The two-frock childhood

My childhood was awesome, and then some. We were a piece of the big mass of the great Indian middle class. But the two frocks was more my Dad’s idea of what girls should be wearing in the 70’s. We were not poor, we always had plenty to eat, a roomful of books ( a household where books were a preferred choice than any other gift), holidays ( no, not to Singapore and Malaysia, but more like Bhopal, Osiaji and more local flavored places). Bengalis buy their new clothes during the once-in-the-year phenomenon called Puja. My mom, as usual, never had a say in the important matters of the family like what should I wear during the 5 days.

So, our standard process started with me sitting pillion on the cycle, and my dad, driving laboriously to our favorite seamstress, somewhere between B road and A road. He would stop outside her home and shout, Seemaji! at the top of his voice. She would come out looking terrified. Now, I must tell you something about her. She was very prim and proper, hair tightly wound in a bun, possibly widow or unmarried, never smiled, wearing faded cotton salwaar kamiz. You get the drift. Once she came outside, dad would ask her, pointing to me, how much material for her frock, she would look up and down at me and mutter some meters and then we would cycle down to NTC shop.

All brands, as per dad, were चोर and bigger brands महाचोर. So it was always NTC. He asked me to choose the cloth for my frocks, and I would pick from whatever little options I had. Then back to the seamstress. She would take measurements and then ask me for what kind of design I wanted. Now I was pretty unimaginative where fashion was concerned. Not having any access to magazines, no TV at that time, only idea I had was by reading books, Victorian books. So my choices were typically over sized, high neck, full sleeves, a lace here and a lace there, at least 4 inches below the knees, belts and frills in weird places. She also added some ideas from her minimal small town marwari experience and what evolved was something pretty OK, but then there was no other choice. And those few dresses had to last me for the full year till it was time for the next Puja again.

Now, since I had limited wardrobe, my attire at home was mostly a गंजी and bloomers, or frocks from past years which had moved above the knees and therefore, not suitable for public viewing.

I was into Athletics in school and was expected to wear something called shorts, which my dad would never never buy for me. When my sports sir told me, wear shorts and come to the ground, I went in my bloomers and he promptly sent me back home, he was more shy than I was. So, to find a jugaad solution, my brother’s old faded Mahesh school trousers came to the rescue, which fitted me perfectly and just needed to be made short enough to qualify as shorts.

As I grew older and started getting a monthly allowance, I started exploring other avenues like Bombay dyeing. And a tailor called Verma tailors who was the one person everyone went to in our town.

I had no exposure to readymades, jeans or trousers, national or international fashion, something which you may find hard to believe. Thanks to my bro, when he started working in Bombay, that is what it was called then, he started bringing me back stuff from fashion street. So in high school and college, I had a wardrobe with little more variations. I still remember my first and only vanilla jeans, that lasted all through my college years. I had a dreadful time with the zip that insisted on opening every time I would sit till I learnt by accident how to lock it. That was a problem that could not be shared with anyone, save my dad, who just told me I was too fat to fit into it.

In school, I also learnt to sew as part of the optionals and enjoyed it so much that I started experimenting on myself. Yes, I sewed my own clothes for a few years, frocks, tops and the likes. I was absolutely not great at it, just about passably ok. But I did get a little more variety, my own designs, now with buttons, and elastics, and embroidery, which was the fundamental idea.

My best friend gave me some exposure as she had relatives in Australia and my God, when I saw some of her stuff, carelessly thrown in the almirah. The material, the fall of the frocks, with my eyes wide open I would try some of her stuff, close my eyes, and feel like a fairy.

