Sunday, November 22

Suited N Booted

Dear MLK Jr., 

Forgive me for shamelessly borrowing your inspiring phrase to describe a yearning that is as insipid and shallow as your's was noble and glorious. But I too have a dream. 

That one day, I will watch a movie where the male protagonist, needing an urgent change of clothes, is handed these on cue by the comely heroine or casually finds them on a clothesline or a hole-in-the-wall emporium. As he puts on the shirt and trousers, he locks smoldering eyes with the woman, the electricity in the air enough to power a small city. And then stops with a puzzled expression. 

Because the fucking clothes don't fit. 

Never, and I do not exaggerate, have clothes I have received as gifts fit me perfectly. Some well-wishers who last saw me as a small boy blamelessly assume that Nature would have taken its course, and that I'd become a strapping young man. They (and I, come to that) have been cheated by Nature, because I stopped growing in height at 17. 

Leaving school as a chap of average height amongst my peers, I returned to junior college a pygmy amongst Redwood trees. While the rest of my classmates experienced growth spurts that would have any gardener waxing soliloquent, my pituitary gland never got the memo and oiled off to a long lunch. I was left in an awkward (a word that I'd exemplify completely) shirt size; a shade too big for the largest size in the kids section and a jot too small for the smallest size in the adults section. 

Not wanting to leave my torso feeling lonely no doubt, my waist joined the melee too. Trousers and shorts therefore either choke off all circulation or slip off with all the soundless finesse of any on-screen towel. 

Then there are those kind-hearted souls who glance at me thoughtfully and think of me as a native Tom Thumb. Their idea of clothes for me misses the mark by about 3 sizes, leaving every protuberance startlingly visible. 

It's a great pity that custom-made clothes are out of fashion because I was born for them. I don't have all my clothes tailored because good outfitters are hard to find and their fees so dear, I could only afford a loincloth. Besides, (and consistently enough) I can't, in all honesty, call my body a sartorial dream. It is more a jumbled mound of boulders than an elegant crag; a baobab rather than a pine; a yam rather than... Anyway, you get the idea.

So, whenever I receive unsolicited gifts that happen to be clothes, I sort them into 2 piles; the swaddling type coveted by shepherds and children in Bethlehem mangers, or the hideously tight collection favoured by greasy, sunglasses-sporting men and certain film stars who shall remain nameless.

 Meanwhile, I wait to discover the clothing line that understands my pain and welcomes me with nice long-sleeved shirts and smart trousers that fit me like a dream. Needless to say, I will provide my saviour enough doubloons and shekels to send their children to fancy universities, on foreign junkets and help with a lifetime's supply of dental care. Until then, I shall make do with that sad and defeat-soaked word - 'alterations'.

Don't even get me started on shoes. 

Song for the moment: Middle Man - Jack Johnson

Monday, November 9

For your life

If someone were to say that India is largely a patriarchal society, I doubt we'd hear too many dissenting voices. Deeply ingrained in the so-called culture, it isn't an ideal state of affairs, but you do what you can to go against this norm. Once in a while though, you can run across some particularly outrageous notions that'd fell you faster than an Andy Roberts bouncer. 

At home, for many years, Diwali has been a low-key festival; lighting lamps, making the effort to be at home and maybe taking stock of the guest-driven mountain of sweets & savouries that accumulates despite our weak protests. A death in the family means there is no celebration at all that year. And early this year, Alzheimer's claimed my grandfather. Naturally, when the topic of Diwali came up, I was mildly surprised and asked why the discussion was even happening. 

Various relatives looked at me quizzically (admittedly a common expression) and explained that we could celebrate Diwali because my grandpa happened to be my mother's father. To say that I was astonished is putting it mildly. Here I was, naively under the impression that the lack of celebration was a mark of respect for the dearly departed only to be corrected and explained to that it did not apply to me (and my family); only my grandpa's sons and their families need mourn. 

Mother. Of. Fucking. God. 

I suspect the expression on my face must have been something substantial because it swiftly quelled anyone who brought up this little bit of cultural legalese. It's one thing that we need to live in a male-dominated society. It's another that funeral rituals are basically rigged to keep the women out. And it's completely WTF that, long after the smoke & ashes have drifted away, we're still tied down to this ridiculous standard. 

The long and short of it is that we won't be celebrating Diwali either. Not because it's culturally called for, mind you, but because I think we shouldn't.

The hysterical part of it all is the fact that I know my grandfather would have agreed with them and not me.

Song for the moment: Let's dance - David Bowie