Being nude: Nothing unnatural about it (Feature)

October 23rd, 2011 - 11:27 am ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Oct 23 (IANS) Kedar Ramanathan brightens up at the prospect of finding himself alone at home. He slips out of his clothes, brews himself some coffee and turns on the music. He roams around the house naked, taking pleasure in just being in his own skin.

While many would view his activities as kinky and bordering on sexual perversion, Pune-based Ramanathan doesn’t actually have sex on his mind.

Far from it, being in the buff is his way of feeling free, shedding both physical and emotional baggage and being close to nature. He is a naturist, or in other words a nudist.

Naturism is a way of life that advocates practising nudism - both in private and public - without indulging in any sexual activities.

A fairly popular concept in the US, Britain, Canada and Thailand, a regular nudist meet abroad has both men and women engaging in any activity - from cooking to cycling to sunbathing - with only one precondition, everyone should be naked.

However, timid first-timers can be allowed to turn up fully-clothed to get used to the nudity around them. No one stares, no one gets erotic ideas. The whole idea is to have a friendly get-together — sans clothes.

“It’s like a family atmosphere. It’s a feeling of community. No one is conscious of his or her nudity,” explains Mammon Shaktimangalam, 66, who has attended many naturist events abroad.

Though the West has warmed up to the philosophy, what with optional-clothing beaches, parks and pools, India, with its many taboos, is still talking about it in hushed tones or in the comfortable confines of the virtual world.

Naturist get-togethers are rare and take place only at the house of a trusted fellow nudist as the law prohibits nudity in public.

But there’s no lack of initiative to mobilise people curious about the philosophy. Take, for instance, Shaktimangalam, who formed the Naturist Indian Meetup Group last year.

The retired insurance professional organises monthly meetings at the Indian Coffee House in Delhi where people brainstorm and exchange ideas on naturism.

Dwelling on the subject, Shaktimangalam says naturism is the very basis of a classless society.

“Clothes create class barriers. Someone wears a branded shirt, someone an ordinary one. But without clothes, everyone is equal,” Shaktimangalam told IANS.

“Moreover, we respect all body types. The ideal body shown in films makes people uncomfortable with themselves. But to us, it doesn’t matter if someone is fat or slim or has stretch marks,” he adds.

Ankur Nath, an animation artist based in IT-hub Bangalore, says he’s come a long way from his self-conscious days.

“The first nudist meet I attended was a disaster. Though I had been rehearsing it in my head, it was a nightmare to bare all in front of everyone, particularly women.”

Awkwardly and clumsily, Rehmat got rid of his clothes.

Then there’s industrialist Rajeshwar Singh, whose wife and friends are unaware of his naturist tendencies.

“I don’t intend to hide it. But it’s something that you need a real broad outlook to understand. In India, shedding clothes is equated with sex,” says the 32-year-old.

“I’ve been practising nudism behind closed doors for many years. It’s all about being comfortable with your body,” he adds.

Sanjay Mishra, 25, stumbled upon the Naturist Indian Meetup Group after a couple of random searches on the internet. “I come from a very conservative family, so I gathered all the knowledge online,” he says.

Hailing from Bihar, Sanjay’s tryst with naturism, like many others, started in his teenage.

“I used to love being nude. I used to love bathing…There are few things that can match the feeling of sun rays, air or water directly touching your body,” says Sanjay, an engineer in Noida.

Though internet, with its virtue of discretion, has come to the rescue of those willing to look for ‘like-minded’ people, the social setup prevents them from taking that final step to attend a nudist get-together and virtual plans rarely become a reality.

Ask Shaktimangalam, who has been tirelessly trying to take his group beyond the confines of coffee houses but with little success.

“People talk a great deal on the internet, but there are very few who’re actually willing to do something. Besides, we attract a lot of perverts who have to be screened out… Convincing women of their safety is also not an easy task,” he says.

(Some names have been changed on request. Mohita Nagpal can be contacted at mohita.n@ians.in)

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