Car-rey Night

This is set in 2011 when I had just moved to Pune. Lacked the secondary necessities of life like a car. This is set in the pre-ola days, when people normally used buses or autos. Soon I realized that the अॉटो रिक्षाs in Pune have a major problem, their drivers, who don’t want to make a fast buck. Invariably, when you need an auto, 1) you will not find one, 2) if you find one, you will not find the driver, 3) if you find the driver, it will be his siesta time, 4) if it is not his siesta time, he will not want to go where you want to go. After a few days of facing this, I decided to take the easy way out- buy a car.
Let me not delve into the steps and the documentation it needed, that is for another time. Let me directly jump to the day the car was ready to be brought  home and the incidents surrounding. Before I go further I hope that the reader does not form an unfavorable opinion about my driving skills on this account. Let me state on record that I am a good driver.
I had an Airtel network – legacy from Delhi and the coverage in Pune was/is माशाअल्लाह!. And being new to the city, I did not know any routes. Being ultra smart, I took a few pages of google maps print that would help me find my way to the showroom and back home. 3G never worked on my phone in those times, hence the जुगाड. Took an auto to the showroom at around 5 pm.
The car wasn’t ready by that time. It took them another hour and a half to have it ready for takeoff. At around 7 pm, I finally got the car. It was already dusk, early January and I had no idea of the route back home. Great.
Started the car. As soon as I put it in the gear, it stopped. Repeat a few times. Finally I realized it wasn’t my old Scorpio hence I needed to press the accelerator more, else it would not pick up. (A few minutes later I also learnt,  unlike a Scorpio, you can’t raise a Linea in 2nd gear, and you can’t see the road beyond the car in front, sigh). Moved out from the showroom. I had memorized the route to certain extent. But the first intersection and I was hopelessly lost. The road the map told me to take was one way- and the wrong way at that. Within 5 minutes, I knew the maps were useless. Lesson no 1. Google maps for Pune did not tell you one way routes in 2011. I kept on driving in the general direction of where I thought my colony would be. I knew I had to reach the railway station, from where I knew the way home.
I stopped at one intersection and asked a fellow driver, भैया, स्टेशन के लिए किधर से? He tchched. अरे, आप तो बहुत दूर आ गए। ऐसा करो, red light से reverse लो, फिर आगे से left, फिर right and then I lost him.
A few minutes and meters later, asked another भैया. He also tchched me in a similar manner. I am sure they must be thinking in their minds- अगर रास्ता नही पता तो गाडी लेकर निकली क्यो है?
Not to forget the blinding headlight, horn blasting, omni-directional Pune traffic that makes you feel right in the center of apocalypse. Why did I ever choose a sedan?
A little ahead, the road diverged, and I thought I should verify before taking the road more traveled. So got down to check in the local shop. As I was asking him, he asked me, पीछे वाली गाडी आपकी है?  I turned around to see my car driving itself in the reverse. There was a slope and I had not put hand brakes :-). Lesson no 2. If you want to learn how to stop a moving car which is locked and moving steadily back, I am the woman. Thankfully it did not hit anything or anyone on the road.
By this time it was almost 8.30 in the night. I was sweating in the month of January and I was tired. And I was hungry and I wanted my mommy. The 12 km journey was a never ending one. Finally reached home without any more incidents at 9. Parked the car and drank a bottle full of water.
Writing this reminded me of the ten commandments I had drafted in my pre-blogging days and decided to add as epilogue.
1) left and right are just ‘मोह ‘ and ‘माया ‘. We think left, go right, turn left from the rightmost lane, give an indicator and not turn. वैराग्य के बाद मोह और माया में क्या रखा हैं .
2) we are enlightened souls and we enlighten our paths with full beam, low beam may misguide. If it troubles you, you are in need of enlightenment.
3) we understand the full circle of life. Sometimes we take that circle right in the middle of traffic., especially when we are on 2 wheelers. Brakes and screeches don’t sway us.
4) We prefer to take the road less-traveled when on 2-wheelers, like overtaking from the left or crossing the street in transverse at full speed. Breaking rear view mirrors and causing accidents are minor hazards but we always get our own way.
5) Our struggle with life begins as soon as we land on the road. Saving the potholes and protecting the manholes is the mission. Hence we drive in s-shaped curved paths. Impacted passerby’s are just collateral damage.
6) when on foot, we meditate. Sometimes we meditate on phone as well, so we cross roads when and where we want with total disregard to the rest of the material world. Sometimes we get deep into in right in the middle of the road, oblivious to the chaos we have created.
7) Honking feels like the temple bell, we ring it all the while. It gives us divine happiness.
8) we are not followers, why follow when you can be a leader. Our way to go is opposite to traffic, full beam, horns blazing and all of you can follow your own sedate path at your own risk.
9) we have true democratic thoughts, lane and speed no bar, treat every pedestrian and vehicle equally with the same amount of disrespect, road is my own property.
10) If you follow any other traffic rules, designed for mere mortals, we will give you a glance of pity and contempt and roll the mouth to express the deepest abuse in Marathi and you can’t even retaliate.