Of Fabindia, mismatched blouses and pseudo-liberals

I’ve been rummaging my mother’s wardrobe for hours in search of a blouse to go with my Fabindia Kota saree. I need the two to be glaringly mismatched, like that Carnatic singer-cum-mini celebrity on my Instagram feed. My mother doesn’t seem to get the idea though.


 

My initial impression on Fabindia was made when at a literature fest in Delhi, I saw their brand worn by seemingly well-read women and girls ladies. I knew I was moved for life as I watched similarly dressed others on national television express vocally their critique/opinions on issues of the nation-state.

That’s when I decided I too would paint my life not with H&M or colors of Benetton. I was ready to embrace the Fabindia life – not only elegant, in vogue (and ridiculously overpriced) but also a sign of brains, wisdom and good taste. I mean, sure you’ve to wash them separately in shampoo but I don’t mind as long as I distinguish myself as an intellectual. The JNU kind.

The sari of course must be draped carefully to look careless enough. That somehow lets everyone know I stand for Indian culture and ethnic produce. And my solidarity with impoverished artisans.

All those ajrakh prints in indigo and maroon that are expensive enough to kill, but worth it because they announce my elite upper class or at least upper middle class status. Urban, classy, refined, English-educated and well-grounded with the Indian way of life. (Because I have an enriched vocabulary with phrases such as impoverished artisans etc).
To be worn with mismatched blouses – not because I can’t afford to match them (are you kidding me?) but because that’s the brand.
You know, that Fabindia look.

The stuff goes great with shades so I can step in and out of my (armchair) liberal look whenever I want to. You can stop judging me, at least I care about equality. And human rights.

Also, I paid for this shit.

I mean, this isn’t your 200/- kurta that was bought on a bargain off the streets, this was available only in 4 sizes catering to international standards, the smallest size available was still GIGANTIC for the native me to fit into but I still took it. I deserve some respect.

It’s almost sad how some alter them though – hand them over to tailors seated behind rusted sewing machines. If all you wanted was for the clothing to fit, you might as well have shopped at Max. But of course I support individual’s right to choices (now that I don my liberal attire). One should shop wherever they want to.

My Fabindia style was also inspired by a certain left-leaning uncle, who happens to be a women-empowerment evangelist. Back in the day he had my aunt quit her job to feed his insatiable stomach three times a day. I mean, food is important you know? Fabindia hangs loose and comfy against his throbbing skin on blood that’s boiling for (other) women’s rights.

I haven’t been to Sarojini Nagar since I got my first fat paycheck – the chaotic air and the crowd slathering their sweaty bodies against mine isn’t worth it, I realized. Again, I’m too busy attending the meet-up/litfests I mentioned before. Now I’m one of them.

Although I admit I have heard awful things being accused of the Fabindian style – ‘not everybody can afford it’. But come on it’s affordable for almost all, I cry.

All except the impoverished artisans. And you.

I mean if everyone could afford it, I would go unnoticed in a sea of kalamkari weaves and ajrakh prints – that isn’t the status symbol I pay for. I seem to have mentioned classy, make that class-marker, shall we.

The other day, an ambitious junior walked into my cubicle while I was browsing through the website catalog on my PC. “That seems like a reasonable price for a Fabindia kurta. I can finally afford one myself”, she seemed delighted.

“Dear”, I tell her, genuinely apologetic and squishing a fly that as its final bad decision landed on my 9k Kota sleeve. “That’s the price of the dupatta the model’s wearing with the kurta, not the kurta itself”, I had to explain to the poor girl (no pun intended).
Thank god Fabindia upholds its values.

Hopefully she knows she can buy an entire wardrobe at Sarojini market for that money (make that four).
The dyes from both places are going to run out when you wash their clothes anyway.


I hit “post” on my new Instagram picture captioned “Couldn’t find a blouse to match but this doesn’t look too bad does it?” hashtag ethnic hashtag handloom hashtag Indian fashion.
Afterthought : I feel qualified enough now to add hashtag human rights. Another picture, maybe.

 

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School :D

(The kid(s) in the pic isn’t me – it’s Noyna, Jeriya or Miriam, I had bobbed hair until at least 5th standard)

“First line – ‘My-name-is-Parvathy Sarat (Roll No. 28),’” I read out from my English Composition note’s ‘Myself’ page laid out open under my desk. “You’ll have to write your name,” I added in a hushed tone.
“Be soft, Sunitha teacher is making her rounds,” Noyna (Roll No. 26) hissed, almost giggling.

Seated between the two of us, the ever-compliant and innocent Parvathy (Roll No. 27) was hunched on our request, almost lying on top of her answer sheet now, scribbling Myself away with formidable acumen. Noyna and I exchanged messages (literally) behind her back.

“How does she know Myself?”

