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.
“Mum, I’m going to meet Ira and Madhur at Madhur’s college to prepare for the lecture tomorrow,” Divya says as she stands in the living room doorway. Her mother is watching the small television she loves so much because she can hold it in her lap and thus watch without showing her face when, as usual when indoors, covering her head and upper body in the traditional way with a ghunghat, leaving her with only a downward field of vision. Divya’s mother is one of the stricter dressing Punyanagari women that observes most modesty measures in private as well as in public. That makes her also wear long gloves and slippers instead of sandals so as to not show any flesh. Further a ball gag ensures her voice modesty in case she gets surprised or speaks before she thinks, as now. Facing Divya and momentarily lifting her head covering just enough to see Divya in full causes her to shout something into her gag that comes out muffled and unintelligible, making her quickly put a hand to her mouth and pull out the ball gag that is only held in place by an elastic strap that she finds sufficient in private, and says
“Divya are you going out in public without either your head covered or even your lower face veiled? Our family have been Prabhu and Punyanagari for generations and going out like this will bring shame on the family if someone recognises you. You are properly covered at other times I hope.”
Divya says “Yes of course mum. I would be covered with my pollution mask and helmet, and even long gloves, riding on my scooty directly from our yard to the women only college where Madhur lives and back later without leaving the college in between, or if we would go out I would borrow some scarves from Madhur. Normally going to the university or otherwise going out I would of course be covered properly. I’ll comply and be back in a moment for you to check me before I leave.”
Two minutes later Divya is back, even having given herself a quick glance in a mirror, saying, her voice slightly muffled
“This is what I wore yesterday going to the university. I’ll keep it on until I’m inside Madhur’s room, and then again from leaving her room until entering our front door. Okay mum?”
Divya veiled for public
Apparently waiting for the right moment to break away from the television it takes a few seconds before her mother puts a hand to her head to pull the ball gag out again and then take hold of the ghunghat in a way that shows just one eye when she faces Divya. After looking for some seconds she says
“If you promise me you are never going out again wearing less than now I won’t tell your father about this incident.”
Her mother takes her hand down to be completely covered again as Divya says
“I promise you mum. It was a mistake and it won’t happen again. I’m proud of being a Punyanagari woman and of the way Punyanagari women show their modesty. ”
A few minutes later Divya is ready to mount her scooty. Now her feet are the only part of her skin showing and as she told her mother, her helmet and pollution mask completely covers her head and face, making it difficult to discern that the scarf over her shoulders reaches up to cover the lower half of her head.
Divya ready to ride
When first having to stop only because of a traffic jam Divya becomes aware of the foul smell of the air that she breathes and tells herself that an extra layer of fabric over her nose and mouth in addition to the pollution mask is no doubt good for her health, she should perhaps try to find out if two masks, which some wear, is that much better than one. After about fifteen minutes in the streets she turns into the college grounds and has to admit that the small minority of unveiled women she has seen all seem to be either from other parts of the country or foreigners, many of them clearly tourists.
Another scooty squeezes in front of Divya from the side just as she is about to enter the gateway to the small yard behind the building where Madhur stays. Despite sunglasses and a black veil covering the lower face it would be a rare coincidence if it isn’t Ira. The tight trousers instead of salwar, the veil matching the kameez and the small headscarf matching the scarf around the shoulders also indicates it has to be the fashion aware Ira.
She doesn’t immediately show recognition when Divya stops right next to her, but while she removes her sunglasses she keeps facing Divya, most likely suspecting it to be her, to see who emerges from the helmet and the mask, and if it then is recognition or the sight of Divya’s smiling eyes that makes the eyes of Ira light up is immaterial. They hug tightly and Divya says
“Naughty and faithful Ira driving without helmet, and without gloves too.”
Ira says “Yes, you know I have a helmet but I found it was a pity to spoil the look of this outfit with the ugly helmet, and I didn’t have any matching gloves either. I know it’s just the three of us preparing a lecture and I plan to go directly home afterwards, but nonetheless.”
As they head for the door to the building Ira pulls her veiling scarf down but Divya stays as she is having left her helmet on the scooty with the mask tucked inside it. Shortly after knocking the door of Madhur’s room a smiling face greets the visitors and seeing Divya Madhur says in fun
“Ah Divya, you have finally realised that you look better covered, or did you overlook the signs saying this is a female only building and miss the doorkeeper ensuring no males enter?”
Divya, while removing the scarf across her face with her still gloved hands replies
“It’s because I’m pretty I cover of course. Many women, including my own mother, veil in private as well as when in public. My mother made me think about veiling just before I left and I would like to discuss it with the two of you, but I think if we begin right away we may never get to prepare for tomorrow. Do we start with reading the notes separately?”
They have chai while they read what the lecturer has suggested and discuss what they have read and the subject of tomorrow in general for about seventy five minutes.
Needing a break and quickly deciding that they have done what is expected, and perhaps a little more by the three of them having different views and opinions. Their work has shown that they need to be fresh tomorrow to really grab the lecture and both Ira and Divya are about to part making Madhur notice Divya’s gloves and scarf. She says to her friend
“Wasn’t there something regarding veiling that you wanted to share with us Divya?”
