“I’ve learned that I’m bold enough and that I have the courage to do impossible things”
Nudism may just be the final frontier of body positivity. I’ve preached about self-acceptance, but I’m also the kind of person who quickly drops her towel and changes into her clothes before leaving the bathroom, lest I catch too many glimpses of skin in the mirror.
This hypocrisy stems from patriarchal morality ingrained in me as a child. It’s hammered home by photos of toned bodies and poreless skin that have me bookmarking 10-minute ab workouts on YouTube that I rarely end up doing. It’s not news that women fall prey to it more than men.
I’ve felt the jealousy of seeing a man taking his shirt off, regardless of body type, on a hot, dry North Indian summer day. But the hyper-sexualised female form won’t feel the sun shine on our skin, in the same way, no matter how much we want to #freethenipple.
Because nakedness is inextricably linked to sex, the idea of nudism has a tinge of wickedness in most people’s minds. But speaking to Namrita De*, a practising nudist, or naturist as some call it, has me deeply rethinking my relationship with my body.
When we think of nudism, two images come to mind. One is considered a sacred practice by devotees and sadhus, and on the other end of the spectrum, are hippie couples dancing at raves.
As a lifestyle, nudism involves non-sexual nudity, literally just living your life while choosing to not wear any clothes. Naturism, others believe, emphasises more on a harmonious connection with the environment.
Though secretive, the nudist community in India is growing. There are secret get-togethers and meet-ups, online communities to connect with like-minded individuals and even dedicated resorts, beaches and campsites across the globe that allow people to practice nudism in the open, which many countries have outlawed.
Would you believe that one of the world’s first nudist communes was set up in Thane, on the outskirts of Mumbai? Founded by Charles Edward Gordon Crawford, the ‘Fellowship of the Naked Trust’ had a short lifespan from 1891-92 but many hold it as the first plunge towards a de-clothed life. Unsurprisingly, Crawford didn’t allow women to join.
The question which remains, in modern society, is who even does this and why? After speaking to De and scrolling through the comments on nudist message boards, I’ve come to realise that the community is quite wholesome, in a way. For the women, nudism has become an act of rebellion. A way of becoming comfortable with their bodies, which have always been policed by others.
It’s not just your kooky chacha or some wackadoodle weirdo you spot in Goa, but like De, it can be the next-door neighbour who comes over for a pleasant lunch and then spends the rest of her day lounging nude on the sofa while reading a book. Or the woman you bump into in line at the ATM.
The first time De donned her birthday suit was close to eight years. ago. “I just read an article about nudism which I found very weird and crazy, but at the same time, it was interesting. I started to read more and more about it” she tells me.
A few days had passed and the interest had only grown, especially after reading about the World Naked Bike rally. She found the courage and one day stood in front of the mirror, naked, to “test the essence of nudism”.
She felt the shame we’ve been taught to feel when it comes to our natural selves but bore it. A few days later she tried it again, and again. Slowly gaining confidence each time she was totally bare in front of the mirror.
“The first time I did it, I asked myself, what am I going to do, is this right? Am I okay? When I stood in front of the mirror, it was a mixed feeling. I was scared of… something. I felt very nervous but at the same time, joyful,” says De.
Source: Tweak Indial
Original publication 6 January, 2021
Posted on NatCorn 21st January 2021
Reference to an article does not infer endorsement of any views expressed.