs. Bhat again Gunjan gestures ’embrace’ to Ira just before she bends down to get underneath. Gunjan then turns her palm towards Divya to present her, and to distinguish her from Madhur draws a capital ‘D’ with her finger in the air.
Divya is flattered that they are all to greet the top boss of the company in this intimate way and also quite excited when she bends down to get under the ghunghat. She isn’t pulled towards Mrs. Bhat but when she stretches her own hands forward to embrace her as indicated by Gunjan her hands just sense that she has her arms down at her sides. Two bodies in a dress for one makes it lift from the floor, and perhaps a little light from the eye holes as well, allows Divya to just be able to see the face of Mrs. Bhat as a dark shadow having the right cheek towards her and she turns her own head to make their cheeks meet. The head of Mrs. Bhat then turns for them to repeat with the other cheeks, and finally the dark fabric, which might be about any colour or more than one, faces her directly with a tilt for Divya to tilt her head oppositely and experience a soft bump as two balls separated by fabric meet in a veiled and gagged kiss. Mrs. Bhat’s back arches back against Divya’s embracing hands to tell her the greeting is over, and while Divya takes a step backwards and bends down to get out of Mrs. Bhat’s dress she takes a deep breath to sort out the many impressions of this special encounter. Being confined together while embracing was just so much more intimate than an ordinary embrace that Divya subconsciously pressed herself against an almost unknown woman and held her tight as if it was Madhur or Ira, or even how she dreams it must be in the arms of a future husband. Touching cheek to cheek was soft to indicate Mrs. Bhat didn’t have her head in a cast, but down at the waist was something hard which was probably the device that she uses to communicate as her hands seem to be confined somehow, something also the lack of slits in the outer covering suggests. While Madhur greets Mrs. Bhat Divya follows Gunjan writing on the secretary’s computer
‘Would you like to have lunch with us Shipra? I plan to spend about half an hour telling the girls about, and getting their opinions on, the Nashik page.’
After greeting Madhur, Mrs. Bhat or Shipra, returns to her chair to look at her monitor and a few seconds later an answer starts to appear on the secretary’s monitor just below Gunjan’s text
‘I would be delighted to have lunch with your sister and her friends Gunjan. Just write or knock when you are ready to leave, I’ll work on something I can break into at any time.’
Gunjan starts moving towards the door and the secretary moves to open it. As she doesn’t move very fast Divya takes a few moments to observe Shipra before she has to catch up with Gunjan. She is probably working but there is nothing to see but an unmoving sheet with its two holes facing the monitor.
They enter the room next door. Of course Marketing Manager G. Shenoy is Gunjan. The office is identical to that of Shipra but there is no secretary. While Gunjan moves towards the manager’s chair she gestures to move one of the chairs for guests over next to her own and the other over next to that behind the desk for a secretary. Soon Divya discovers a difference between the two offices: There is a keyboard on the manager’s desk which Gunjan has started using. Naturally it is Ira who has sat down next to her, and so Divya and Madhur look at the text appearing on the secretary monitor
‘BSS in the company name stands for Bhat, Shenoy and Shet. Shipra and I founded and run the company but the founding capital comes from her father, my father-in-law and a professional investor, Mr. Shet. They also constitutes the board which is why until now I haven’t dared invite Ira here as it may have come to his knowledge and have resulted in him forbidding me to work, which I love so much, and as a leading employee I would also risk the entire company. But now that I’m confident that Jiya supports me it’s a great pleasure for me to show you what Shipra and I have built up together. We make webpages for small companies, both to bring them customers from all over the country and, as the only or an alternative way to sell their products. Being a company run by women and only employing women we aim at getting clients selling products for women claiming we are better at marketing products for women all being potential customers ourselves. It is therefore of little surprise that the major part of our customers are small clothing businesses. From the beginning Shipra and I agreed on employing women only so as not to have problems with someone hired to do for example standard layout work and think he is an executive and making decisions on his own just because he is a man. Being women only also gets us the very best more easily because those with the highest exams are often women who, right after graduating, marry and are not allowed to associate with men in an ordinary work place by their new husband. Setting up rules for male access we have even got a Muslim mullah to qualify this place as zenana to attract Muslim candidates; also helping this is our modesty rules setting a level above Punyanagari average. Because of this we got Bharati, our IT manager, who is from a conservative Rajasthani family and happily observing very strict purdah. Which reminds me . .’
Text starts appearing in a new window saying
‘Hi Bha. It is right now my almost lost sister and her two friends are our guests. I have invited them to join our usual lunch. As I don’t know how many questions they have or how many ideas for our Nashik project they might have Shipra has let me decide the exact time we leave, but in about fifteen minutes. Would you join and are you ready then?’
At a speed so it’s hard to believe it’s a human typing the answer starts appearing below
‘Text or knock at your convenience. Look forward to getting acquainted with them.’
The new window closes and Gunjan continues writing in the first window
‘I actually started observing voice modesty because of my work. Shipra and Bha did it before working here and soon one of the girls in the open office suggested it as a rule to be less disturbed while working there. Modesty brings very practical benefits as well. Questions please!’
Divya and Madhur look at Ira and as she doesn’t reach for the other keyboard Madhur types
‘How many employees do you have now and how many were you when you started up?’
Gunjan writes ‘We are all here now, four in the open office and four in the management section. In the beginning the open office was empty and Shipra, Bha and me had to share all the tedious coding and design details between us and with Shipra’s secretary, sometimes assisted by me, doing all the practical work,. Shipra has lived restricted and has dressed like you have seen her since she married four years ago and the woman with her is her personal maid, who has been given some courses to function as secretary while Shipra is here. I assume she has seen Shipra’s face but otherwise I’m the only one to have seen it for five minutes after the company’s opening reception. If her husband shares my taste regarding female beauty he is very lucky. Bha has never shown her face to anyone here as far as I know. It was a little more than numbers but then we have perhaps covered the staff?’
Divya immediately types ‘I’m here to learn about various forms of modesty. From what I sensed Shipra doesn’t have her head in a cast, and it seems like she can’t use her arms freely so how does she communicate?’
Gunjan starts writing ‘Obviously she wasn’t in a cast the day we started the company and she hasn’t told that us she has started wearing a cast, so if you all sensed her soft cheeks, at least her head is not in a cast. She is very likely starting to wear zentai like mine but at the moment her wrists are tied loosely together in front of her inside her sari and her knees are tied together as well. She has a small wireless keyboard and a phone on a belt around her waist, both of which she has obviously learned to use blindly. May I go on to show you one of our latest assignments?’
They all lift their heads from the monitors and look at each other and when Gunjan has seen three nods they turn to the computers again. A window with a webpage appears next to the text window where Gunjan writes
‘As you can see this is the page for a female clothing store – a draft. The physical shop is situated in the street leading to the main entrance of the University of Nashik and thus the primary purpose of the page is that it should appeal to female students to make them check the page just before leaving campus and make them feel like dropping in at the store. Would you do that if it was on your way from the University of Punyanagari?’