Divya, keeping the same serious tone they have used while working says
“We are all Punyanagari women who believe in showing modesty by veiling. Coming here Ira wore neither helmet nor gloves to display nothing but fashionable clothing that mainly appeals to women. Her beautiful attractive face, the part that tempts men, was completely hidden by a scarf and sunglasses. Like that she can walk anywhere in Punyanagari without being harassed. When I told my mother I was about to come here my head was completely uncovered and I was about to go out only to put on my helmet and pollution mask for veiling myself. Although it works as veiling to make me anonymous, as Ira showed by not recognising me when we met, it is completely wrong to wear these items when not riding a scooty or a motorbike and everyone removes at least the helmet even for just temporarily leaving the scooty for less than a minute. Thus I was about to lock myself to my scooty instead of enjoying the freedom that we have by veiling. My mother, with strong words, made me think twice and I walked out of our house just as I entered this room. This incident immediately made me consider if I should go stricter and veil more thoroughly and perhaps also take up some of the other measures that, although they are uncomfortable and a nuisance, also improves modesty and gives a spiritual fulfilment and quality in life that I don’t quite understand. It seems to require a certain maturity to take these steps, but if it makes you feel better why shouldn’t we veil strictly right away? My mum has always said one should take each step in veiling when you feel like it but I don’t think she is the right one to discuss it with because her situation is totally different from mine and being twenty years older her outlook is different than mine.”
Madhur says “I think we think the same Divya. Until this experience of yours today you have done the same as me, just wearing what the majority wear, and here we find it natural to include our face in what we cover, just like, as far as I know, every woman all over the world finds it natural to cover her breasts. My mother wears a sheer scarf over her eyes when in public to have her head completely covered. This seems to me a natural next step, that after this talk I am going to consider seriously again. It is also to take into account that it is a requirement for working in any public office with our level of education although a job like this of course gets you in much closer contact with unrelated men than our daily lives do at present.”
Ira tells her friends “My family is very liberal and none of our women do anything but cover their hair and lower face when in public or with unrelated men, but we are serious about the tradition of modesty of Punyanagari and don’t wear a skimpy or see-through veil.”
During the last line Ira for a moment pulls the black scarf hanging around her neck up to her nose to show it’s opaque despite matching her more sheer kameez, before she goes on
“But saying all of our family is liberal may not be true anymore. I was referring to the families of my mum and dad. Remember I told you about my sister Gunjan’s wedding about six month ago. It was so wonderful and luxurious with lots of fantastic and colourful costumes that I don’t think it really occurred to me then or that I told you, but you didn’t have to give any of the female participants a second glance to tell if she belonged to our family or that of the groom. With Gunjan moving in to live with her mother-in-law I guess she in some ways has adapted to their much stricter customs. We exchange text messages about once a week so you can say I’m in close contact with her but it’s just telling each other that all is well and those she knows are well and what exams I pass and how her business progresses and where she goes to visit her husband’s relatives. We never talk about our daily lives in detail or what clothes we wear. And I haven’t seen her since just after they returned from a three month long honeymoon to some of the famous cities around the world, New York, Paris, Tokyo, you name it. I have probably told you about it, and at that visit it was all about the clothes, fabrics and other wonderful things they brought home, and she had not changed a bit then. But on the other hand she had only lived with her mother-in-law for a few days. The reason I haven’t seen her since is that she married the son of a business associate of my father, but during their honeymoon my father and his father went into the same market segment to become fierce competitors, and when they met to talk about the honeymoon it was only an enjoyable day for the women. I heard that the climate among the men quickly reached boiling point and my brother-in-law had to physically interfere to keep the fathers apart and from hurting each other. All this is just to say that I know of a woman of our age, Gunjan is three years older than me, who I suppose now veils in a much stricter manner than we do, or at least associates with women who do, and her having been just like us before marriage she would be the perfect one to tell us about the differences. She is also a bright woman who is able to tell us about how it affects her mind, and about the feelings similar to lovemaking that some say strict veiling and other restrictions create. She has come to play an important role in a small internet marketing bureau. This issue, involving just the three of us and her, and not anyone from the older generation, might mean that I’ll be able to meet her in person again. If me going to their home is still too much we could perhaps arrange a meeting at her office with us acting as three university students interested in how to make internet marketing and one of you being in front so as not to have my name involved.”
Divya says “I’m so sorry to hear that you aren’t able to meet you sister in person. My case seem unimportant in relation to this. I’ll read a lot about marketing if that’s what it takes to make an appointment with your sister. Could you text her now? Write something to get us closer to arranging a meeting. How long does it take to get an answer and perhaps go through more messages to get and appointment or get rejected, which I hope does not happen?”
