Shut The Beep Up | Why Did I Change My Attire?

Note: This series is about all those incidents that make me want to scream “Shut The Beep Up”. Alas, I cannot do that aloud, because I am scared of people around me, people who cannot handle honesty and truth. This is my way of venting out. You could, in turn, ask me to STBU 🙂

I am enjoying my Haya Suleiman moments these days.

I have read Jannat Ke Pattay several times. I have laughed at the jokes, cried at the situations that Haya faces and yearned for a life partner like Jihan Sikandar. I love the romance, the mystery, everything.

The thing that affects me the most was how Haya had to deal with opposition when she opted for purdah. It never occurred to me that I will ever face the same situations. No matter how many times I read it, and how much it affected me. I never thought I would face her circumstances. I never thought I would be brave enough to do purdah, of any level. 

Don’t get me wrong. I do wear modest clothing but I don’t cover my head or face.

I went for Umrah in January and started wearing abaya and covering my head. When I wore it the first time, I intended to continue it. That’s the promise I made to Allah.

Whilst I was in Saudi Arabia (both Makkah and Madina), I did not feel out of place, as I was surrounded by women wearing the same clothing. Returning to India, until I reached home, was also quite okay.

The first bout of ‘something is different’ happened when I boarded the train. People looked at me differently but I felt safer than ever. Their slightly changed was apparent, but not in-your-face-apparent.

Then came the big step – entering office, meeting colleagues. That’s when the shit got real.

The Non-chalant Kind: Nothing Has Changed

I talked to my colleague to ask about IT department’s contact person. I had forgotten my password in these three weeks, oops. The 6 people I interacted with in that regard, simply responded to my questions and talked as if nothing has changed.

Cool, it is easier than I had imagined, I thought. Over a period of a week, I met several people and many of them didn’t question me AT ALL. I was surprised. I did not know people could be this kind.

The Curious Kind

The security personnel know me well but they looked at me curiously every  time I passed through their desk. People around me reacted differently, with varying degrees of stupidity.

The Unhesitant Kind

Some people talked to me openly. Is this a temporary thing because of Umrah? How was the Umrah, and so on. I entertained them.

The Downright Stupid Ones

This happened on the second day at work. I was in the cafeteria. I chose the most secluded table as I always do, sat alone as I always do and began eating my breakfast. I saw the HR manager rushing towards me, as if something urgent has come up.

“Shabana… Did you get married? You’re wearing burqa.”

“Did you grow a penis? You’re wearing pants.”

That was the first response that came to my mind. But I tried to empathize with her. She simply assumed based on her poor knowledge. It is a shame because she’s easily 45-ish and claims to have seen the world. I am surprised that she didn’t know there could be many reasons for wearing burqa, apart from getting married. While I snorted at her lack of knowledge, I also wanted to borrow this line from Two and a Half Men.

When you assume, you’re just a bitch.

I replied, “no, I did not get married.”

Then she questioned me hastily, trying to dig out as many details as possible. I patiently answered her questions.

She took off like someone’s chasing her.

OMG! Is she going to check the dressing policies?

Fret not, I know at least one girl in Cary office who wears naqab. Our global policies are aligned so I am covered there.

Two minutes later, I saw her walk back in with one of her associates. She was probably showing her. I had become a watchable property. I wished if I could put a ticket. It would have made me quite a few bucks. *sigh*

It didn’t end there.

During our daily meetings, one of the team member asked me. 

Why have you changed your attire?

It was not just her question, but the way she put it. It was as if I am being interrogated for a crime.

My first reaction was “excuse me?”

She’s so dumb, she had the audacity to repeat her question.

And yet again, my brain was flooded with too many responses.

  1. Because I wanted to.
  2. None of your effing business.
  3. Why do you wear those tight pants and skimpy shirts?

But, I have recently developed the art of masking my displeasure so I simply smiled and replied: “Because I wanted to and going for Umrah gave me the perfect starting point.”

Don’t get me wrong. When I made the decision, I knew I would face queries. I didn’t know those queries would be stupid. I didn’t know those dumb questions will come from people who consider themselves perfect in communication skills, namely the HR director.

The second woman is plain stupid and I have known her to be dumb and rude since I joined this company in 2012. Maybe because she’s dumb, she doesn’t realize her rudeness. Bottom line is that I have three words for such people. “Avoid ya, Shabs.”

Now, if you’re still wondering, I could write another 1000 or 2000 words on why I am wearing abaya and scarf.

Let me respond with the phrase in my blog’s tagline. “Because why not?”

And, that’s all the argument I have.

Shabana Mukhtar