Divya writes ‘It’s probably not up to you, but doing their marketing I believe you can give them advice, and the most important is that they have what is fashionable. The selection shown here was hot in Punyanagari last year, but perhaps it’s just right, maybe even daring, to wear this in a small provincial town like Nashik. You can make the most appealing and user friendly page to visit but if the store doesn’t have the right products all your work is in vain.’
Ira writes ‘I would look at a page with fashionable clothing frequently if it was accessible directly from some page I have to visit almost daily, like the student self-service page to check my classes and exam results and much more. It would be irresistible if at the bottom of this otherwise drab colourless page there was a flashy link saying ‘New items at our store today.’ But of course I don’t know if this university have ads or they may be too costly for a small store.’
Madhur writes ‘I agree with Divya that the clothing has to be what the youth of Nashik want first of all. Then to have me visit a page frequently it has to have news just as often. I would like the main area just to be one large photo of some new item and text in large print saying something like ‘News of the day: A choli a little bit different. This week only: 10% discount.’ In a small provincial town the number of customers may only justify an update once or twice a week or less, and they may not have enough new clothes to get the students to visit each week but then they could show the same kind of clothes in each colour or print one at a time.’
After this no one starts writing for some seconds and then Gunjan writes
‘Thanks for the input. Most of it we have of course discussed already but what representatives of the actual target group thinks may very well be decisive in what we present to our customer and in the end if our page is a success for them it means it’s also a success for us. Just one more question and you have earned your lunch. I have made an alternative version of the same page with, as you can see, the same contents but a more daring, I would say modern layout, using strong vivid colours. Which version would each of you prefer?’
The monitor now shows both versions side by side. Madhur immediately starts writing
‘That is too much. I need sunglasses. I think the colours drown the message and makes the photos of the clothing look old and faded.’
Divya goes on ‘I agree with Madhur. Although the page is to advertise modern colourful clothes for young students, these colours make me more think of pages for kids or for action packed games where the contents is even more wild with fast chases and loud and bright explosions. Make a modern layout but let the colours of the clothing in the photos attract the eye to make me go to the shop to see and feel it for real.’
They all look at Ira who seems to have realised she has to choose her words more carefully to express she likes the alternative design
‘I can’t have enough colours I guess. We live in a city of grey concrete surrounded by brown earth and everywhere is dust that dims everything. Coming to this page I would stop and enjoy a colourful moment and very likely spend the moment looking at what the store has to offer. If you can get an ad with this layout on the dull student self-service page you would start jumping to the store’s page and have to log in again to do what you had come to the student’s page for. With this page I’d drop by in the lunch break. We are on our way out, let’s go and see if the store is just as colourful. – Now I got so enthusiastic I forgot it’s in Nashik, but we are on our way out Gunjan, aren’t we? I feel drained and need an energy input after having concentrated so much not to not miss a moment of this wonderful morning with you and Jiya.’
Gunjan writes ‘I’m getting hungry as well. The colourful layout is mine and I had hoped that three students in agreement would have convinced my six colleagues, but now I have to admit that the liking of Ira and I for the most colourful and modern isn’t shared by the majority. It’s not our personal taste but what appeals to most customers that matters, and when even two forward city students find I have gone too far it won’t do for a provincial store. Are we ready to say hello to Bha and leave? The restaurant is just three houses down the street.’
But Ira starts writing ‘You took the right decision sister. A small town is more traditional than the city. But when I am going to have my own homepage I’ll have you to make something like that. If we may, the three of us can go and greet Bha in the time you take to leave your room and cross the corridor :-)’
Gunjan writes ‘Knock at Bha and open.’
Ira knocks and opens. Ira, Madhur and Divya enter a room identical to the offices on the other side of the aisle but mirrored. Behind the desk sits a woman dressed almost like a Muslim woman but in green instead of black. She wears an ankle long dress, a scarf covering the top of the head and another scarf covering the lower face and neck, in three hues of green. Her total covering is completed by black gloves and a two layer eye covering in black like Gunjan’s.
IT Manager Bha(rati) Khemu
She gets up while waving them towards her. While they approach she pulls the keyboard across the desk and turns the monitor for them to see a text window saying ‘Bha(rati) Khemu’. When they have seen it she points to herself and gestures Ira, closest to the keyboard, to write her name. Madhur and Divya write as well and now, with them all identified, she turns to Ira for them to embrace, touch cheek to cheek and finally make the ball gag ‘kiss’. After Divya as the last has greeted Bha she points from mouth to mouth and gestures ‘I don’t understand.’ Bha nods while putting her hands to the keyboard and now they see for themselves that she types at the speed of light for them quickly to be able to read
‘When making voice modesty a rule in the company this greeting was introduced to check no one had forgotten their gag. I would like a little help with my public dressing please as I observe strict purdah and dress like a Muslim woman except for being colourful.’
Bha walks towards the corner behind the door where a bright blue piece of cloth is hanging on a hook. This shows her legs are restricted as she walks like Gunjan. First she lifts the strap of the handbag she is carrying over her head to have the strap over the left shoulder and the handbag at the right side. Then she takes a wide black leather belt hanging over the hook and buckles it around her waist while also fixing the handbag. Following this she takes the blue cloth from the hook which when shaken out shows to be a long khimar with an attached burgundy face veil. When she has put the khimar on she takes hold of the veil and turns towards the window and moves the other pointed finger towards the veil as if it was a light wave while shaking her head to make clear the veil is completely opaque before she flips it back. She takes the hand of Madhur who is standing closest to her and makes her lift the hem of her khimar to reveal the belt. With both hands she points at two straps attached to the belt halfway between the middle and the side on each side and folds her hands on top of the belt. The straps now partly go around her wrists and Ira and Divya buckle one each.
Bha veiled for public
Madhur opens the door and gestures for Bha to take the lead but she shakes and bows her head for Ira to reach up and flip the veil of her khimar down. Now she starts moving to walk through the doorway and turn down the corridor without any guidance. At the door to the open office Gunjan and Shipra are waiting. A little before Bha reaches the door Gunjan opens it and then holds it open with her body while reaching out to meet Bha and correct her direction or she would have hit the right-hand doorpost. The open office is empty, making it apparent that everyone has left for lunch.
On their arrival in the entry hall Gunjan stops Bha and takes her guests to the reception desk to be signed out, which also means they are to hand their ball gags back, but none of them feels like saying anything. While they slowly move down the street Divya reflects that if Ira, Madhur or herself knew where they were going and what to order one, or all of them, could go ahead for their lunch to be ready when the three slow women arrived.