While reaching into her bag for her phone Ira says to her friends
“The reason we always text and never call and speak is I think that she is afraid the call will come while her father-in-law is present or shows up; apparently he works from home a lot. Usually she replies within a few minutes. There is no need to approach the subject indirectly. I’ll write about what we would like to learn from her and if she tells me she is able to do it in another way apart from exchanging a lot of text messages, in which case we say no thank you and find someone else we can communicate with in a more normal way. I will allow ten to twenty minutes for a couple of exchanges, and if you have the time we can get it clarified now if Gunjan is able to help us with understanding veiling better. If you agree to wait then I would like some more chai please.”
Madhur nods to make Divya stand before Madhur performs her duty as host as she feels she owes something after all the commotion her incident has stirred. After a couple of minutes of typing Ira puts the phone down, saying
“The message was sent at 4:23. With such a long message we might have to add a couple of minutes for Gunjan to perhaps compose an answer just as long. I’m really thirsty after talking so much. Please pass me the chai pot even if it hasn’t drawn for as long as it should.”
Divya says “23 and 20 is 43. We’ll wait until a quarter to five. Perhaps Madhur has other plans and had expected us to be gone long ago. Ira can text us if we haven’t got an answer by that time. I think I’ll start wearing socks perhaps as early as tomorrow and then experiment with some of my mum’s sheer scarves to cover the eyes to find a compromise between visibility and being seen that I find right. Do you have some scarves for eye covering Madhur?”
Madhur answers “Yes, I wear them on holidays and other festive occasions, which means that they are of an expensive quality to match my finest clothing. ”
Divya quickly tells her “Then don’t take them out to show me or you might have to iron everything.”
They drink for a couple of minutes in silence and jump at the beeping of Ira’s phone. After reading for some seconds she lets the phone drop to her lap from where it drops to the floor as she leans over to hug Divya saying
“We’ll meet Gunjan. She will see us all. Your wrong behaviour has formed the key that opened my sisters house. If your wrong behaviour leads to any sort of problems with your parents I’ll gladly come and tell them about this afternoon.”
Divya picks up the phone and reads out loud
“Me and mother-in-law close friends. Mother-in-law not at all against you coming here but has to be when father-in-law is out. Our lifestyle VERY strict compared to before marriage. Mother-in-law eager to promote it. What about Friday? No classes due to Muslims right? Here 9:30-10 until noon to see office. I’ll buy lunch if you three give your opinions about sites aimed towards students. Love Gunjan. ”
Madhur says “I’m so happy for you Ira. I’m looking forward to getting acquainted with Gunjan on Friday.”
Divya says “It doesn’t matter to me if I had to skip a lecture or cancel anything else. Of course I’ll be there and I’d love to meet Gunjan.”
While waiting for confirmation Madhur says “Since it seems we are going to meet Gunjan’s mother-in-law as well you’d better tell us her name Ira.”
Ira answers “She is called Jiya and is forty six I think, but you’d better address her Mrs. Shenoy or Maa Shenoy until told otherwise.”
Only three minutes later the phone beeps again and this time Ira reads the message out loud
“See you here at Friday just before ten. At last we’ll see each other again. Cannot wait to meet D & G. For mother-in-law please show no skin at all. Long 36 hours ahead. Love, love, love. Gunjan. ”
Ira puts the phone in her bag and while taking hold of the scarf around her neck to veil herself says
“Madhur, I suggest you and I meet at Divya’s home, which is closest to where my sister lives, and then I’ll lead the way from there. I guess it takes about ten to fifteen minutes from there which means we need to meet no later than half past nine to arrive at Gunjan’s during the period she has said.”
While Divya is also veiling herself Madhur says
“A foolproof way to get there Ira. But if any of us come to think of something else then we’ll discuss it when we meet tomorrow for the lecture, or have you both forgot what we did the first seventy five minutes you were here? Considering that Gunjan has told us to cover completely, perhaps one of you wants to look at my collection of eye scarves after all?”
Divya, while putting on gloves and sounding a little muffled due to her veil, says
“No thanks Madhur. Driving in the afternoon traffic with my eyes covered by something completely new is too risky and besides my helmet also has a visor that may interfere with the scarf to change my vision unpredictably.”
Ira, waiting to leave at the same time as Divya, her voice also slightly muffled, adds
“No thanks from me as well Madhur. But I will spend some time tomorrow finding a scarf I can accept and perhaps wear it for a while to get used to having my sight reduced. But if we find it too dangerous to ride with veiled eyes, or just don’t like it, we could simply wait until close to Gunjan’s home and put the eye covers on just before getting there.”
Divya and Madhur nod and then Divya embraces Madhur to say goodbye. Finally Ira embraces Madhur and Divya and Ira go out to their scooties.
When Divya, after putting on her mask and helmet, turns to embrace Ira her friend tells her
“You know with just a small detour for me we can ride together for some minutes.”
Divya understands that Ira needs to say thank you in some way and nods.
Divya lets Ira lead the way for her to decide when to part. As they approach one of Punyanagari’s central intersections Ira slows down and pulls over to the kerb. When Divya stops beside her she gets the most heartfelt hug she has ever experienced. Divya thinks she can see tears behind the sunglasses as Ira says in a voice where the muffling hides if she has a lump in her throat
“Remember to contact me at any time if the small error of yours give you any problems in any way. See you tomorrow.”
