The fragrance hits you first, as if you are suddenly transported to a heavenly garden full of exotic flowers. The tip of a dainty shoe in the most unusual of colors, slowly peeps out and a perfectly coordinated apparition slowly emerge out of a squeaky clean car in the office parking lot. A sleek laptop bag on one shoulder, a small handbag made of exquisite leather in exactly the same color as the shoes, hanging from the crook of the other arm , a perfect pair of legs clad in spotless linen trousers, a toned upper body shrouded in some kind of ethereal material, a shrug that shrugs itself casually across the shoulders, a face that looks as if it is moulded from the best aromatic wax and oh, that lovely crown piece, the silky hair flowing gently in the breeze with not a strand out of place. Not to forget that light pink lipstick on the pouting lips, the kohl lined eyes that are hidden under that huge Prada shades and a pair of not so tiny diamond ear rings and the exquisite neck piece.
Now, if you can drag your eyes off,just for a moment, take a look at that dusty car that has just tried to knock you down. The door opens all of a sudden, something that resembles a bundle almost falls out, before straightening itself out into a human shape that resembles a pumpkin perched on a pair of drumsticks. A coconut for a head and its husk for hair that is flying frantically in all directions. A pair of brown shoes that has seen much better days, and a backpack that is still trying to figure out whether it is black or grey. “No handbag?”, you ask.”What is that?”, she asks back. Is it a hallucination, you wonder. That’s me, I answer.
Just how do they do it?
I have always been in awe of these all lady, not even a bit of tom boy- ish kind of women around me. The first one in my life was my grandmother. Whiter than the whitest ‘chatta’ and ‘mundu’ (a traditional christian ladies wear in Kerala), starched to a stiffness that it could easily replace a school master’s rod and a ‘kavini’ (made of the ubiquitous kerala saree material of much better quality than what we get today), she was a real lady from head to toe. My mother was not as perfect, thank God for small mercies, but good (err…bad?) enough. And the common grouse was always, “why is this girl like this?”. No kajal, forget the bindi, at least get rid of those sack clothes. And I would be like , how dare they look down on my classy khadi-wear?
School days were kind of okay, thanks to nuns and uniforms. College also passed by with friends most of whom were only marginally better than me. Then came the hostel days. That is where I learnt that blush was more of a noun than a verb, mascara was something that you put on your eyelashes and not eat (that it was called mascarpone and not mascara was something that I learnt years and years later) and that manicure was something that was done to your nails and not just how the lush green lawns in Rajendra Maidan looked like. The word gauche must have been invented after someone saw me in action. Then, as now, the saving grace was the book in my hand that branded me an intellectual. Ha!
The less said about the saree days of the CA times. Our sir had this typical notion that girls looked professional only in sarees (now that I look back, what profession was he thinking of, I wonder 😉 ). Obviously he had never tried getting into a private bus in Ernakulam, on a typical monsoon day. Eons ago, if any of you have happened to see a frustrated soul trapped in a drenched cotton saree splattered with mud, twisted in an awkward angle, trying to close an umbrella with one hand, hold on to some huge hardbound files with the other, turning her shoulder like a nagina in a c-grade bollywood movie to keep her hand bag squarely in place and at the same time getting on to a red bus that is ready for take off, I confess, that was your truly, my friends!
The first thing that I did after getting my first real job (which sane person would consider their CA days as a real job, those were days of free lunches and movies) was to throw away all those six yard pieces of torture. Actually, I pretended to be offended at my sisters who confiscated the loot, little did they know what a relief it was not to wind it around me any more. So I started my first job, determined to look very professional. It was cottons again, silk came much later. The salwars were like tents and the duppattas like walls. The hostel mess got their rice from the ration shops, a look at the kanji-water would stiffen even a slouch like me, so just imagine the plight of an ordinary piece of cloth. I use to gape at some of the girls there who looked even more better turned out in the evening than they were in the morning. That lasted till I realized why it was so difficult to get work done from most of them. How can you complete anything when you absolutely had to run to the ‘rest’ room every five minutes to keep your hair back in place and lips back in shape. Time for the next confession. I tried combing my hair thrice a day, that lasted till I lost my comb on the second day. Then I didn’t comb my hair, at all, for three straight days. Yes, I actually went to office for three days without combing my hair, God promise! It must have been on the third day that someone described me as, “Oh, that girl who looks as if she just had fever!”
Then I got married and as a consequence, had a child. What a relief, I could look or not look like whatever I wanted. That blissful period lasted not very long, unfortunately. This time around, I was even more determined. I had Fabindia on my side, no one could beat me now. Those dresses were so damn classy, I could wear it everyday. And that is exactly what I did. Until my BFF at office whispered to me one day, “don’t take me wrong, but please don’t wear these salwars to office anymore, someone told me those are actually holes on the duppatta and not Turkish embroidery”. Okay, I confess, I made up the Turkish embroidery bit. But you get the drift, right?
Next job, lot of women around and all impeccably turned out. There are client visits and we are the ambassadors of our country, our organization, of fellow women and so on. Now cottons have made way for silks, but they still come from Fabindia. The first visit went off extremely well. The girls around oohed and aahed. They just loved the flow of the raw silk top and the design on the khadi silk duppatta and was stumped by my freshly smoothened hair. The heart attack that I got after seeing the bill for pulling the seven and half strands on my head straight was totally worth it. This happiness thing you see, is very transient. It is a very fickle partner, especially when you have to turn out perfect at eight in the morning to attend to a client. House is war zone on school day mornings and I somehow stuff myself into one of those favorite silk dresses with that ‘only you can find these’ kind of duppattas. I reach office, go into the ‘rest’ room so that those strong urges at the most inappropriate times do not happen, hang my duppatta on the hook to keep it safe and…………. the color of my ‘out of the world’ salwar had fallen so much in love with the duppatta that came in from ‘some other world’ that they decided to live happily ever after.
All you exquisite, elegant, attractive, chic, dainty, delicate, polished, stylish ladies out there, save me and pray tell me, how exactly do you do it?