January 23, 2006

The Metamorphosis of Layman Fashion

I was born in the early eighties. Well, 1982 to be precise (Those of you who’d like a more precise answer can drop me a mail.) It was the age of Bappi Lahari. And unlike me, my folks weren’t all that fashion conscious. The thought of making a statement by draping their only son in an outfit rich in angora, enamored with extricate breton lace, designed by Yves Saint Laurent, and reminiscent of something revolutionary, like for example the advent of the guillotine or perhaps the rise of punk metal in Europe, did not occur to them. Instead I was togged in a very soft cotton fabric which had some dainty designs of flowers and animals (I can see some of you raising your heads and staring at the ceiling trying to contemplate how I could so vividly remember all this stuff. I was shown the pictures you morons! ) . Well, though I do not own a Bajaj Avenger as of now, I forgive them. And for the next few months I didn’t really have a say in my apparel. Baby caps, some ultra miniscule plastic pants and diapers. But let us not discuss diapers now.

And then things started changing. After gorging huge amounts of cerelax, my pitiable nut started growing. And by the time I was four, the classical tension between envy, desire, greed, demand and supply started to loom large before my eyes. The first influence on my clothing was my cousin Imran. That ass used to wear more of formal stuff like shirts, trousers and baba suits. (A Baba suit is a miniature version of a suit, the only difference being the “blazer” in baba suit comes without sleeves.) My wardrobe consisted of T-shirts and multi colored shorts. Well, as they say, the neighbors grass is always greener. And so both of us did an ultra loud whining act (You know, lying on the ground, violently shaking the body, emulating a cycling motion with the legs, and periodically letting out some uncontrollable snorts ) at our respective places. The result : A few weeks later, I switched to formal trousers and baba suits and my cousin started wearing t-shirts and shorts.

Then there was school. Here, there was no question of getting influenced by any superiorly dressed colleagues. Everybody was equally shabby. Uniform, they called it. We were all forced to wear navy blue shorts, white shirts, navy blue ties. And if you are the class/group leader, you get the extra privilege of flaunting a red colored badge with the letters ‘LEADER’ inscribed in bold. The white shirts lead to some innovations in the initial stages. One of the first things that was taught to me during my childhood was to draw stars. (My mom taught me to draw a five headed star and my dad quickly retorted by teaching me to draw a six headed star). Equipped with the divine knowledge of scribbling stars, I was all set to innovate, redesign and celebrate. One fine day, I took a few sketch pens and scribbled multi colored stars all over my shirt. I was pulled into the limelight immediately. “All the first standard students of SFS High School were talking about a certain Sajid Hussain who painted stars all over his shirt. This fact was however not appreciated by my teachers and parents. Slap! “Ignorance was bliss indeed”

When I joined Little Flower, things became worse. Here it was white shirt and Khaki trousers. I know Upen Patel and all look very cool in Khakis but back then we identified it with a traffic constable’s uniform. There was nothing significant we could do with it. Nevertheless, people kept trying. One guy came to school in a jacket without wearing a shirt inside. Some others would try chewing the lower portions of their ties and nibbling the corners of their collars. (Yours truly being one of them :D.) Some would tuck only half the shirt inside and get slapped by our PT Master. But the real thrill was in carrying designer accessories. After years of drooling in double shouldered school bags, it was time to make way for single shouldered bags. The cooler ones (who were mostly the taller ones) who felt embarrassed in wearing bags, always carried them in their hands waving them with the air of a liaison officer. A few used to wear monochromatic glasses and play football in the hot sun with their glasses on, in order to make sure the rest of us noticed. But this was the limit. Nobody tore their trousers deliberately or embroidered the back side of their shirt. Jean Pants, Cartoon T-shirts and Action shoes with lights were the order of the day. Everybody owned a pair of these. There was no big influence of Bollywood in those days. The heros of those days always wore pastel shaded shirts with the top two buttons left open. That never really appealed to any of us.

Soon it was junior college. A critical point in our lives. This is when we decide whether we want to do Medicine or Engineering and slog your asses out . Somehow my teachers had this impression that only people who don’t appear very attractive do well in acads. A time for transformation. A difficult task, especially when you look so handsome :D In this holy pursuit of looking very austere, like Ramu the good boy, I bought myself some loose checked/striped shirts, some well knit formal trousers and a pair of leather sandals. I would get into my not so attractive outfit without tucking my shirt in, neatly comb my hair to one side, go to classes and come back home straight after school.(I’m kidding here). But things weren’t all that rosy.

Bang bang ! Results announced and following the example of a million other people, I set foot in one of the million Engineering colleges in the country. Here there were all kinda specimens (namoone) from all over the place. But when it came to dressing, everybody was the same. Leaving aside a handful of self proclaimed dudes trying to make a bold statement by wearing fluorescent green shirts ,T-shirts with skulls , T-shirts with messages and transparent vests(this was after that Hirithik phenomenon), most of the lads moved in faded T’s that would put stuff donated to child relief centers to shame.(The studness was proportional to the amount of color lost.)Anyone who owned an outfit which did not have our college logo in front was bound to make news. And then there were people who’d wear the same shorts for a semester without washing. And let me not go into the brea’d’th of reprocessing unwashed undergarments but those of you who’d like to know more, can drop me a mail.