Since a quarter past nine Divya has been waiting in the open door of the house for her friends to enter the yard, having left the gate open for their arrival. The day at the university was like any other day except for Ira showing up wearing an ankle and wrist length salwar kameez that was in fashion with women in their thirties a year ago. Today Divya wears something similar she normally only puts on when going to visit older family members for their birthday where many more of the same age are present. Today she also wears cotton stockings along with a pair of low heeled short light brown boots. Her arms are covered in her finest pair of long riding gloves reaching mid upper arm and pulled on top of the wrist long kameez sleeves. She wears a head covering identical to the one worn when visiting Madhur but with the addition of a thin piece of gauze innermost covering the eyes. Her mother had convinced her this form of veiling requires the eye cover to be the inner layer and as such waiting to put it on until just before arriving at Gunjan’s is not an option as she cannot stand in the middle of a street and remove her head covering completely and put all of it on again on top of the eye gauze. Instead she went out on her scooty late yesterday afternoon wearing this gauze with the visor of the helmet down. The main problem she found was that she couldn’t read the signs at more than a third the normal distance. With more light and less traffic at this hour she feels safe.
At twenty past nine Ira rides into the yard. She drives right next to the door where Divya stands, turns off her scooty, gets off and embrace Divya. If it wasn’t for her scooty being silver grey and Madhur’s being red and Divya only expecting the two of them in the yard at this time she wouldn’t have been able to identify her. Today Ira wears a very modest salwar kameez, more appropriate for the always subdued coloured Muslims than for a Hindu. The kameez is actually brown with only subtle pattern and the salwar is plain burgundy, but of course the quality matches the status of her family. Seeing how Ira is dressed makes Divya consider if she is too colourfully dressed herself. Ira also wears black cotton riding gloves, black lace shoes and black socks. But her sense of style shows in the head covering made of burgundy scarves matching the salwar. Her eyes are covered by black gauze with the eyes completely invisible, but that is probably due to the gauze being in the deep shadow of her helmet, silver grey as her scooty. Ira doesn’t wear a pollution mask so Divya decides not to put her own on if they are received when getting off their scooties, as Divya herself does now and their appearance then matters. After a long embrace Ira says
“I’m so excited Divya. It’s the best day for me since Gunjan’s wedding. I would like to go and embrace your mother if she is home, but I don’t know if you have told her that I haven’t seen Gunjan for a long time and I don’t think you have told her I’m going to see her because of how you appeared in front of her the other day to make her forget this incident if possible.”
Divya says “You are right. I just told my parents that Gunjan wants to meet the two especially close friends of her sister, and that she also wants to meet us as university students to help her with a marketing assignment aimed at female students. Besides my mum is quite formal and if you were to meet her now you couldn’t leave without at least staying for chai, and we don’t have time for that.”
They both face the gate in silence to await Madhur. After only two minutes they hear the strong noise and moments later the red scooty appears. Madhur is dressed in a satin salwar kameez in royal blue with gold trim and gold embroidery, perhaps not quite the choice for a wedding itself at their society level, but suitable for one of the first days of the wedding ceremony. Madhur has most likely got a lot of looks during her ride. The rest of her outfit is black and she also has her eyes covered. Seeing both Divya and Ira waiting for her she gestures if she should turn towards the gate right away, but Ira shakes her head and she turns her scooty off to get off and embraces both of them. Ira puts her face close to her body and says
“Don’t you worry that this fine outfit will get dusty which is unbecoming for its class?”
Pointing to the storage box of her scooty, Madhur says “Of course, I have brought a brush just for this. We are all riding eye veiled I see, and even if we did show a little skin I don’t think any one of us would recognise the others if passing in the street where there are dozens of similar scooties. but for such a special occasion it’s appropriate that we dress totally different from normal. Are we going or are we waiting for something, like saying hello to your mother Divya?”
Divya says “No, I have just told Ira that if you say hello to mum you won’t get out before having praised her chai and we don’t have time for that. I’ll fetch my scooty. Get in the saddles girls.”
The ride is totally uneventful except for people staring when they notice Madhur. The house where Ira turns into the yard is the same size and the same upper middle-class style as that of Divya. As soon as they approach the front door a woman comes out and gestures for them to simply park right in front of the door. She is dressed in a dark turquoise sari that sweps the floor with a matching veil over nose and mouth, a large yellow scarf covering head and shoulders, yellow gloves and finally a cyan forehead scarf having an eye veil attached. Thus not showing an inch of skin it could be Gunjan or her mother-in-law if their modesty includes lower class plain clothes but, Ira wearing plain clothes of high quality and the attitude of the woman standing in the doorway with her hands crossed suggests she is a maid.
The Shenoy maid of the ladies
When they all stand in front of her she makes a deep bow and takes her hand up under her veil to apparently pull out a ball gag on an elastic strap, similar to the ones Divya’s mother wear.