As expected it’s not just a cheap quick lunch place but a fine restaurant with clothes on the tables and qualified waitresses, but despite this the place is completely full at this the peak hour of the day. While one of the waitresses comes to welcome them just inside the door Divya wonders if Gunjan has reserved a table, but the words of the waitress soon reveal that for such good customers it’s unnecessary as she says
“The BSS executives I presume. And with guests today. I’m sorry your usual secluded corner and about everywhere else is occupied at the moment but if you would accept our private dining room, which you will have to yourself, there will be no waiting?”
Shipra faces Gunjan who nods and the waitress leads them through the kitchen door where, in the short corridor to the kitchen, there is a second door into a private apartment. Finally they are shown into a dining room much like the one at Divya’s home except the garden view is replaced by high windows probably with a concrete yard outside. With the slow speed of the BSS women the waitress has managed to pick up some menus while guiding them in here. Gunjan gestures to her guests that they may order anything they like. Ira is the first to speak again asking
“What do you have?”
Gunjan points at Bha, Shipra and herself and then at the menu item saying ‘A large glass of blended vegetables of the season.’
Divya realises there are very few items on the menu suitable for gagged women to make her say
“I am here to learn what a more modest lifestyle implies so I’ll have the same as Gunjan, Bha and Shipra, and we have already learned that using a straw we can drink without hardly lifting our veiling scarves.”
Madhur and Ira go along and the waitress leaves with their orders. Gunjan’s phone beeps down in her handbag and at the same time Shipra’s covering bulges to pat Gunjan’s handbag. Gunjan produces her phone, reads for a moment and then hands it towards Ira on the opposite side of the table indicating it’s for Divya and Madhur as well. The message from Shipra says
‘Normally the hosts entertain the guests but considering you are much more capable in communicating and I’d like to learn more about you please talk all of you and tell us about yourselves or whatever you like to say without asking us more than can be answered by head movements.’
Divya starts by telling who her family is and what her father’s business is without much detail as she doesn’t know that much. Meanwhile the waitress brings their blended vegetables and places a glass in front of each. Shipra is the exception, she gets a special glass with a wide rim at the top and the waitress manages to get under Shipra’s covering to somehow hold the glass on her chest and put the straw into her gag. As the waitresses head reappears Gunjan, with her fingers, shows Shipra has a string around her neck which is looped around the glass. Gunjan then lifts Bha’s veil to show her that her meal has been served. She bows her head down and Gunjan helps her to get the straw into her gag. It seems she has to sit bowed until finished unless she gets Gunjan’s assistance again. Divya concludes her brief presentation by telling what classes she is taking.
Next it is Madhur’s turn. She begins by saying the reason she lives at the college is because her family lives in Hyderabad. She tells that she is engaged to a man doing business counselling that she hopes is going to move to Punyanagari before she is to marry him after graduating. Then she tells about her father’s family and her classes just like Divya.
They are all more than two thirds through their glasses when Ira is about to speak, but at this break both Bha and Shipra lean towards Gunjan to lightly bump against her shoulder. She apparently knows it means she has to take the menu. While lifting her veil she holds the menu in front of Bha and then Shipra while pointing and they both nod. Gunjan then places the menu, turned towards the three guests on the opposite side of the table, down and points at ‘Mango milkshake’ and then at herself and the other two on her side. Madhur immediately says
“Yes, thank you. It’s three over here as well. I know my friends.”
Ira and Divya nod and when the waitress checks on them a minute later Gunjan orders. They finish their vegetables while Ira tells. She first asks “You all know about my family?” receiving three nods in reply. Then she tells about her classes and after a short interval continues by saying “I expect this will be the last time I speak to you sister, and Shipra and Bha as well. If I’m again invited to your home Gunjan I intend to follow the customs of the house to be mute, restrict my stride and wear an eye cover like you and Bha wear now with the pupils only covered by sheer material. It’s only a gag that is required to visit your office but I’ll probably wear much the same there. And I’ll look into when and where I can adopt these measures in my daily life. It’s probably only the eye cover that is feasible at the university. Am I too young to do this? Should I be married first?”
The heads of the mute women on the opposite side all shake twice and turning to her friends Divya says
“I told you my mother says one should take a step towards more modesty when feeling like it, and apparently after what we have experienced today you feel like it. Congratulations.”
The BSS executives Shipra, Gunjan and Bha at the restaurant
At this moment the milkshakes are served and again Shipra gets her own kind of glass, the same as before. When they are all almost ready to suck Madhur says
“It’s very appropriate that right now we have got full glasses as this calls for a toast. Those who can, touch as many glasses as possible.”
Ira touches glasses with Madhur and Divya, and then the three of them get up to reach across the table and touch Bha’s glass and touch with Gunjan, who has meanwhile touched both the glass of Bha and the bulge on Shipra’s covering that shows where her glass is. Finally Ira wants to touch with everyone and goes around the table to also touch the bulge on Shipra’s covering, getting a nod in return.
They enjoy their milkshakes in silence. Divya wonders if Shipra, Gunjan and Bha always have lunch without communicating, perhaps just listening to the conversation at surrounding tables, or if Gunjan and Shipra send text messages to each other with Gunjan showing them to Bha. She wonders if they write about what they hear and see at the other tables or just general gossip. They appear to be so sensible that a break is a break from talking shop; and women can always find a subject. But all this has to be guesswork for Divya for now as it’s not a Yes/No question. After a day with so many new impressions for Ira, Madhur and herself it’s nice just to sit quietly in good company for at least a few minutes.
They all finish their milkshakes at about the same time and that makes Gunjan tap her left wrist. The BSS women have to get back to work and the students have some studying to do. Divya and Madhur get up, bow towards the other side of the table and as with one mouth say
“Thank you very much for lunch.”
Ira goes around the table and gives Shipra a light embrace from the side, then goes to lift at Bha’s veil for her to see who embraces her and finally Gunjan gets a tight long hug. They all start moving out and despite it’s not necessary the waitress sees them out to the street. Now Divya doesn’t mind that it takes some minutes to walk the short distance back to the BSS office building. They all enter the reception hall. Here Gunjan points at her guests and from there to the door they just entered, and then at her colleagues and from there to the lift to say it’s time to part. Madhur says
“It was lovely getting new acquaintances and wonderful seeing a group of women running a business successfully. I hope your business continues to prosper and I look forward to meeting you all again sometime. Ira’s nodding means she would have said the same if she had not decided to be mute.”
Divya says “Madhur said it so well. I’m sure Ira will have close contact with you from now on, and that’s about the same as telling Madhur and me, but don’t worry we’ll keep professional secrecy.”
Gunjan lifts Bha’s veil a little to let her know where her guests are and then she pulls at it to make her bow along with herself. Shipra seeing this follows them. The three guests then bow deeply, and they all turn around to go their separate ways.
