Booby Trap

By Rituparna Sengupta

Illustrations by Samidha Gunjal

 

The over-friendly neighbourhood viral website

scoops you on bra hacks today,

Clever tricks to extend your bra’s life

or make it multitask.

Joyful pursepective,

for women alone

know the torment that precedes

the discovery of the just-right

gravity-defining contraption.

 

This is how it goes.

*invoking matron deity of the titular domain*

 

Step 1

You venture into one of those chain stores at a mall

And inch towards the lawnjzhurey section but stop short of it.

 

Step 2

Taking cover behind a shelf, you eye the brands on the other side

and check out their discounts surreptitiously, compile a mental short list.

Step 3

 

You aim for the brand with the busiest salesgirl and saunter towards the display

NOT making eye contact.

All your practice in window-shopping comes to aid your pretence.

 

Step 4

You quickly scan for your possible sizes and required colours and

pick them gingerly off their hooks

*the only time you are gentle with these contorters.*

Step 5

Just when you begin to congratulate yourself

and try  to slink away to the trail room

you get waylaid by

the BRAZILLA.

 

This is the bra salesgirl, the votary of the mammary clan

who has used her telepathetic powers to intuit your desperation

and decided to unleash her cloying charm

full beam on you.

*Petite, but loud, she is made of harder stuff than the underwire poking your ribs.*

 

Step 6

Hello, ma’am! Size, ma’am?

Padded-unpadded-wired-unwired-sports-regular-tshirt-fancy-lace-strapless-detachable-transparent-racerback, ma’am?

chest-raying you like no bosom pal would.

 

Step 7

That size, ma’am?

That won’t fit you.

Try this.

Sample 1

Sample 2

Sample 3

4

5

*count till your band size*.

 

Step 7

By now, lesser brazillettes with weaker powers

are hovering around like

indulgent autorickshaws when you don’t need them.

This brand, ma’am.

New design, ma’am.

Buy 2, get 1 free, ma’am.

Maximiser, Minimiser, Invisibiliser, ma’am.

Flurried calculations across brands

a band size up, a cup size down

your forearms are foisted with different permutations and combinations

till it becomes a banyan tree with hanging roots.

 

Step 8

Brazilla’s icy stare.

Which brand do YOU want?

*tr. May your breasts wither away if you try the others on.*

You grimace a smile

and hastily make towards your trial.

 

Step 9

Female guard on duty allows only

six

of said samples in with you.

Your heart soars.

Bridezilla marches in confidently

snatches surplus from you

and (un) assures,

You go. I’ll give.

 

Cowering, you enter. Thankful for at least that much privacy.

 

Step 10

Try bra. Survey in mirror.

Repeat ∞

Compare probables, re-try.

 

Step 11

Voice intrudes,

You find the top of the stall door strewn with bras you didn’t shortlist.

You shudder, pass over rejects same way,

pretend to try out the second batch,

and before they can come back with more

to enamour and bewitch you with,

you desperately grab at

the cheapest among the finalists.

 

Put it back. You want it to last.

Pick up most expensive semi-finalist.

10% discount only. Bummer.

Steel yourself,

Rummage through heap for original bra,

dress back.

Pile rejects on left arm, winner on right

walk out,

nudge away guilt,

try for stern look,

get singed by Brazilla’s fuming glare instead

for not choosing any of hers.

But she has a backup to thrust at you.

Aha. But it’s out of your budget, you say.

But you can try, no, ma’am? she barks.

 

*Where are the ‘steps’ you say? To hell with them. Just let me get out of there, I say.*

 

The brazillettes by now turn away

wearing their pity for your bad taste

across their faces.

You’re not worth their bras,

their arched eyebrows and

indifferent shoulders say.

 

The triumphant one beams at you

from her bra-zen state

smirks at them,

accompanies you

to the cash counter

offering to camouflage

your purchase in a large shopping bag.

 

You stand in queue,

half-regret your choice,

almost go back,

then resign to fate.

 

Robotic smile and greeting from counter guy

scanning of barcode, peering at screen

 while trying to sign you up for their loyalty program,

unaware of your very disloyal thoughts at the moment.

 

Sorry ma’am

Discount scheme not available on your product

you are by now a nihilist existentialist free-the-nippleist

almost, that last one

*you recall all those activist-friends have breasts one-fourth your size*

You almost ask for the Manager.

Almost ask for compensation for your trauma.

Consider online shopping

Remember previous experience.

Aloud: It’s ok.

Make purchase,

shuffle along to exit.

 

Step 100

Glance back at those contenders

in the distance, fighting out

their next battle of the brastards,

those iron ladies

of polyester silk nylon spandex foam.

You mutter a prayer for their next collateral,

and disappear.

 

Cheering marginally at

the prospect of having something new to rant about

post recovery in a week or two.

 

Bilkul andar ki baat.

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