She says “Welcome to the Shenoy house. I am the maid of the ladies of the house and I presume you are the sister of my young mistress and her two friends. My mistresses are awaiting you in the garden, please follow me.”
All three nod to confirm their identity but any further communication with the maid is discouraged by her immediately taking a hand up under her veil again. What they see of the house is very similar to Divya’s own home, but none of them look around much as they are not used to wearing eye covering, despite that it only dims things as if wearing sunglasses. They walk indoors in unfamiliar surroundings to make them form a close line behind the maid. When they pass the door to the garden seeing is fine again.
Divya just gets a short impression of a fairly large garden with flowers, bushes and trees and wide strips of lawn with everything so neatly cared for that they must have more than one gardener. She has to concentrate on the two women standing in the middle of a strip of lawn about twenty five feet from the house. Neither of them shows the least of themselves. The one a little closer to the house wears a ground sweeping sari that is basically dark blue but with a dominating yellow print and with a wide edging in amber with red print. On top of the sari from above the knees to the shoulders is a matching amber shawl with a different red print. Then the head is covered by a ghunghat also in amber with white print and gold edging. The ghunghat is folded so as to have a downwards opening that just shows a piece of dark red fabric above the shawl. Her gloved hands are coloured similarly with the right holding a phone. The other woman wears a red with gold embroidery ground sweeping sari and on top of that a red shawl with a print dominated by yellow. Her head is also covered by a ghunghat of similar design but red.
Jiya and Gunjan
Neither move to meet their guests but when Ira, who is in front, is about eight feet from the woman in yellow she stretches her arms forward for Ira to throw herself into her arms and say the one word “Gunjan.” They stand hugging for so long that Divya and Madhur could have greeted what has to be Jiya, Gunjan’s mother-in-law, but she remains standing on the same spot and doesn’t do anything to approach them. When Ira and Gunjan separate Gunjan stretches her arms towards Madhur while Ira goes to embrace Jiya, who to Divya’s surprise doesn’t produce her arms to surround Ira but just leans a little forward for their cheeks to meet. Then Gunjan is ready to embrace Divya. Divya hopes Gunjan doesn’t notice she almost jumps when her cheek touches Gunjan’s and meets a hard surface. Soon after, when she touches the cheek of Jiya, it happens again. Another surprise follows when Gunjan hands her phone to Ira and then gestures Divya and Madhur to read over her shoulder. The message says
‘Welcome dear sister & Divya & Madhur. You have to read these words because disabling speech is among the restrictions that m-i-l and I have taken up to improve modesty. I’m sure that coming here to learn how we have chosen to live is going to answer many of your questions about restrictive modesty. We are meeting here in the garden because every day at this hour before it gets too hot, m-i-l and I take a walk in the garden to get a little fresh air and exercise, and as we also move very slowly receiving you in the living room would have prevented us from our garden walk today. Now we can chat while we move to the living room where chai will be served. You don’t have to be modest, ask whatever questions you wish.’
Gunjan and Jiya starts moving but both take steps so small that their feet do not show from beneath their sari’s and after observing them for about ten seconds Divya estimates it’s going to take more than three minutes just to get to the door of the house, so waiting to make conversation until seated will waste a lot of time so she says
“Thank you to both of you for letting me and Madhur visit you as it was actually Ira who invited us.”
Gunjan has got the phone back and now starts typing while still moving to make Divya think their communication is going to be just as slow as their walking, but Gunjan isn’t slow in typing her message and in a little while she hands the phone to Ira again for the three visitors to step out of the path of the hosts and stop to read
‘I’m sure you know that without you she wouldn’t have been able to come here because in case f-i-l gets to know about this visit it was just three young women having heard about the modesty measures I picked up in Tokyo and not a single woman where he most likely then would ask to her class and family name.’
They quickly move in front of Gunjan and Jiya again for Madhur to say
“Nonetheless, meeting the sister of Ira and her mother-in-law is much more important to Divya and me than meeting two women to help us understand veiling and modesty better. Actually we haven’t heard about modesty originating from Tokyo but just that it was a stop during your honeymoon. Has Tokyo something to do with what felt hard when we touched the cheeks of both of you?”
Soon the visitors stop again to read
‘It has, just as the unusual shine and colouring of the fabric covering my hands. I’ll reveal everything to you, but to people in general we are just two ordinary veiled Punyanagari women, thus I won’t uncover outdoors.’
The doorway is just about to make it awkward for all of the visitors to face both of their hosts while they speak but Divya asks so that Gunjan can write while they have to pass one at a time
“Shouldn’t we hand the phone to Maa Shenoy after having read your messages for her not to miss one side of the conversation, or do you send the messages to her phone for her to read under her veil?”
When Ira is handed the phone the visitors this time move up against the wall to read
‘M-i-l hears you and thus to a great extend is able to follow the conversation. As I think she’ll know all my answers, letting her read would just slow the conversation and, if she likes she can read it later. She can’t participate much anyway as she observes full arm modesty and thus is not able to write on a phone, and communicating through a computer, as she normally does, is out of the question as this can be read by my f-i-l.’
