Monday, March 15, 2004

Clothes change 

Writing from flashy high-speed A/C netcafe at Fifth Avenue shopping center on Brigade Road, which is indeed Bangalore's equivalent of NYC's Fifth Ave, or London's Knightsbridge or Athens' Kolonaki area. Even in this swanky area, men have no qualms taking a whizz against a wall in broad daylight, any and everywhere. V.S. Naipaul goes on and on about the ubiquitous squatters, folks who "go" number twosies everywhere; I have yet to spot one- but this is a Big City.

So, I've gone ahead and gone native, after all. Ventured into City Market, which is an open air bazaar/shops center far removed from the worlds on MG Road. There I was not only the only Westerner in sight (whereas in the fancy areas in aforementioned worlds you do tend to run into the occasional pale face and bare arm/leg), but also one of few women. Idly walked into a sari/salwar store that boldly pronounced “BIG SALE!” and had a look around, with the help of a young not-pushy girl. She helped me pick out a quiet, off-white and burgundy salwar kameez (long shirt over wide pants with scarf) in a soft synthetic material. After negotiating the bus station at rush hour, gratefully made it back to the Tibetans’ where I proceed with the experiment, and changed outfits.

It was the most amazing change, from the moment I emerged in the salwar kameez (sans scarf, as it’s a little much for a Westerner/not entirely necessary) according to my hosts. The insistent hungry-endless stares were instantly replaced by the odd glance that rarely linger. The whistles replaced by “madam”s. By the time people notice my light-colored hair, I have already passed. I am so much happier being the eccentric foreigner than the western slut. I am sorry to say that the majority of females I have seen are either in shorts or tanktops- which tend to be all the more form-fitting if they are travelling with a man. Which is such a bummer, and makes it hard for the rest of us. But oh-so manageable. I just speak up, and it’s fine, and it feels good.

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