There is not a part of my body that does not have stories. From my toe that has seen fondness and injuries to my hair that is a container of affection and violence, each part of my body has a memory. My brain can let go of memories but experiences have been so deeply embedded in my body that I can never let go of them — some of them pleasant, some of them bitter and some that leave me numb even now.
What is specific about my shoulder then?
I started thinking about my shoulder more deeply recently. Perhaps sometime in October 2022.
I never dared to wear or even buy what is frequently called an “off-shoulder” dress till my M.A. because of growing up in a conservative household. Have I always wanted to wear an “off-shoulder dress”? Hell, yes. But I have always been conscious of wearing one, always thinking of the (nasty) glances that I would receive in my neighborhood or while traveling in local transport. It was not until my friends gifted me a dress on my 22 nd birthday- a beautiful, pink, and floral dress that I realized that my shoulders are gorgeous and could do with more love. I have never cared for or loved my shoulders enough.
That was a strange realization especially because as a swimmer who specialized in backstroke, I was always instructed to make sure that my shoulders do not touch the water. Competitive swimming is tough and that always saved me a precious few seconds. In fact, raising my shoulders above water and practicing the stroke was so deeply embedded in my muscle memory that when I went back to swimming after an eleven-year gap, my body retained that particular lesson.
For the longest time, I had associated my shoulders with swimming above the water. Time-saving. Speed. In fact, I had spent a substantial period of my swimming training in drills focused specifically on what would make my shoulders strong.
As college and university happened, I started growing distant from swimming( though I always missed it), and my shoulders transformed into a site that dudes could randomly touch (without my permission, most times) to show their supposed affection for me or just being plain lecherous if traveling in buses. With the exception of a few close friends for whom touching my shoulders is a sign of reassurance, if anybody (even if well-intentioned) touches my shoulders, I freeze for a few seconds.
How can I forget an exceptionally famous presidential candidate in the US who casually touched my shoulders during an election campaign (I read it as a patronizing gesture now) and I was too shocked to even react or respond? It was uncomfortable. I have shared this story with exactly three people till date. If I feel or sense something is wrong, it’s my shoulders that give me the message that something IS wrong and I should take that sign seriously. This realization has saved me from a few potential mistakes (No jokes, Fam!)
Now that I am training as a waacker, where shoulders are super important, I take my shoulders very seriously and give them the nourishment, love, and care that they deserve. Yes, it took me 30 years but I am finally there…
If I do not take care of my shoulders, how will I tell the stories that my shoulders have stored all these years? Waacking, the dance form that I am training in is not just about letting go. For me, it’s also about bringing back the memories that my body has and seeing how I can let them speak.
My shoulders have rage, pain, trust, and love and the day my shoulders will start speaking in my dance, you will see a Sri that you have never seen before. My shoulder is an archive.
Until next time…