“She studied for the Unit Test like we were supposed to,” we nervously giggled some more. “Ayyo Paru teacher!”

“Okay next line ‘I – am- 6 -years –old.’”
“Edo shhhhhh she’s looking.”

Being equally weak at English or being new to Class I-C at Holy Angels’ ISC, or more probably because we came by the same blue Ananthapuri travels, Noyna and I were best friends.
Hers was the first stop in the morning, mine the second. We took turns to sit by the window. Unless we’d had a fight – then the person in the mood to ‘Edo sorry’ first would sacrifice their seat as a token of reignited bestfriendship.

We ate Noyna’s jamcakes in the evenings that her Ammachi bought her, blush pink and white with a coating of snowy coconut sprinkles. We’d watch sunlight sifting through gaps in clouds and declare ‘God’ was peeking down at us (I was a staunch believer of God when I was with her). For no particular reason, another bestfriend duo like ourselves was our enemy– we decided we were smarter and cooler, and made fun of everything they did (and not very unloudly) between ourselves.

We were innocent and cruel, like kids are.

Life Crisis No. 1 (English Composition No. 2) :

“Copy down My Family from the blackboard.”

Teacher reads it out for us:

I – have – a – small – family. There – are – dash – members – in – my – family. Fill in the dash with number of members in your family – How many of you have a brother or a sister? Goooood, you write 4 okay?? How many of you are an only child? Goooood, you write 3.

I waited for the Goooood for the 5-member family specimen I represented – it never came. Was it still a small family if there were 5 members? Could I write 5? Mine had never struck me as particularly small anyway.

As the other kids proceeded to copy down the lines, I looked from left to right and front and behind to see if there was anyone clueless as me, making a mental note to confront my parents and my brothers. Jeriya had only one sister. So did Roshni, Parvathy, Meera pretty much everyone I knew.
Then I found Amina with two sisters 😀 We skipped to the teacher, she laughed and said Yes as we waited with abated breaths.
Phew.

Class  II : My Family haunted me again. This time I knew I had a small family.

Class III : Gowri’s adventures with the 10m long python on the road.“Really?” “Yes, you can ask my sister, she was there too!” Of course we believed her, that’s what we did – share our own stories and believe each others’. Kids don’t lie, kids are just creative.

She brought to class the whole kitchen machinery (toy set) – gas stove, cylinder, vessel, and the tiny Sachin/Sehwag figure you got with Horlicks. Under our desk, the whole story played out – as Noyna, Jeriya and I filled the steel vessel with water, Gowri delivered the narration – she was the best. (“It’s getting late for Sehwag’s bath. Let’s put water on the stove” – see, like I said it doesn’t sound as good when I say it :P). Laughter riot and a shouting riot from Deepa teacher ensued.

Class IV :

Group Song for School Day. A flock of frilled frocks. You girls look like angels! (I looked like shit). But surely Angels, with ungrimed and polished black Bata buckle shoes and new white socks pulled up right upto where the fat calves wouldn’t let them climb up.

Class V:

Caroline teacher taught us Little Women – in her crisply pressed sarees with stiff pleats. I knew her finger rings and earrings and what sarees she wore them with. On days she didn’t, I wondered if she’d misplaced them the last time and couldn’t find them in the morning rush as her own father called behind her Paalu kudichitt pooo, like mine did in the mornings.

You just had to sit and look into your books, while she read in her great reading voice. It was a story with Christmas presents and bedtime prayers and pudding and drawing pensuls. My life was He-Man on Doordarshan and cricket with neighbours and monsoon mangoes so the new world charm was way too much.

In the afternoon English-II class, we sat in our blue checked pinafores and ties and shirts as the sun threw light onto the open red corridor outside, bent over our tiny texts – some shared, others on their own. And Little Women by Louisa May Alcott would play out. It was about 4 girls whose father was away at some war and her mother kept reminding them over dinner and over prayer how they had to be good girls and how they were looking forward to playing out The Pilgrims’ Progress when their father returned. I thought of myself as Amy because of my stupid nose, though I knew I’d be Jo when I grew up – everyone adored Jo. Though I knew Jo was actually Caroline teacher, especially when Jo cut her beautiful long hair towards the end to save money for her family (I’m sorry for the spoiler) – Caroline teacher was brimming with pride, giving away her little secret. But Jo was the best, so I wasn’t going to out her.

At the year end, Roshni, Akhila and I were class toppers, and we were asked to pick ‘any book’ we liked from the school library. We returned to class, they had Class VI texts with them (headstart or whatever makes sense to 10 year olds). My logic was parents would buy us those anyway, so I picked what looked like a puzzle/games book for kids. As our class teacher skimmed through it and closed it with a grin, I noticed it said Class Zero.

Yes, I think that confirms I had a disturbing childhood.

Sorry for the abrupt ending though, this should’ve been posted long ago. And a Happy New Year!