At their scooties the three friends hug again to ride home separately.
On an afternoon about a month later they have, as usual, agreed to meet at Madhur’s. At their first meeting after the Friday they saw Gunjan the three students agreed on a new level of modesty when together which hasn’t changed. When Divya arrives she doesn’t see Ira’s scooty and when Madhur opens the door to her she is confirmed to be first. It means she and Madhur don’t greet properly but just exchange a few lines about today’s lecture, and with Ira still missing go on to talk about the local news. Finally Ira knocks and they all start to uncover their heads because now they all are, for all their waking hours, veiled in scarves, Punyanagari style, with Gunjan style eye covering, opaque except for pupil sized holes. But they greet by seeing each other’s faces and entire heads uncovered while hugging and kissing cheeks and lips – but there is no talking.
Telling their families about their day with Gunjan has also made impact there. Ira’s mother has started to cover while at home though neither restrict their movements, but Ira quite often wears a gag, especially in public. Divya’s mother has also improved her modesty by wearing a head covering like her daughter beneath her ghunghat, although it’s hardly noticed by anyone. Further she has replaced her elastic strap ball gag with one that has leather straps that buckles behind her head, and placed beneath the scarf covering her lower face it’s bothersome to put on and remove, but with a tube through the ball she only removes it for lunch and dinner, and thus only speaks during these meals.
Madhur, Divya and Ira put their head coverings on again for Madhur to immediately say
“I know we always do our studies first, but I have news that is even more important. There is good news and bad news. The bad news first. We have to find another place to meet because I’m moving out of college. The good news is that I’m moving because the family of my fiancé have finally decided to move here, and of course I am expected to stay with them. But even better this means I’ll be staying in Punyanagari when getting married and then we can continue to see each other.”
Divya and Ira both embrace Madhur at the same time and Divya starts saying
“How wonderful Madhur! My mother goes visiting quite frequently. I can ask her to arrange something for when the three of us want to meet.”
Ira says “I also have news, good news only, but I would have waited until after working …”
Madhur interrupts “Let me guess: Your father and the father-in-law of Gunjan have reconciled!”
Ira and Divya stare at her dumbfounded for a while before Ira falters
“You are right – completely right – but how …”
Madhur says “I’d better make chai while I explain. You know my fiancé, Nakul, is a business counsellor. When I told him about why Ira and Gunjan had been separated for so long he said that sounded foolish. He looked into the matter and found out, as he had expected, that if instead of competing against each other they merge into one business, they would be one of the major players, perhaps dominating, in all of the Maratha Empire, and thus the entire world. He got in contact with, and convinced them both, and the word spreading is that he has been able to reconcile these two stubborn men. It has given him so many assignments here that my future father-in-law has decided the family’s future lies here. Divya your initial mistake that made you ask us about modesty made Ira tell about her sister and that now has made both her and my life better. Now I owe you as well.”
Divya says “That’s what friends are for, but the truth is it’s all more coincidental than due to me.”
Ira says “What an intelligent fiancé you have Madhur. If he is as good a lover as he is a businessman then you are a lucky girl.”
Madhur says “His family is a bit more traditional than mine but there is of course no doubt that he is the best lover I have ever had.”
Ira says “Madhur has said the most important thing; the reconciliation of course means I can see Gunjan as much as I like, but I still have some news: The paperwork to merge the companies is only just about finished, which means the official start of the new company by signing the papers is yet to take place, but when it does it will of course be marked with a large reception for everybody in the business, public representatives and dignitaries, and due to how this has come about – us – Jiya has insisted that the women involved and their female family is invited as well for a partly separate female reception. It means your fathers will soon receive a formal invitation with a special addition for the women Gunjan has texted me. I haven’t been able to get out of her what that means.”
Madhur says “Chai is ready. A party for us and our families. How wonderful. Ira can’t you text Gunjan right away and informally say thank you from Divya and me and that the message is for Jiya to see as well.”
Divya nods and Ira says “You know I’ll do anything for you two. But then after one cup of chai we start working. I want to have a good exam so I can get a job in a thriving company like BSS.”
They all put straws up under their veils and drink.
The rest of the afternoon is like most meetings at Madhur’s.
On the day of the reception Divya and her mother bathe together in the morning. They have both tried on what was added to the invitation, an arm and leg restricting zentai just like the one Divya saw when visiting Gunjan for each of them. Despite knowing it is so strong that it won’t tear by trying to part the legs too much or stretching out a forearm, they look so fragile that they have decided not to wear them before today and Divya’s mother wants her daughter at her side so as not to do anything wrong when putting it on. Of course nothing happens and soon two women, completely covered in purple and magenta respectively, look at each other and in the mirror. Divya’s mother marvels at how beautifully curved her body still is by gesturing it to Divya, because these zentais also just have a small hole for a drinking tube at the mouth and before putting on the zentai they have buckled a large ball gag included with the zentais, in the mouth of each other to make sure they are really tight. They then put on an everyday sari and choli, though Divya normally wear salwar kameez on weekdays, and add long gloves to the elbows where the zentai sleeves start and stockings to the knees where the zentai’s legs start. Their dressing for now is completed with slippers with heels and a ghunghat placed to cover the entire head including the face, leaving them with only downward vision when hanging on its own. All this at first thing in the morning to get used to walking with arms and legs restricted by the zentai and thus, hopefully, not make a beginners mistake at the reception. Also, because they have said ‘Yes’ to the modesty level of the Shenoy family, they will have a maid from there come to do the final steps sometime during the morning. They intend to try and wear their zentai for a full day, especially Divya’s mother so she can decide if this is going to be her next step in modesty. Divya is not that used to wearing a gag and gets a little practise in drinking a meal right away as they go to breakfast.
Breakfast for them is mango lassi and chai. It is a refreshing variation today but Divya asks herself if it won’t be hard in the long run to have to smell the fresh bread and omelette and dozens of other tempting dishes that can’t be made liquid? Divya’s father comes to eat and while observing his wife and daughter tells the kitchen maid he enjoys the omelette. Then he says to them
“The Shenoy men certainly have peaceful meals. But wasn’t it something with a special suit? Please unveil both of you. They pull their ghunghats off. He reaches out to touch the fabric and says
“Young colours indeed. And two pairs of alluring eyes. If I didn’t know you both so well I might have guessed you were sisters, and that means mum just a little older than Divya. I like seeing your full body covered only in that – yes?”
The kitchen maid says “It’s called zentai Master and comes from Tokyo.”
Dad goes on “. . in that zentai my love.”
Divya nods her head repeatedly, so her father continues
“It makes her body look really good is that what you say? I can imagine that when I see how it accentuates the features of the head and that’s why I like to see the full body and then . . Well, we are all going to the reception but with what you have told me about the Shenoy family I suppose it will be very sex segregated and we won’t be able to say hello. Remember to behave yourself Divya. Many top notch people will be present and that means both the serious and the gossip press as well I suppose. Wait to let yourself go until the women only part where there are only family and close friends. Enjoy!”