The maid has stayed with them all the time and now guides them into the living room. They can see the coffee table but it will take about two minutes before their hosts reach there. Of course they stay with them while the maid leaves and Ira says to Gunjan
“Maa Shenoy has observed arm modesty before you entered her family, but am I right in that you have your arms restricted as well?”
At the living room doorway Ira is passed the phone and the three friends quickly move down to the open floor next to the coffee table to read
‘Yes I have my upper arms held close to the body, thus I am only partly able to control my ghunghat and completely unable to reach my feet or anything around me below knee height or above shoulder height. But due to what I learnt in Tokyo this, and my other restrictions, are achieved without annoying straps that chafe.’
When Gunjan gestures them to take the three easy chairs they all notice that she doesn’t move her upper arm out from her body as would be natural. While they get seated the maid returns with the chai. Gunjan and Jiya seat themselves a little apart on the sofa which is explained after the maid has served the guests where, a little surprisingly, she seats herself between the two. Divya and Madhur look at Ira for advice because the long scarf that both wear as a veil is rather tight over the face and thus it has to be stretched considerably to get a cup to the lips; and unveiling doesn’t seem an option. Ira lifts the bendy straw that they have all been given and says
“You only need to pull your veil a little out at your mouth to get this in and then you only need to lift the scarf over the chest to lift the cup up where the straw reaches.”
She demonstrates and it works well. It is evident that Gunjan and Jiya wear a gag with some kind of tubing. Gunjan has to bow her head to be able to reach her mouth and then the straw hangs down to show below her ghunghat. Jiya gets a straw to hang the same way but it’s the maid who has entered it into her mouth tube, and it is also the maid who has to hold the cup while she takes sips at the chai. Tilting her head a little back to make the straw move up signals the cup can be put down, and a subtle nod is the command for another sip. Divya notices this while they drink for a couple of minutes without communicating. Then Madhur faces Jiya and says
“What a wonderful chai, I’m sure the recipe is yours or is inherited from your family and as such I guess you are responsible for just the right ingredients as well.”
Except for leaning forward to be greeted cheek to cheek it’s the first time Jiya reacts to the visitors by immediately, when it’s clear that she is being addressed, tilting her head to have her cup out of the way and then nodding several times without it being totally clear which of Madhur’s claims are true, but that doesn’t matter. The response makes Divya go on
“Your home seems to be about the same size and the same layout as that of my parents, but there are a lot of lovely details that shows a woman of good character and a strong personality is in charge. I’m sure my mother would like to visit to get some ideas to improve our home, but also to learn if it feels so much better to be more covered and restricted. She doesn’t go any further than covering herself completely in private as well. I’ll ask my father if he has any connections that can permit him get in contact with your husband or your son.”
Jiya again nods in a diffuse way but as it looks to Divya as she specifically confirms it feels better, to clarify she asks
“You feel better after having taken on the measures Gunjan discovered in Tokyo?”
Jiya nods very clearly three times. This makes Gunjan hold up her hand to show she has a comment and she starts typing rapidly on her phone. They take a sip of chai while waiting and then the phone is handed to Divya because she is seated in the chair in the middle. The other two lean over to read
‘With the conversation back on Tokyo I think it’s time to get on with explaining, or rather showing, what we wear. Please put your cups down – this can be shocking when not seen before!’
When Divya has placed the phone in front of her on the table and the three girls stare Gunjan bows her head forward and to the side to get a hold on her ghunghat as high as possible, which is at the ear, and then with a sudden pull and moving the head in the opposite direction she pulls it off her head. They are shocked but having been told it reduces the impact.
The eyes of Gunjan stare at them from within a head encased in a hard plaster bandage cast. Where the mouth should be a tube sticks out of the cast, and then cut-outs are made around the eyes and over the nostrils. In these openings and below the cast around the neck the same fabric as that of the gloves is showing. At the eyes the fabric leaves just two small circular holes the size of the pupils for vision. The head simply looks so ugly that it is hard to imagine it feels good inside the shell or that it can, in the long run, strengthen the wearer spirituality.
After thirty seconds Ira can no longer face seeing her sister like that and looks at her lap. Divya leans over and puts a comforting arm around her back and touches shoulder to shoulder as it seems she is sobbing quietly and she understands why if Gunjan is anyway near as beautiful as her sister. When Madhur also turns her head to see how it is with Ira, Gunjan gestures the maid to put the ghunghat back over her head. The maid is gestured to stand and Ira to move over and sit between Gunjan and Jiya. Ira, still sobbing, doesn’t notice this but Divya gets up and pulls her up into her arms to take her around the table and gently makes her sit down. Then Gunjan and Jiya cuddle up against her but without letting their heads touch her. Still leaning against Ira, Gunjan starts writing on her phone, the maid gestures to Divya and Madhur if it’s all right to clear the table and, as she leaves, Madhur, by pointing from the head of Gunjan to the head of Jiya, and getting a clear nod from her gets confirmation that Jiya has her head in a cast as well. Gunjan then puts the phone in the right hand of Ira, and after she has read for a little while she gets up and turns to squat in front of Gunjan and touch cheek to cheek with her on both cheeks. Next she squats in front Jiya and repeats the touches to finally walk around the table and hand the phone to Madhur before getting seated in the same chair as before opposite Gunjan. Divya and Madhur lean towards each other for both to read
‘Cheer up sister! I feel wonderful. I have never felt better. I feel very modest and well protected. In addition to the veiling that is seen my head all day is covered in two layers that definitely ensures no lustful men get a glimpse of the face that only Virender deserves to see. The inner layer, red today, is the hood of a full body suit that on its own covers my skin completely and in addition deviates from a normal suit to restrict the arms and legs allowing me to make only small ladylike, modest movements. The bandage cast obscures my female features, is much harder to tear than fabric and isolates me to eliminate sunburn and actually gives a cooler head as the heat generated inside can easily get out through the face openings and along the edge at the neck. I am a trustful wife, a successful business woman and my mind is free of the dangers and worries beauty brings. But admittedly it looks awful and requires a full head ghunghat.’
