“Dekho dekho Albert Pinto ki girlfriend ki legs dekho,” screamed my idiot new boyfriend as we zoomed down the causeway on his 100cc motorcycle.

I was sitting pillion but because I was only just 20, a massive badass and in possession of a short corduroy skirt and pair of Doc Martens, I was astride the pillion, not seated demurely, to one side with my knees knocking. This was also a great position to lean forward and ask my boyfriend who the hell Albert Pinto was. He said he’d give me the cinema reference later. It was quite underwhelming. But it was my first lesson in What Indians think about legs.

And that is… not much.

Not much until they see them that is.

The obsession with mammaries

I’ve seen every manner of bosom on big and small screens. They heave, they sag, they stand to attention, they make two massive points when you can’t find one in the story of the film, they leak, they keep time with the heroine’s open mouth as she dances for the bad guys, they move pendulously behind the “chastity jazz hands run” that the old timers used to do, they’re covered, they’re uncovered, a pallu falls and an inch of cleavage exposed causes a stir in the village…

I get it. The Americans find breasts sexy. The British find them hilarious. Indians are just messsmammarised!

We do not know what to do with legs.

The old vamps dancing on screen did all these complicated moves with their upper bodies, but their legs, even when they peeped out from strategic slits in their skirts, were always splayed, ungracefully apart, no pointing of toes, no definition of calf, cankles and knobbly knees.

Where I come from, we don’t think much about legs. But that’s because they’re on display all the time. It’s well part of our culture. In Bombay, our Koli fisherwomen with their kashtis rolled up, show their curve of their bottoms and bare legs. (Our Koli uncles show even more.) In my neighbourhood of Bandra, our aunties all go to the bazaar in their short shorts – middle age cellulite, varicose veins, sexy smooth tanned pins, all equally and unabashedly on display. Heavens, even our boys and men wear shorts all the time. We walk, we run, we play sport. We have great legs. So great, you don’t even notice them.

Legs and health

So when you take the girl out of her leg-displaying community, she stands out.

In Bangalore, pregnant with my first, I knew not to wear shorts on the road but at home, it was regulation T-shirt and shorts. I didn’t plan to cause any stirs until one day, out of the corner of my eye, I noticed the house-help Viji standing next to me, waiting for me to pay attention to her. I turned… “See madam,” she said in broken Hindi, lifting her sari up to her thighs showing me the most hideous pair of hairy pins I have ever seen, “even I could expose like you.” I understood so much about Bangalore that day.

Are you leg-men or boob-men, desi boys? Apart from the men you’ve met over the years, with a cursory look at this Quora – you could surmise that the leg-man is a little more aesthetic and evolved, while the boob-man is still a bit of a baby. Don’t start clapping yet ladies, there’s more.

Legs tell you a lot about a person. In her book, Evolution and Gender: Why It Matters for Contemporary Life, Rosemary L. Hopcroft said: “Long straight legs indicate good genes and good health and nutrition over a long period of time.”

A British study indicated that stronger leg muscles meant quicker minds. Big boobs age quickly but women who are out and about all day, on their feet in jobs, commuting, doing errands in public, all develop great calf muscles and have a strong, youthful gait.

I’m going to hazard that if the sight of a woman’s legs offends some, maybe a part of their subconscious is clocking that she’s been nurtured well (against the patriarchal norm that favours the boy child), is probably intelligent, independent and confident.

Wednesday morning’s news has Chandigarh’s ban on the mini-skirt in discos and a young woman getting roughed up for wearing a “half-pant” in Calcutta. You can see where we’re heading. Put on your shorts and mini-skirts ladies. We need to let these infantile little ninnies watch our beautiful, strong, leg muscles as we walk away.

And Albert Pinto, you’re the one for me.