Unable to reach the top of their own heads Divya and her mother have to again put each others ghunghat back on and remain at the breakfast table drinking chai until their husband and father leaves for work. They can only see their own cup and hear the sounds of the maid clearing up the kitchen. After a few minutes Divya lifts her mother’s ghunghat and gestures ‘walk’. One purpose of wearing the zentai now is to learn to walk without tripping or stumbling in it. Divya’s mother signals half an hour’s practice and then makes a rectangle with her fingers to indicate that after that time she wants to watch a television series she follows.
They slowly walk out into the garden where Divya gestures to her mother that she should try to follow her very closely as a game – about the only thing they can do as out of reach means out of sight if not lifting at the ghunghat. Divya then walks as fast as she can, constantly making turns all the time, to feel her mother not more than three feet behind to make her try to walk even faster. This makes her stumble and almost fall but her good fortune enables her to turn and she is caught by her mother as she bumps into her. They both lift their ghunghats just enough to draw a smile across the covered mouth while getting their breath back. Then they take up walking again, staying at the slow pace the zentai is designed for and just watch the flowers and whatever else there is to see within their downwards field of view.
Mother has the right sense of time for going back into the house to watch the television series, but they miss a minute anyway because getting to the sofa takes so much longer than they are used to. Mother has to watch a rerun of the episode another day anyway, because five minutes before the end a maid comes to tell them that the Shenoy maid has arrived. Knowing she probably has to visit more reception guests this morning, mother shuts the television off and gestures the maid to show her in.
Both Divya and her mum lift at their ghunghats to look at the Shenoy maid who is to work on their zentai covered heads anyway. Her style of veiling is the same as that seen by Divya when visiting the Shenoy home but the colouring of all the clothing is different, and not showing even her eyes Divya can’t be sure it’s the maid she met then, although her build suggests it is and when, after the maid has curtseyed and reached up under veil to pull out an elastically strapped ball gag, she hears her voice and is almost certain it is the same maid. The maid says
“Mrs. and Miss Prabhu my Mistresses send you their regards. If you don’t have objections I’ll do as with my Mistresses and work on both heads first and then handle the arms while your heads are drying. You can stay where you are as nothing is going to drip, not even onto your cholis. Please sit close, halfway back to back with your legs away from the other for me to stand in between, and then please remove your ghunghat to signal you are ready.”
They move to sit as indicated and, with excitement and some apprehension, as it is for both the first time they are going to have their head in a bandage plaster cast, pull their ghunghas off. The maid takes a large wide bandage roll from a large bag she has brought and holds it to the back of Divya’s head and winds the bandage one time around her head at its widest point, across eyes and ears in a way to hold the end fixed. Then she winds it around the head multiple times until the entire head is covered. Divya is a little disappointed because she hardly senses this extra layer, her skin still only sensing the zentai fabric, but of course several layers of bandage across her eyes leaves only a faint shine of light for her sight and she can smell the bandage contains some antiseptic substance. Then the Shenoy maid says
“I’m finished bandaging you now Miss Prabhu which means you can just sit and relax but without making any large or sudden head movements while I bandage Mrs. Pradhu.”
Divya sits waiting for about the same time it took her to be bandaged, feeling her head more covered than with just the zentai and a ghunghat and about the same as with the scarves she normally wears. Then the Shenoy maid’s voice sounds again
“It’s now time to apply your plaster Miss Prabhu. It will be just the thinnest possible layer that won’t even soak through the bandages to stain your zentai. I won’t apply it over your eyes and nostrils and as the first, after having completed the plastering, I’ll cut the bandages away over your nostrils to ensure it won’t soak over this area and restrict breathing through your nose, but remember there is no danger as through all this you can still breathe through your mouth tube. Now for the cast to be perfect it’s very important that you don’t move your head until I say so. That will be about five minutes after I have positioned it. But you can relax the rest of your body, there is no reason to sit with tensed legs or arms or fisted hands. Are you ready?”
Divya nods and the hands of the maid take hold of her head to position it straight relative to the body and facing forty five degrees down. Then she concentrates on avoiding moving it while sensing hands all over her head and each time a hand is pulled away it is as if it isn’t pulled away anyway because something remains. In about a minute there is something all over, and then she hears the maid, somewhat attenuated, say
“Keep your head still Miss Prabhu. I’m finished with plastering you but as I explained to you the drying process takes a little longer. You heard what I told your daughter Mrs. Prabhu. Are you ready?”
While just sitting still Divya thinks about all the positive things Gunjan wrote about being confined like this. She is going to feel wonderful, but will look awful if someone sees her as she looks now. Their servants are for sure looking right now. Having your head in a cast without being injured automatically makes people think that then it has to properly hide extraordinary beauty. Divya feels more beautiful, just as her mother when seeing her own body in zentai. She senses something at her nose; an opening in her cast is cut over her nostrils. Just after the maid speaks again, this time being heard more clearly
“Your cast is now basically dry Miss Prabhu and you can relax your neck muscles but don’t move until I have cut the bandage away from over your eyes.”
Not feeling anything happening at her eyes Divya moves her head a little but there seems to be something wrong; her head is prevented from moving. Then she senses being touched at her eyes and has to keep her head completely still with a scalpel close to her eyes. When she sees the maid staring at her she says
“Your cast appears to be flawless Miss Prabhu, now just don’t let your head touch anything or cover your head within half an hour.”
Divya tries to nod but she can hardly move her head. Then it comes to her that she has sensed it but being so tense and excited about how it would feel to have her head in a cast she hadn’t really thought about that the bandages were wound around her neck as well. With the plaster also applied there it means her head is now locked in that forty five degrees downwards position the maid placed it in. On their visit the cast of Gunjan didn’t cover her neck and both she and Jiya were able to nod and shake their heads. She gets up and gets the attention of the Shenoy maid just before she is about to cut her mother’s eyes free. Divya points to her neck without touching it with both her index fingers. The maid nods and says
“You are obviously not aware of my Mistresses latest step in modesty I can see. How time flies, but clearly it has to be after your visit that Ma Shenoy started always having her cast made to include the neck and thus having her head locked in this downwards position to always show modesty by her posture as well, and the young Mistress asks for it during weekends and on festive occasions such as today. Not only does this keep a modest posture, they say, but it also prevents you from immodest involuntary peeks reacting to sounds around you.”
Now Divya has to bow to thank the maid for her explanation, and the maid starts cutting the bandage from around her mother’s eyes which Divya is just able to watch because her mother is sitting and she is now standing and close to her. Soon after the maid produces a monoglove from her large bag and while unfolding the leather case says
“Getting up was the first step in getting ready for this arm modesty Miss Prabhu. Now if you will just put your arms behind you and place your elbows as close together as the short zentai sleeves allow and hold them there until I have completed the lacing I shall be very pleased.”