Madhur hands the phone back across the table to Gunjan and claps her gloved hands, to make Divya clap as well, and then she says
“You make me want to dress like you right away. It would be even better for an unmarried woman like me to be so well covered and protected, and it would make my future husband feel safe that only those allowed to see me do so. As I think we are going to see later today, the office work you do is not that different from studying at the university. There might be a problem with the slower communication due to being mute though. Also I don’t have a maid to renew the cast and do what the restrictions prevent so perhaps the life of a student is after all too demanding to have time to move so slowly. I’m afraid it will have to wait until I get married but then I’m certainly going to seriously consider your lifestyle.”
Divya says “Both the fact that I assume your husband wants to see your face every night and that your last message said ‘all day’ suggests to me that you are not covered like this during the night and thus are put into a new cast every morning. Is this right? Also this way of being mute can’t be changed easily like unbuckling a normal gag which means you can’t eat solid food while wearing the cast. Isn’t it a major drawback to have to go without solid food?”
Two minutes later the phone is handed to Divya for the three visitors to read
‘Normally m-i-l and I bathe directly after leaving our beds, put on the suit with the hood staying down and a robe before eating a solid breakfast. Then we place a ball gag with a tube into the mouth, pull the hood over the head and zip the suit fully closed to be ready for the cast. It only takes about five minutes to wind bandages around the entire head and put a thin layer of plaster on top of it. For the initial drying you have to sit still for another five minutes during which the openings are cut. Then you can start moving around and doing almost anything except covering the head or touching it. Finally, after about thirty minutes, the plaster is sufficiently dry to be covered and the dressing can be finished by donning a ghunghat. You are right that the cast means we can only drink and take liquefied food during the day and going without solid food much longer would make you long for it, so we have late supper immediately after the cast is removed, normally no earlier than eight in the evening.’
Madhur says ” Divya, making me aware that you have to go without solid food made my enthusiasm for the head cast cool down, but Gunjan saying she still gets two meals of solid food each day just not getting solid lunch is no problem to me at least. But still I can’t wear a cast. I have been thinking though that a suit alone might be an attainable step towards more modesty in my situation. Hands, feet and face are always hidden so that you don’t have to worry about males sneaking around the college, and you don’t reveal anything if you remove your scarf too early when leaving a public place or if it slides down or lifts due to a gust of wind during a ride. I assume such suits are available in a version not restricting the feet or arms?”
Gunjan nods and points to the phone to say she was about to address exactly this. A minute later the three visitors are able to read
‘In Japan a full body suit is called zentai and that name is used all over the world for a head and face covering lycra suit. Madhur, a suit with full arms and legs is the norm and it is very comfortable so you can sleep in it as well, but most suits are designed just for play, having neither mouth nor eye openings with the fabric being thin enough to allow orientation. You can see much of this soon as I have arranged a demonstration by our maids. They take every opportunity to wear some of our items and the kitchen maid doesn’t mind displaying her body to you. Would you go and see if they are ready Ira?’
Ira nods while getting up and returns only about ten seconds after she has left. Before she has reached her chair the maid enters with her hands trapped behind her back in a monoglove, and is directly followed by the kitchen maid in single coloured orange zentai, making her totally anonymous but showing every curve of her well-shaped body. They approach slowly, at the same speed Gunjan and Jiya are able to move, because the legs of the zentai are only separate from the knees down to clearly demonstrate how the hosts are hobbled. The lady’s maid stops three feet from the end of the coffee table and turns her back to the guests and then the kitchen maid lifts at the back of her head scarf to clearly show the monoglove in its full length and how the arms and shoulders are forced back by the arms being held tightly together.
The maids displaying their mistresses modesty measures
The kitchen maid then holds her forearms out horizontally to prove she can’t move her upper arms because the sleeves of the suit start at the elbows. Finally she slowly makes a full turn on the spot to show the zentai, and herself, from all angles. Just before she faces them again the three guests say as one
“Wow, I would certainly like to try wearing such a suit!”