Work life….huh…Cash inflow finally. When my uncles and your uncles were in their prime, the amount of respect (izzat in colloquial terms) depended upon how white their shirt was. “uske kameez kee safedi mere kameez ke safedi se zyaada kyon ?” was the buzz question of the day. I’ve seen a million of them - The uncle from Varanasi, the uncle from Coimbatore, the uncle from Vadodara all,…all of them seem to have only white/creme colored shirts and black colored trousers. Back then only coolies and Rickshaw wallahs wore shorts. But software firms have an altogether different philosophy. They mention it even in the pre placement talks. “We are cool . We don’t believe in wearing ties at work. You can wear whatever you want as long as you wear something.” Meaning, you can continue to wear those faded T-shirts at work. Unless ofcourse you have other plans…………

PS: Anonymous comments are now allowed on this blog. Rave comments are welcome. Hindi and telugu expletives are not :)

January 05, 2006


Shashidhar Reddy came to school on a Sykal that day. It was a BSA-SLR - Ladies' model .I could never really understand the funda behind the basic difference between the mens' sykal and ladies' sykal then. (Its altogether a different matter that I still don’t quite get it ). So I didn’t laugh at him then. That doesn’t mean that I'm laughing at him now. But anyways it was a chick bike ( well, it was enough to satiate our bloated egoz) with a sleek frame, a side stand(which was a revolutionary concept in the post hero cycle era) and a bell that made a deep resonant ear breaking sound. It didn’t have a wire mesh basket in the front though( which again I don’t understand why the architects of mens sykal decided to do away with. And moreover the absence of this wire mesh basket created problems for me later when my mom decided that I have become mature enough and periodically sent me to the market to get vegetables ! ( sympathies accepted ). And since I hated carrying an uncle-style thaila to the market for the sole reason of avoiding some exasperated glances and embarrassing questions from my neighbouring aunties, uncles and "well wishers" of my family ( They couldn’t digest the fact that my family could actually survive on stuff that was picked up by me ) , I had a really bad time trying to pick up cauliflower and cabbage kinda things. I didn’t have that big pockets and it would be even more embarassing to carry these in my shirt.) Anyways coming back to Mr Shash's (He insists on addressing him as Mr Shash ever since he has joined IIMC…stupid fellow ) bicycle, it made all of us green with envy. The next necessary step that day was to go home and explain my mom how good a boy I had been that year and pester her for a new sykal. (ladies or gents I didn’t care.)

And the next few days were spent on my parents contemplating the consequences of buying me a sykal. Finally they yielded to my constant pestering on a condition that I would not engage in any stunts especially after being influenced by countless Balakrishna starrers in which the "hero" avoids head-on collisions with trucks by sliding underneath them.(smooth naa….). This was something that I didn’t really appreciate as I was pretty skeptical of actually following these rules .But still ,something was better than nothing at all and I immediately accepted my parents' terms and conditions. That evening my Dad and I went to a sykal shop and I hooked on to a maroon colored hero ranger (yes, it is the same sykal which Salman Khan rode in maine pyar kiyaa and subsequently became a super star :) The price quoted was 1350 Rs and my dad wasn’t trained in the art of bargaining though he had been with my mom for such a long time. If my mom had come with us, she would have asked the shopkeeper to give it for 350 Rs And if my grandmother had come along she would quote 135 Rs. But as these two stalwarts wernt around , my dad was stripped of his hard earned 1350 Rs and more importantly peace and tranquility for dayz to come.

Yes, I was now a proud owner of an effervescent hero ranger - mens model without a wire mesh basket in the front. As soon as I came home, I tested if I could pull the chain ( Remember Nagarjuna in Shiva ? ) so that I could teach the eve teasers of Hyderabad a lesson whenever required .But on learning that pulling a chain is actually tougher than mugging up Sumitranandan Pant's love poems I decided to give it up completely. And so I was restricted to plain riding in the hilly slopes of Banjara hills and occasional racing in the colony with kids from down the lane ( the bet being pani puris , singal (don’t ask me what it means, you need to eat it to believe it) , Mirchi bajji with onions. (More about the pani puri bandi in my colony in my future posts). Occasionally my cousin who we regarded as the greatest cycler in the world would come and teach us killer physical manoevres which none of us could even think of replicating ( And still his girlfriend ditched him. Probably there is something more to relationships than lifting the back tyre of your sykals in front of your girlfriends, I thought.) Thanks to my cycle I had become an expert in southern Hyderabadi gallis. I was familiar with each and every galli and little kids used to stare in sheer amazement with I zoomed past them and I would be puffed up with pure ecstasy.Mikalal Schumacher would also have had similar feelings I believe.As days progressed it became more and more acquainted with my man machine and I devised nearly fifteen to twenty ways of handling the handle :) Life moved on, days progressed into months, biology became even more boring, chicken started becoming more and more delicious, facial hair started appearing on Adithya's face and my cycle was still in a hale, healthy condition. A dedicated companion until class X after which it was time to move on. A time for something more powerful. You see Shashidhar Reddy now had a kinetic honda with him …….