This feels quite strenuous right from the beginning, but it’s a very common way for older high-class women to express their modesty and Jiya, as far as Divya knows, being so confined all her waking hours, it has to be something you get used to and feels natural. The Shenoy maid has perhaps become too familiar already by adding
“We had to refurbish all of our monogloves to have enough for all those guests saying ‘Yes’ to trying the Shenoy level of modesty without exercising arm modesty already themselves. Even then I believe we only managed because the Mistresses suggested having their own arms bound with a cast instead.”
Mrs Pradhu uses her last chance to ask with gestures the same question Divya has on her mind, so the maid continues
“You’d like to know why Ma Shenoy, having her arms bound all day during the same hours her head is in a cast, doesn’t just have her arms put in a cast at the same time as it’s done to her head anyway?”
Mrs Pradhu bows so the maid goes on
“Well, you know now how little time it takes to put this monoglove on and it goes even faster removing it, but a cast just can’t be replaced in a few minutes, and with your hands bound you have to have help when needing to use the bathroom, and although we maids are close to our Mistresses this is normally the limit. So solving the need for monogloves this way they have both made a sacrifice in their privacy. So as not to make the clothing you put on top of the monoglove bulge unbecomingly, I will thread a belt through the ring at its end to hold your arms close to your back Miss Prabhu.”
Soon after she produces a second monoglove from her bag and says
“Thank you Mrs. Prabhu, you are holding your arms just right.”
Not wanting to disturb the work of the maid, Divya has taken a few of her short steps back for her mum and the maid to go out of her field of vision, and thus she just stands waiting for the few minutes it takes before the maid says
“Thank you for your co-operation Mrs. Prabhu and Miss Prabhu. I have to leave right away to assist other guests. Remember your cast isn’t fully dry yet, but I can see your own maid’s signalling that they know the time when you can have your ghunghats put on again. My Mistresses look forward to seeing you and are delighted that you have chosen to contribute to making this joyful event a display of fine modesty as well.”
The Shenoy maid leaves and Divya looks at the lower half of her mother to try to find out what she now intends to do. They are practically unable to communicate. Her mother bends over the coffee table and Divya sees their maid coming into her small field of vision who, as the Shenoy maid indicated, has been observing them all the time. Her mother has bowed over the small television and rocks back and forth when the maid turns it on and places it in her lap as she meanwhile has seated herself at her usual place on the sofa. Divya seats herself next to her mother and watches as well. The channel is no longer showing a series for women who stay at home but a reality program where some youngsters behave stupidly as they have never listened in school and had a failed upbringing, plus the girls are scantily dressed, but despite that they would both normally have changed channel or shut the television off, they keep watching.
Divya’s eyes look at the screen but her mind doesn’t really register what the picture is showing on the screen. It is at peace. Her beauty is hidden as it should be when there is no one to show it to; the missing ghunghat is just for those seeing her and not for herself. Arm modesty keeps a woman from wildly gesturing to attract attention to herself, keeps her from wandering around correcting small details endlessly and makes her dependent on assistance to remind her she is dependent on her husband or father and the family in general. Keeping the head down is also a virtue. Just sitting still her current modesty measures are just right, but when having to communicate with others the bound arms are a great limitation and in combination with the fixed head position she has become incommunicado. The maid gently lets her gloved hand appear in their field of vision and when they have both rocked their bodies she says
“May I put your ghunghats on?”
They both rock again and while their view gets further limited by the fabric hanging down the maid asks
“Would it be convenient to have lunch in about ten minutes? And may I suggest that you start walking to the table now taking a detour as I think walking both with a limited stride and now also with a limited ability to orientate might require some rehearsal before the reception.”
Her mother lifts a knee to make the television move as a signal for the maid to remove it and then she gets up rocking her body twice to say she agrees and starts walking out of the room. Divya follows her and in a minute she as well realises the maid was right. They can only look about five feet ahead at floor level and as such have to orientate by the faint contours to be seen through the slightly transparent fabric, and in the darker parts of the house they have no forward vision at all. Often they have to walk even slower than the restriction of the zentai permits, and this view makes even this house that they know so well appear different.
The maid comes into Divya’s view when they reach the dining table but she has probably kept an eye on them all the time. The chair is somewhat out from the table but the maid doesn’t push it in but instead makes Divya bow at the waist. A glass with a straw appears under her ghunghat but the angle of her head isn’t sufficient to reach the glass and so the bending at the waist has to be adjusted to get the right position. The maid guides the straw into her gag tube. It’s little surprisingly blended vegetables but it’s always nice with the fresh produce of the season. With her head downwards unable to move, her ghunghat hanging down on the table to drink in darkness and with her mother and herself mute the meal is just something to get over with and Divya sucks quickly. She straightens her body and leaves the chair to see her mother still in the awkward position required for drinking that she has just herself left.
In two minutes her mother leaves the chair and discovers Divya waiting. She bumps her head gently into Divya’s stomach and then starts walking. When Divya finds out where they are heading she realises touching her stomach was touching her sari to indicate it’s time to change for the reception.
In the bedroom her mother shakes at her waist to tell the maid she wants to have her monoglove removed first. Then she gestures she wants Divya to be changed in her own room and use another bathroom and minces into the one here. Divya walks to her own room down the corridor with the maid following to remove Divya’s monoglove after entering.
In the bathroom Divya can only remove her sari and choli and unzip the zentai at the crotch to use the toilet. It would be nice to freshen up but as she is completely covered by the zentai, and her head, needing washing the most, is even better covered with the cast actually preventing removal of the zentai as its entry zip ends at the back of the neck inside the cast. With her head held downwards she can’t see her own cast in the wall mirror but she finds a hand mirror which she holds and tilts to look at herself. Her plaster face looks far from pretty but doesn’t look as bad as she had expected. But it’s a totally different Divya from what she is used to seeing. A body with the female curves more accentuated due to the zentai and a head with no indication of age, race or sex. Her pupils are showing but closely surrounded by the zentai and inside the cavities of the cast she doesn’t recognise herself.