Madhur goes on “I certainly would like to feel this zentai fabric, but I won’t break the rules of the house and remove my gloves, and it wouldn’t be decent either to touch and rub the maid as this would be like caressing her naked body.”
As soon as Madhur finishes speaking Divya adds “Yes we have seen that it’s so thin that Gunjan hits the small keys of her phone like she wasn’t gloved but apparently it decreases vision so much that she wears a version with eye holes.”
Gunjan signals she has a comment and the three visitors this time don’t put pressure on her by staring at her as they wait but enjoy watching the beautiful orange vision that slowly turns to please her audience. Divya has to pat her fellow students for them to read with her
‘The suit blurs the sight too much to be good for reading or watching television. I would have made a lot of errors in writing to you as well and my work can’t be done properly either. But m-i-l often wears a suit covering the eyes and I sometimes do as well during weekends because even though the holes are small it feels better to do without the compromise that these holes imply. Work is waiting and I don’t want this wonderful morning to end with a confrontation with f-i-l. Excuse me for a few minutes.’
When they look up Gunjan has got up and started moving towards the door. The kitchen maid bows as a performer at the end of the show and the three visitors clap and Divya says as the kitchen maid turns away to try to catch up with her mistress
“Thank you for letting us see this zentai the right way on a beautiful body. And thank you for wonderful chai as well.”
Ira moves over to sit next to Jiya leaning close up against her and letting her cheek brush Jiya’s veiled and hard cheek. Divya thinks about saying something flattering to Jiya but her and Ira look to have a moment of family tenderness that continues even while Ira says in a low voice only aimed at Jiya
“We have to have a more normal family relationship Maa. You have to show who is in control in this house in family matters. We can’t keep this and most likely more meetings secret forever. We women have nothing to do with their business. You could suggest to your husband that all women are excluded from their hostility to visit each other like normal family, or if this is too much we could meet outside both homes. The best thing about coming here this morning has been to see that you and my sister have such a close relationship. Gunjan and I have always been close friends. I wish to become almost as close with you as well.”
Jiya turns her head to face Ira directly and nods clearly and slowly twice, then she squeezes herself against Ira as without the use of her arms she cannot hug her. Ira then uses her arms to hold them tight.
The maid returns to gesture Gunjan is ready to leave but as Divya and Madhur keep looking at Jiya and Ira she has to move over where she can be seen when Ira gets a little distance from Jiya. After about thirty seconds a part of Ira’s face appears to mak eher notice the maid and she gently pushes Jiya to the side. When Jiya becomes aware of the situation she stands and as she and Ira have just hugged they just nod to each other as goodbye. Divya and Madhur in turn lightly embrace Jiya and touches cheek to cheek with her on both cheeks. Just before passing the doorway all three briefly turn and give Jiya a last wave of their hand.
Gunjan is waiting at the front door with her ghunghat replaced by two light blue matching scarves and a black eye covering. A small scarf covering the forehead and the top of the head, and a large scarf tied below the eyes to cover the lower face and hanging down on the chest in the Punyanagari style. She has also put black gloves on top of her zentai.
Gunjan ready for public
Seeing her Madhur says “Your eye covering looks very dark Gunjan. You are now dressed for work, aren’t you? And isn’t it dangerous to drive with such reduced vision? Are you able to handle a scooty with restricted arms and legs anyway?”
It seems Madhur has forgotten that Gunjan is mute and has to write on her phone to answer, but Gunjan simply points at the mouth of the maid, who takes a hand up under her veil to ungag and then says
“The eye covering of my mistress is not just one piece of fabric but an opaque black piece of fabric with two holes for the eyes and on top of that a piece of black gauze which still allows reading. She doesn’t drive. I drive and mistress sits behind. Shall I get the scooty Mistress?”
The maid opens the door and walks out and Gunjan gestures her visitors to follow. While they wait for the maid with Gunjan’s scooty Ira suddenly says
“The maid just drives you to work and then returns here to fetch you again later on, right?” Gunjan nods to make Ira continue “Then why don’t you sit behind me on my scooty and the maid can stay here to do something else?”
Gunjan nods and with her small steps starts moving towards Ira’s scooty but at the same time she points towards the garage and then points from the maid approaching and out of the gate to make Ira say
“You want to ride with me but the maid has to go out anyway to pretend she has been driving you to work in case your father-in-law returns.” Gunjan nods making Ira open her handbag and produce her purse while saying to the maid
“You understood what we’d like you to do? You leave with us but then you can do whatever you like, just make sure you are back about the same time it would have taken you to take Gunjan to work.” The maid nods her understanding so Ira continues “If you have some relatives or friends close by you can call in on them, or you can just enjoy the time. With these notes think of something to share with the kitchen maid for your nice performance, and to remember it is completely up to your mistresses to let anyone else know that we have been here.” Meanwhile Ira has straddled her scooty and Gunjan has seated herself sideways behind her. Finally the maid fastens a full face helmet on Gunjan. Divya, while starting her scooty, reflects that the visor of Gunjan’s helmet looks as if she is going to ride almost blind, so Ira, by sending the maid away, implies she knows where the office is.