Life is getting a little more colorful…
I’m sitting here writing this blog wearing a cream colored pair of loose trousers, a tunic that is striped in bright kelly green and orange with blue polka dots, and a bright yellow scarf.
Yeah, I know. It sounds clownish.
But somehow here, it’s not. In fact, it’s totally normal.
During all of my travels so far, one thing I have noticed is how the women are brightly and beautifully dressed. They may live in gray, brown, plain places, filed with trash or in the middle of the jungle, but they are always decorated and dressed beautifully.
It’s finally rubbed off on me.
I arived here wearing ever-so-practical black and sturdy gray, and now I can’t imagine wearing such dull things.
Instead, I want sunflower yellow, bright orange, cobalt blue.
In fact, I haven’t worn boring black or Western clothes since I arrived.
What is interesting to me is that my perception of color has changed.
Before, in my old life, I was attracted to pretty things, but they were mostly pretty dull in color, in pattern, in texture.
Now, I walk the streets, attracted and intimate with it, part of the river of bright saris and salwaar kameez that flow by me.
It’s had me thinking alot about clothes and how they represent different things to different people.
Back at home, clothes are status symbols, people like brands on their behinds and on their chests and their feet.
People like subtle colors, because to them they say “expensive”.
Maybe they are also somehow kind of part of some Puritan mindset.
Here, it’s totally different. Actually it’s different in every third world culture I have had the pleasure to become aquainted with.
The world of women is actually defined by clothes, by colors.
At home, women who spend alot of time on clothes are considered superficial. Here, a woman who does not spend time looking her best is..well, not a woman!
The wearing of saris, salwaar kameez, is actually one of the ways women show rerspect to their traditions, and it’s how they express who they are. The colors tell you their mood, their state of mind.
Even the poorest woman on the street will have several saris of different colors. It tells you who she is, how she defines herself.
Walking around in the salwar suits is such a lovely experience for me. Women will often start conversations with me about what I am wearing and tell me if they like it or not.
It’s a wonderful way to meet other women that I would normally never have the chance to even talk to.
What’s really funny about it all is that they like to give advice.
You see, at first I started out slowly..wearing say, navy blue salwar suits. For me, that was pretty wild.
“Tsk.Tsk.”, Indian women would say on the street, shaking their heads.
“Is it good? Do they like it?”, I am wondering silently to myself.
“You should wear orange.”, they exclaim, and continue by telling me that I apparently can wear any color in the rainbow–why am I restricting myself to boring old navy blue?.
“Okay”, I think to myself. Note to self, try orange.
At home I was in a charchol gray rut. Now, suddenly I am wearing bright orange and feeling perfectly normal.
It helps to have a tailor.
My tailor is named Martin, and he’s Muslim. He’s very devout,and the only time he is not in his tiny shop is during prayer time.
He’s very tiny. Maybe the tiniest man I have ever seen, with a shock of dark hair and a full beard and big black eyes.
I go to visit him and he offers me cold sodas and he says, “Sit, sit.”
I sit there and look at rows and rows of bright saris, beaded saris, two tone linen, endless pashminas…in every color you can imagine.
Some how Martin makes it all look good on me.
Due to his efforts, I have the brightest, most colorful wardrobe of my life..and here’s the thing:
I’m not going back to charchol gray. It’s so dull. I’m going to go home and wear bright yellow and pea green and turquoise and cobalt blue everyday. It’s so cheering, I can’t imagine going back.
The other day, I had to do my laundry. all I were the travel clothes I had arrived here with.
I sat on my bed, wearing boring pale blue and gray and balck, feeling ridiculously practical and dull. I actually had to put a salwar suit on before it was entirely dry to cheer up again.
It’s strange, because I have always been very uncomfortable with wearing a lot of colors from head to toe.
A man I work with told me the other day that he went out to shop for candles.
He was looking for white candles, or gray ones, or blue ones.
All he could find were orange ones, dayglo hot pink ones, neaon green ones.
“It was terrible”, he said, sighing in exasperation.
I told him, “But imagine this city with no color. No dayglor candles in front of the shrines. No women in bright salwars and saris. No hot pink buildings…”
He said, “Ah, that would be beautiful.”
(Perhaps this is because he is from a cold, European country?)
I replied, ” No it would be awful. This city without color would mean all you would see would be the filth, the dirt, the grime in the streets; the moldy decaying buildings; and so on. The colors distract you and they make it beautiful.”
Of course, as I was saying this I was wearing a brilliant blue salwar suit of cobalt blue with pink elephants on it….