She goes back to her room and puts the choli and the sari chosen for the reception on. The choli matches the sari which is raspberry red with silver embroidery and a green edging with a silver pattern. Next comes the monoglove again which means the maid has to do the rest of her dressing. As the maid is assisting her mother Divya stands in the doorway waiting for her. She waits a few minutes for the bedroom door to open quickly making Divya look past the maid and bend at her knees to be able to lean as far back as possible to, for the first and perhaps last time today, see a participant in the reception in full. Her mother complements her with a sari in green with red edging and silver embroidery as well. With them all having a very low field of vision the sari is important but for a normal observer the figure is dominated by a large shawl around the shoulders and almost reaching the knees to hide the human form and particularly the monoglove. The shawl of Divya’s mother is a different but matching green also with silver embroidery. Finally on top is a ghunghat that reaches below the armpits in a third hue of green with red patterning and a silver edging. The maid, on seeing Divya, stops next to her for them both to watch Mrs. Prabhu slowly moving down the corridor. With this larger and completely opaque ghunghat she can’t see much more than three feet in front of her. This is demonstrated when she walks past Divya’s door without noticing her and has to be stopped by the maid.
Once Divya’s arms are laced into the monoglove again, the maid wraps a shawl around her shoulders and puts a ghunghat over her head for her to be a red version of her mother. She walks out into the corridor and can only see her mother up to mid thigh but from what she can see they are a wonderful looking couple being two different colour versions of the same object. Then she gets an idea and goes into the bathroom to knock her head against the cupboard door where the hand mirror is. The maid opens the cupboard and guesses what it is Divya wants when she goes back to stand close next to her mother. The maid holds the mirror down at their feet and gets a subtle rocking when she has tilted it correctly for one of them to see. While the maid returns the mirror Divya’s mother turns to thank her daughter by letting her own cheek gently clack against Divya’s. They start walking towards the entrance.
When they get there the maid has flagged a scooter rickshaw out on the main road and now it is waiting for them to get aboard. The driver has to wait a little longer as the maid first finds it right to fit pollution masks under the ghunghats and on top of the casts on both Divya and her mother. It would probably be a strange sight if their ghunghats were lifted but they are not. The maid puts a mask on herself and one by one guides them into the large back seat of the rickshaw, Mrs. Prabhu in the middle and Divya to the left before she walks around the rickshaw to seat herself at the right behind the driver.
Divya, her mother and their maid riding to the reception
The reception is to take place at Le Royale Residency and as Divya estimates it would take her close to twenty minutes to get there on her own scooty it takes perhaps half an hour this way, so with nothing to see except her own lap, practically unable to communicate, and talking being difficult anyway due to the rickshaw motor and the other traffic noise, she leans back to discover an advantage, besides modesty, of her neck cast in that her heads needs no further support. The traffic noise quickly becomes a blanket of sound and she dozes away, as does her mother beside her.
It is much quieter when Divya hears the voice of the maid asking loudly
“Are you awake Mrs. and Miss Prabhu? We have arrived at the reception hall.”
Divya automatically tries to turn her head in the direction of the voice but is of course reminded of her strict modesty to just make a forward movement of her upper body, but that is enough for the maid to have her question answered, and moments later Divya senses hands removing her pollution mask and then she is guided out of the rickshaw. There has to be signs or servants to guide them from the driveway to the right hall because the maid just walks slowly along trying to stay at their speed with Mrs. Prabhu following the back of the maid’s sari and Divya following the red edging with green fabric above of her mother’s sari. While they walk on concrete, marble, carpets, stone and wood the sound of male voices and steps passing surround them. Then just after entering a new piece of stone floor the surrounding voices fade to only keep coming from the left and more and more from behind them. Divya realises they have reached the reception hall and are among predominantly mute women at the back of the hall. She is right as the continuous movement forward of the maid stops and they are guided into a row of conference chairs to be seated comfortably. A few moments later Divya senses someone else being seated to her right, but not knowing who it is, and not being told, it would be wrong to lean over and touch cheek to cheek. All she can see is the hem of a sky blue sari with subtle gold embroidery.
After about ten minutes the sound of male voices, now in front, fades and shortly after an amplified male voice says
“I’m business counsellor Nakul Lanka and I have been given the honour of directing the speeches here this afternoon …”
He is interrupted by applause from the assembled men because they all know that he is the brain behind the new merged company being started today. Following Nakul’s introduction a number of speeches from men of increasing importance ending with the Mayor of Punyanagari and finally the Minister of Commerce before the father of Ira and the father-in-law of Gunjan, using different words that say the same thing, that they and their families have for long been close and the recent professional disagreement was more like a sports competition, which by the way ended in a draw, and when Mr. Lanka had declared the game over they had shaken hands and would now play together to win the national league and then the world cup. A round of applause starts that goes on for some time, varying in loudness, clearly because something is happening on the podium. In a voice little more than a whisper, her head only inches away, the maid tells Divya
“Mr. Lanka gave a jacket with the new company logo, that looks a combination of a company uniform and a sports jacket, to each of the two men and after putting them on they shook hands to the very strong applause, and then they got two more uniforms which they handed over, both holding the jackets, to the mayor and the minister, and then all four went over to a table to the right for the mayor and the minister to witness the signing of papers.”
Madhur’s fiancé speaks again
“My job up here today is about over and it’s time to mingle or, to use a term appropriate to today’s modern global world, networking, while enjoying some light dishes and liquid refreshment in the adjoining hall, but first I would like to tell you how I got to know about the two companies just merged. Visiting my fiancé I was told one of her best friends was separated from her sister because their father and the sister’s father-in-law had become business competitors. She had learned this because a third mutual friend was interested if they knew someone living a more modest lifestyle, and the first friend knew her sister’s new family did that. So all this is due to the close friendship of the three young women of the families Prabhu, Desai and Patel. Please stand up Mr. Prabhu and Mr. Desai.”
A round of applause almost as loud as after the speeches of Mr. Patel and Mr. Shenoy sounds. When it fades to be replaced by the sound of the men moving out of the hall the maid says
“Mrs. and Miss Prabhu we are required to move to the adjoining hall as well. Please get up and follow me.”
This time Divya is right behind the maid, and they have no trouble keeping up with her as she apparently follows some other women. After a few minutes of walking Divya sees their maid turn to walk backwards, almost stopping them, for her to say
“A maid holds up a piece of paper at the centre of the room saying ‘Prabhu.’ I think it means you’ll get a seat of honour of some kind.”
Their maid turns again and they walk about fifty feet. Just after they have stopped a voice says
“Miss Prabhu? Divya Prabhu?”
Divya turns towards the voice and bows to be helped one step up on a podium where she sees the hem of two saris sitting on a sofa before she is guided to sit between them. As soon as she touches the seat she also touches the two on either side of her, and she almost has to push their shoulders away when trying to lean against the back with her monogloved arms. But she is able to lean fully back! Her monoglove slides into a cut-out in the seat back so that her shoulders and upper back are supported. Then she sees a gloved hand bringing a mirror into her field of vision over her lap, and at the same time the maid holding it says
“Miss Prabhu, to your right is Ira Patel.”
The maid has tilted the mirror for Divya to see a lovely sari and a matching shawl topped by a ghunghat. On being presented Ira turns towards Divya who blindly turns towards her friend for one side of their chests to touch and their cheeks to meet in a soft clack for a greeting very different from their usual unveiling and full kisses. When Divya turns straight and again looks down into the mirror Divya sees another prettily covered figure. The maid tells her
“Miss Prabhu to your left is Madhur Desai.”
She again blindly greets her other friend in the same manner as she did Ira. When again sitting straight the mirror is tilted to show another low podium with a similar sofa in front of her containing three similarly clothed figures sitting straight close up against each other. It could have been a normal vertical mirror image of herself, Ira and Madhur if it wasn’t for the colours and her being unable to see such an image. The maid introduces those sitting on the other sofa
“Opposite, in the middle is Gunjan Shenoy. To her right is her mother Chahat Patel, and to her left her mother-in-law Jiya Shenoy.”
Divya sees them almost synchronously start bowing to make her bow herself. Then a maid next to her speaks
“Miss Patel would you like something to drink? I can offer chai, Badam Milk or milkshake with orange or banana. Just rock sideways or bow when I hold what you want in front of you.”
Divya is unable to see what Ira takes but she must have taken something because it takes a little while before the maid in front of her speaks again
“Miss Prabhu ..”
Divya bows for a gloved hand to show her a high glass with a wide rim the same as Shipra used at the restaurant, containing chai to make her immediately bow. Two hands come up under her ghunghat and shortly after the glass is hanging on her chest and the hands guide a straw into the tube of her gag. Divya drinks while experiencing nothing but the unintelligible voices of maids elsewhere in the room and her shoulders being touched by those of Ira and Madhur, but there is no deliberate movement to signal that they think of her, and so she won’t disturb them either.
When she is a little more than half-way through her chai the mirror enters her field of vision again to show the sofa opposite and she hears a maid saying
“The female hosts of this afternoon have decided to enter full modesty and thus wish to thank the students that initiated this happy event for coming and lending lustre to the occasion.”
Gunjan and her mother and mother-in-law bow and Divya reciprocates. She just gets a glimpse of maids lifting the ghunghat of Jiya from behind before the mirror is removed. Divya takes another sip of chai while trying to figure out how her current modesty level can be increased without reaching any definite answers. When she is just about to finish her chai she senses Ira moving next to her and soon after a maid says
“You ask if it is possible for you to enter full modesty as well Miss Patel. – Yes we have the necessary items for half a dozen more women.”
A gloved hand shows at Divya’s lap and the maid now sounds right in front of her saying
“Miss Prabhu and Miss Desai, Miss Patel would like to ask you if you would join her entering full modesty. May I remove your glass?”
While the maid removes her glass and the string holding it Divya reflects that although she might be able to somehow signal the maid for her to explain what full modesty entails, Ira is a friend she trusts so much that if she wants it there is no reason she shouldn’t try total modesty even if she has no idea what is involved. Following Ira’s lead she bows for Yes. A few moments later the maid says
“I can say to all three of you that you have all approved full modesty.”
Divya senses the side of Ira’s chest against her side and turns and leans to meet her blindly, cheeks softly clacking, like when they greeted. This makes her then turn the other way to meet with Madhur likewise.
For more than a minute Divya doesn’t experience anything, then hands behind her lift her ghunghat and, for a few seconds, she gets a glimpse of a hood of thick brown leather held by another set of hands right in front of her eyes. Without further warning the hood is pulled over her cast covered head to make her blind and reduce the sounds substantially. Despite the cast she can feel the hood being laced up at the back of her head. As the hood tightens the remaining sounds completely disappear. She then senses a strap being put around her waist to go through the opening in the back of the seat that her monoglove fits into and the strap being tightened to pull her close up against the seat back. Next the end of the monoglove is pulled backwards, probably by a strap through the ring at its end, to force her shoulders, and thus her entire upper body tight up against the seat back. Finally she senses a strap around her ankles to pull them close and then up against a leg of the sofa or something to prevent her legs from moving as well. Divya is now forced to sit very erect on the sofa with her head bowed as dictated by the cast, no longer touched by Ira or Madhur and mute, deaf and blind.
Completely restrained and fully covered and veiled in colourful fabrics a Hindu woman can’t present herself more modestly, and with the hood she won’t pick up any immodest words or sounds from the surroundings either so she can keep her thoughts completely modest as well. This form of full modesty feels like good karma for her mind. One could probably reach nirvana by staying like this for weeks, or perhaps it has to be months. Divya won’t do that but she certainly will do it again. This might be the reason that Jiya is such a kind woman and unusual mother-in-law that has a wonderful relationship with her daughter-in-law. When she started all this in Madhur’s college room she remembers that Ira told her that at Gunjan’s wedding the women of the Shenoy family were easily distinguishable from the women of her own family. It could very well be because some of them took steps into modesty during the wedding days to finally go to full modesty just after the peak of the wedding.
Could Divya go through her own wedding in extended modesty? Of course she can’t go through the steps of a marriage ceremony as she is now, but except for the monoglove she could go as she arrived here. Many wear a ghunghat, although sheer, when being married, and although it’s normal to show henna decorated hands and feet, gloves and stockings could have similar embroidery. Then just after the religious ceremonies she could be fitted with a monoglove and a leather hood and strapped to a chair unable to move to sit just like now while being observed by her new husband and the rest of the wedding party until it was the time for retiring to the wedding chamber by sensing the chair with her being lifted and carried. There her new husband, who had only seen her face for a minute in a mirror on the day they had both consented to the marriage, would start uncovering her. Each time a strap had to be unbuckled to remove a piece of clothing it could be done up again as soon as that item of clothing had been removed. When the monoglove was removed her hands could be taken to her sides and the narrow belt used to hold the monoglove to the body could be buckled around her waist again to fix her wrists. Her new husband hasn’t touched her ghunghat until now and not being touched for a while means he is admiring her body now just covered by a red silky zentai that accentuates her curves.
As Divya imagines herself at her wedding
When she is touched again it’s at the head and the ghunghat and the leather hood is removed. She doesn’t see much of him with her cast forcing her head down but no doubt he is admiring her cast made of red bandages and red plaster and decorated with gold paint to make it little intimidating and more an artistically formed bust. Then he kneels down to fully see her face – and eyes – and for her to see him. He hasn’t said anything while she has been able to hear him, but his expression shows that he loves to have got a wife that hides her face so thoroughly for almost only him to see. He stares at her for more than a minute, and moments after he has moved out of her field of vision he shows again holding her ghunghat rolled up between his hands to place it as a blindfold across her eyes. Then he starts working on cutting her cast. Clearly never having done this before he works very, very slowly so as not to hurt her or cut the zentai. It has been a long exciting wedding day and she dozes away.
Divya has fallen asleep.
Copyright © 2012, Bo_Emp; Bo_Emp ‘at’ yahoo ‘dot’ com
Thanks to Nye North for proof reading.